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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Storyboards
  • Outtakes

Amelie

Magna/Magna . R4 . COLOR . 117 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Poor Amelie. From the age of six she was kept at home and schooled by her parents, as they thought she had a heart condition – when in reality she was only excited at receiving some rare attention from her stony daddy at her monthly check-up. Between his distant coldness and her mother’s obsessive neuroses Amelie was pretty much left to fend for herself, retreating into a world where her only playmate was her imagination, as well as a somewhat suicidal goldfish. When her Mum died in an unfortunate situation involving Notre Dame cathedral and a suicidal woman from Quebec, things became even worse as her father retreated further into his cocoon of sociopathic numbness.

Years later she leaves home and sets herself up in Paris, landing a job as a waitress. Her cottonwool ball wrapped fantasy world remains, however, as she takes great glee in those tiny little nuances and small pleasures of life that most of us never notice. She also remains quite the solitary person, seeking refuge in pursuits that generally avoid contact with others as much as possible. All toddles along like this until a red letter day in her life – August 30, 1997 and the death of Princess Diana. Now, it’s not Charlie’s somewhat put-upon former partner’s passing that makes the difference per se, but rather the shock of the news that causes a chain of life-altering events to commence. Amelie drops a bottle stopper in her bathroom, it rolls away and she discovers a loose wall tile, behind which she uncovers a tin full of what were obviously a young boy’s treasures from around 40 years previously.

The decision is made. She will track down the owner of the hidden trove and return it, hoping to bring some light into their life. After a little trouble mixing up her ‘do’s and ‘to’s she duly accomplishes her aim, and promptly decides to make her life’s ambition one of delivering all manner of warm fuzzies to her fellow humankind – be it in helping the blind, the lonely, the downtrodden or the lovelorn. Everybody, basically, except herself - well, until she claps her peepers on one Fotomat-obsessed chap named Nino, after which she embroils herself in an elaborate and rather stealthy game of chat et souris to win his heart, all the while filled with a certain doubt and dread at what may come to be...

After his previous rather dark cinematic exploits Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, both co-directed with Marc Caro, at first it’s somewhat hard to fathom just how the now going it alone director Jean-Pierre Jeunet managed to come up with such an utterly delightful, warm-hearted and almost fairytale-like vision as Amelie - a gorgeous, undeniably romanticised view of Paris where bunnies and teddy bears appear in the clouds and photographs spring into sparkling life. Oozing inventiveness, exhilaration and a rarely seen nowadays joi de vivre from every single second of its almost two-hour running time, it is a pure joy to behold every little nuance of Amelie’s cavalcade of whimsy-like life. Lead actress Audrey Tautou is a revelation, her wide-eyed childlike innocence and impossible beauty not unfairly drawing comparisons with a certain acting namesake with a predilection for jewellery in little duck-egg blue boxes...

  Video
Contract

There’s no other word that comes to mind for the look of Amelie other than “stunning”. Jeunet actually sucked the entire film into a computer to process the colour, and when coupled with the innovative and always exciting cinematography and delightful special effects the result is incredible. Much of the film has a somewhat greenish wash to it, with skin tones remaining true, whilst other sections of the film have a quite washed out look or go to the opposite extreme, with specific portions of the picture being virtually over-saturated. In all, quite the challenge to bring to DVD and keep it looking as gorgeous as intended – but a challenge that has been met rather well.

The anamorphically enhanced image we get is at the same 2.35:1 ratio as seen in cinemas, and the transfer is remarkably clean and free of nasties – except where grain is obviously intentional in order to deliver an old-fashioned look. Detail is quite superb, blacks are perfectly black and nothing goes missing in the shadows. Even the layer change is nigh on perfectly placed, occurring in a silent and still part of the film just before a scene transition, it will probably skate by unnoticed by most viewers.

Unlike overseas releases of Amelie, the version we get has English subtitles as part of the actual film – they’re not player generated – which is good in so far as we get to see Amelie as it appeared in the cinemas here, but unfortunate in that it is impossible to view the film without them. This is the type of movie where it doesn’t matter whether you understand a smattering of French or simply none at all, it’s just so sumptuous to look at that it would be preferable to have the chance to turn off the words. Oh well, we can’t have everything.

