Dear Readers, in the Christmas spirit my fantastic fellow blogger Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog, believes we bloggers should share a film with our friends and family.
The Movie Gift To You Blogathon runs December 18th-20th. For those of you who don’t know, December 18th is National Regifting Day! And in the true Seinfeldian holiday spirit, I am going to regift like a madwoman.
Oh, the horror!
No, really, it’s not as bad as it sounds, it’s not a cinematic White Elephant, the film was shared with me, I consider it a gift, I want to share it with you.
For this event, I selected Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. Because to paraphrase the friend who introduced me to the film years ago, “nothing cures despair quite like a cup of tea and Amélie.”
So this one goes out to my darling readers, those who find it easier to close your eyes and miss the simple beauties all around.
Amélie follows the story of a shy young woman who finds a box filled with childhood treasures of a former tenant in her building. She sets out to reunite the owner with his treasures, and if he is pleased, she will dedicate her life to helping people.
NARRATOR. Amélie has a strange feeling of absolute harmony. It’s a perfect moment. A soft light, a scent in the air, the quiet murmur of the city. A surge of love, an urge to help mankind overcomes her.
Preferring to work from afar, Amélie does not perform acts of kindness to receive gratitude, her deeds are anonymous.
She helps her agoraphobic father explore the world, plays cupid for two unhappy people at her work, narrates a walk for a blind man, helps an artist capture his subject, gives a grieving widow closure, and empowers a handicapped boy.
When she encounters an attractive young man, who loses a photo album, which she finds, she is enamored, but cannot approach him.
NARRATOR. Any normal girl would call the number, meet him, return the album and see if her dream is viable. It’s called a reality check. The last thing Amélie wants.
Much of Amélie’s life is spent on the outside looking in, whether it is looking at the people’s faces in the theater, or observing co-workers and neighbors interacting. She lives within the confines of her active imagination and devises elaborate stratagems.
While Amélie is clearly lonely, she does not see her disconnect from others.
Amélie meets her neighbor Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin) who suffers from a brittle bone disease, a simple handshake could break his hand.
Referred to as “The Glass Man”, Dufayel stays in the padded safety of his apartment. His television is a video camera focused on a clock outside “so he does not have to wind his watches”.
Dufayel has almost no contact with the outside world.
For twenty years he has worked on copying Renoir’s “The Luncheon of the Boating Party” while his painting is nearly perfect, he cannot capture the gaze of one young woman. Like Amélie, she is disconnected.
Amélie does not recognize her own disconnect, only Dufayel’s. To encourage him to look outside his world, she sends him a videotape of random images including swimming babies, a horse running alongside the Tour de France, a one-legged tap dancer, and an early rock singer.
But Dufayel, despite his sheltered existence, has a profound understanding of human character. He sees that Amélie suffers from the same disconnect as the girl in the painting.
Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) – Pierre Auguste Renoir
AMÉLIE. The girl with the glass…maybe her thoughts are with somebody else.
DUFAYEL. Somebody in the picture?
AMÉLIE. More likely a boy she saw somewhere and felt an affinity with.
DUFAYEL. You mean she’d rather imagine herself relating to an absent person than build relationships with those around her?
AMÉLIE. Maybe she tries hard to fix other people’s messy lives.
DUFAYEL. What about her? Her own messy life? Who’ll fix that?
Dufayel’s insight cuts deep, but he says exactly what Amélie needs to hear.
DUFAYEL. You don’t have bones of glass. You can take life’s knocks. If you let this chance pass, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton.
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain is a charming and whimsical film but it offers no middle ground, people adore it or they despise it. I love it. So let me explain why this film is a wonderful gift for you, my readers:
The world of Amélie is mysteriously clean and shows only beauty, in this world the beggars refuse money because they do not work on Sundays. Amélie is a fairytale, we see the world through Amélie’s eyes. Highly imaginative, she lives in a world where wine glasses mysteriously dance with the wind, photographs talk, so do lamps, and the television comments on her life. She is quirky. I know people who do not like the film tend to think she is crazy, but to put it simply:
She does not embrace life as it is.
I had an art teacher, who would always say “the beauty lies in the details”. In Amélie’s world, we experience the magic in the mundane. Whether it is the sound of a cracking crème brûlée or music played on a phonograph in a subway beauty is waiting to be experienced.
It is no coincidence that Amélie works at Café des Deux Moulins (Rough Trans: Two Windmills Café) for she is like Don Quixote (I believe the Narrator quickly notes the similarity at one point and I apologize, dear reader, I did not copy down the exact line).
Instead, I borrow a much more profound quote from Dale Wasserman’s musical Man of La Mancha which states why the world needs people like Amélie. In this scene, Don Quixote author, Miguel de Cervantes, defends Quixote’s unique perspective:
CERVANTES. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams, this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness! And maddest of all to see life as it is and not as it should be.
Amélie’s kindness, like Quixote’s chivalry, adds beauty to the world. May we all be smited with such madness.
Wishing all my readers a 2016 filled with whimsical delight, Happy Holidays!
Be sure to visit Steve at MovieMovieBlogBlog and check out the other fantastic entries.
Ciao for now, Dearies and don’t forget to mark your calendars!