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Amélie - Picture Palace

When I was about 8, a life long friend of my mothers bought me a dvd of a french film I had never heard of before. She always prided herself on finding something original that my mother didn't know about and would then parade herself around the kitchen boasting at how awfully cultured she was. My mother was oblivious to all these attempts to be "out cultured".

Despite it coming from an unfortunate source, this film caught my imagination like no film before or since.

Amélie is a 2001 French film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Written by Jeunet with Guillaume Laurant, the film is a whimsical depiction of the life of the mischievous and imaginative Amélie, played by Audrey Tautou, who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better (or for worse) while struggling with her own isolation.

The film was the first romance film I'd seen that was actually romantic, the first time I had the opportunity to listen to the French language being spoken by French people and most importantly to me, it made me first pay attention and then fall in love with the art of soundtracks. Written by French musician and composer Yann Tiersen it matches the film perfectly with soft pianos to racing accordions.

One day one of Jeunet's production assistants put on a CD of Tiersen, and the director felt it was perfect for the film. Jeunet bought all of Tiersen's albums, and then contacted him to see if the composer was interested in writing the film score for Amélie. In two weeks, Tiersen composed nineteen pieces for the film and also allowed the production to take anything they wanted from his other records.

I went to see Yann Tiersen in the Royal Albert a few years ago but I wasn't really well enough to be there and unfortunately for me he let a friend do a rather disturbing talk at the start about how an American writer developed a "great insight" of the world, retrospectively, after being heavily involved in the eradication of wolves from the American wilderness. It lasted about half an hour which was then followed by a half an hour break meaning that by the time the actual performance started I was so sick and dizzy that I had to leave a few songs in. It was incredibly disappointing but didn't affect my love for one of my favourite films or one of my favourite heroines.

Amélie made me fall in love with the art of film and the technical parts of it, from the camera work to the sounds. It is a beautiful film, rich in colour and humour and will always be treasured by myself.


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