  Audio
Contract

Two mixes are included, incorrectly coded as English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English 2.0 – as naturally they are in French. Unlike many of the overseas releases we miss out on a DTS track – possibly strange as it seems to be the new toy du jour for Magna Pacific. A quick sampling of the 2.0 track indicates that it all sounds perfectly fine; however it is the 5.1 mix where things come to life in spectacular fashion. Much effort obviously went into the original sound mix, much more than for your typical romantic comedy (not that Amelie is typical in any way at all), with rather aggressive use of all six channels at various points through the film. All manner of whooshes ensconce you in one big joyful sonic hug, sharing time with subtler atmospheric effects, and the subwoofwoof gets to go nuts on many an occasion – with one scene filled with rhythmic, erm, t-humping being a standout example. Audio synch poses no problems whatsoever, and the balance between dialogue, effects and the soundtrack couldn’t be better.

The soundtrack is from Yann Tiersen, and it too is magnificent. Generally a piano-based affair, it veers off into accordion-filled numbers with occasional out-there string arrangements, and is almost as integral to the feel of the film as both the vision and the actual story.

  Extras
Contract

It seems that almost every different DVD region has been given a different selection of extras to play with. Once more we are the losers, with the most paltry bunch of them all afforded this release – and all without actual timing being shown on the player.

The menus are sweet enough, although the soundtrack snippets included are WAY too loud compared to the feature and the extras themselves, and there’s a little in the way of animation to keep things interesting. Those extras we have been graced with are...

Trailer: With Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and in a non-enhanced ratio of 1.85:1, this is actually cropped at the sides. It’s decent enough quality-wise both in its look and in what it imparts about the film.

Outtakes: Billed as Audrey Tautou’s Funny Faces this is around two minutes of on-set silliness in a non-enhanced 2.35:1 ratio, with much of the time concentrating on – you guessed it – Audrey Tautou’s funny faces.

Storyboard Comparison: Running for just on a minute, this shows the ghost train sequence, plopping the conceptual sketches at the top of the screen, and the corresponding film vision beneath it.

Photo Gallery: 14 piccies of various sizes, some in colour whilst some are black and white, mainly concentrating on behind the scenes snaps and a few stills.

Featurette - The Making of Amelie: Delivered like a home movie, this runs for around five minutes and delivers a few amusing diversions like hair tests, fun with the photo machine, auditions for the orgasm sequences and silly faces. Curiously reviews of the overseas releases claim that this runs for about an extra ten minutes, so it looks like we’ve been short-changed again.

DVD ROM Features: Some credits, a selection of galleries and fun with Monsieur Gnome...

Whilst almost all of these are undeniably fun inclusions, it’s when you hear what overseas releases delivered that disappointment can’t help but creep in. Just what have we missed out on? (Deep breath) - two commentaries by director Jeunet – one in English and one in French, three interviews from various locations with Jeunet totalling almost an hour in length, a couple of other featurettes – including one on the cinematography, screen tests, 18 TV spots, more trailers, more photos, cast and crew biographies, an extra storyboard sequence and the longer ‘making of’. That’s a lot of omissions.

  Overall  
Contract

It isn’t often you can say that you have just experienced one of your favourite films for the very first time, however Amelie has just provided this rarest of treats for this still reeling reviewer. It is a creation of sheer beauty, magic, passion, excitement and utter gorgeousness and to miss it would be absolutely sinful.

A visual and aural treat, the only real disappointment this DVD delivers is in the savage paring down of extras we’re afforded in region 4. Don’t let that put you off, however, as this is one disc that is worth more than its asking price simply for the film alone, one of those rare treats that fills you up to bursting point with a love for life, no matter how blah you may be feeling. Amelie is quite simply a must-experience for anybody who claims to be alive.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1775
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      And I quote...
    "A creation of sheer beauty, magic, passion, excitement and utter gorgeousness - to miss this rarest of cinematic treats would be absolutely sinful..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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