(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
Comedy • dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet • 2001 • France
I can’t claim to know all that much about the Renoir family. But it’s safe to say that Pierre-Auguste the Impressionist was pretty handy with a paintbrush and that his son Jean knew his way around a movie set, both sides of the camera. Here’s the thing, though, did fellow Frenchmen ever think the younger man was slumming it – working in a lesser commercial field instead of, you know, creating art? Even in the course of making at least two of cinema’s great masterpieces (The Rules of the Game and Grand Illusion). I like to imagine the answer is a resounding no. The French take film seriously, and have always had an extraordinary knack for making it. As Scorsese’s recent Hugo vividly evokes, they were in on the ground floor: Méliès and the Lumière brothers dazzling the very earliest cinema audiences.
In the best possible way, Amélie is very French. (My dad, I’m afraid, is among scores of Englishmen who typically don’t consider “very French” to be a compliment, but that’s a whole other story.) It is the most tremendous fun. It is endlessly charming. And it is, frankly, hard to describe without referencing its Gallic joie de vivre. For my part, I think it might just be the film I enjoyed seeing the most at the cinema. I loved it so much I went back to see it again the following night – first, arriving late, in the very back row where the only seats were left, and, second, eager and early, at the very front. (In case you’re wondering, I can confirm Audrey Tautou is every bit as beautiful from a wide range of distances.) Maybe Amélie is never again quite as thrilling as that breathtaking first time you watch it. No matter, even shorn of its newness it’s magical.