Amelie is pretty much a catalog listing of every funny story or anecdote that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ever heard, linked together into a delirious chain of coincidences and fate. At the center of this is the character Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), a cute-as-a-button dreamer and do-gooder obsessed with finding happiness for others even though she is too socially inept to find it for herself.
She is a prankster, manipulating people's lives, correcting perceived injustices, and attempting to bring some sense of order and balance to the universe. All the while, her efforts at exerting control backfire when it comes to her own life and she lives a self-imposed solitary existence, taking comfort in the simple pleasures of life, finding sensuality in things that others takes for granted.
Jeunet is a master of painstaking formalist technique and he knows well how to use magnificent imagery, dazzling camerawork, and flawless special effects to actually enhance rather than distract from the storytelling. The movie is consistently clever, frequently hilarious, and utterly beguiling in every respect. I am convinced that lead actress Audrey Tautou must be possessed by the spirit of Audrey Hepburn: Her frail waif-like figure disguises a coy sex appeal and her performance balances naivety with an almost limitless amount of charm. She can light up the screen with a mere glance or expression like no other actress I've seen since Hepburn's heyday in films like Roman Holiday or Breakfast at Tiffany's. Tautou would have made a marvelous silent film star, as we are reminded by her Louise Brooks hairdo.
Upon my first viewing of Amelie, I found myself wishing for some of the darker elements from Jeunet's previous films (made along with Marc Caro), but on subsequent screenings (and there have been several) I've realized that they are neither needed nor appropriate for this particular story. Amelie is a delightful fantasy, an ode to mementos thrown away and a celebration of anything unnoticed or misunderstood. The film is infused with a love for the power of pure cinematic expression and there is not a single imperfect frame in its entire running length. This is a film to be cherished and rewatched, each new viewing revealing some small detail previously missed. At just a fraction over two hours, I almost wish the movie would last forever because I would certainly continue to watch it.