Walking through the doorway in Gardner Street, squashed between rustic cafes and alternative boutiques, it is difficult to fathom that within the Komedia is a two-screen cinema, two sizeable performance spaces, a sprinkling of cafes and one is always within striking distance of a bar. If you can resist a purchase of really decent coffee and cake that could constitute your evening meal, from the downstairs cafe, you might make it up the stairs to Duke’s at Komedia, where the two-screen cinema hangs out. Then you get a second chance to resist (or not) coffee and cake or you might fancy something more decadent from the cafe that is also a bar.
Sofa Seats and Picnics
Once inside Screen Two, if you can be bothered to stagger right up to the back with the picnic you’ve probably bought from the cafe/bar, you will find some rather special sofa seats which complete the potential for a cinematic experience that will be hard to beat elsewhere. Throw a blanket into the equation (or in the bag, as my friend did) and your only concern will be staying awake. The really decent coffee will help … or you might be as lucky as I was and be seated next to a total stranger whose excitement over the movie was spilling over into my seat. As was his bottle of wine but his desire to chat about his love for ‘Amelie’ was endearing enough to forgive his mildly merry demeanour.
Amelie (Flora Guiet) was brought up by ‘a neurotic and an iceberg’ and as a result did not attend school and to say that she was a lonely, bored child would be an understatement. But as is usually the way with boredom (and perhaps with loneliness too), creativity and imagination thrive. And so Amelie the grown-up (Audrey Tautou) is a quirky, if somewhat shy girl, who is self-aware and pays attention to detail. A chance discovery of someone’s childhood memorabilia leads her to do a good deed; overwhelmed by the arguably altruistic feeling of having helped a random stranger, she chooses to continue along the same trajectory and finds increasingly inventive ways to make her world a better place in her eyes.
A good writer will have a backstory for every notable character, whether it is revealed or not. In ‘Amelie’, we learn of everyone’s backstory, thanks to the very listenable narration of Andre Dussollier. But the writing team, one of whom is also director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, gives us dramatic details, like failed love affairs with trapeze artistes, because we don’t need to know the humdrum facts. The effect is strong characterisation, which, considering the number of notable characters, is quite a feat. But as ‘Amelie’ consists of a series of vignettes, it is vital for success. The biggest appeal, however, is the general attention to detail. Just as Amelie admits to noticing details in movies that could be accidental, Jeunet brings the finer details to the forefront and lingers on them, as does Dussollier and cinematographer Bruno Delbonel. At times, it is as if we are experiencing everything through Amelie’s senses, with her exquisite appreciation of her surroundings; especially visually – with thoughtful mixes of colour, you could almost describe some scenes as a series of paintings. Tautou is a charming mix of loveliness and mischief. Mathieu Kassovitz plays Nino, the object of her fascination and he complements Amelie well with his gentle naivete.
With a strong supporting cast of characters bringing humour, drama and pathos, ‘Amelie’ should be a compulsory rite of passage for all.
Reviewed by Lisa O’Connor on April 3rd @Duke’s at Komedia.