FANT SY AM LIE (15) 120 mins 0000.
Amélie’s creator Jean-Pierre Jeunet must see the world as a giant Swiss timepiece, an infinitely complex
A film composed of many moments of absolute wonder
assemblage of small but perfectly formed parts which come together to make something miraculous. Actually, that would also be a good way to describe Jeunet’s ﬁlmmaking technique; Amelie is a film composed of many moments of absolute wonder, both technical and narrative wise.
It starts with a little girl living in Paris’ older quarter, Montmartre. Amélie’s mind-numbineg dull parents
threaten to kill their only child’s spirit, but she survives by imagining fantastic worlds for herself: she
sees and photographs bunnies and teddies in cloud formations, for example. Later, when Amélie’s grown up (and now played by the captivating elﬂn newcomer Audrey Tautou) an odd set of coincidences light a
bulb in her head and she decides to bring happiness to deserving people (and misery to those undeserving) by playing elaborate practical jokes on them. But just as she observes her handiwork from afar, Amélie’s elderly neighbour Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin) spies back, seeing in her a frightened little girl who can’t leave her fantasy world behind. Is Amélie forever destined to make only others happy? Will she find her own happiness with fellow oddball Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz)?
As with his two previous French fantasies, Delicatessen and The City Of Lost Children, Jeunet creates a whole new world, sustained by marvellous cinematography and design. Though he’s been criticised for
cleansing his Montmartre of ethnicity, it’s somewhat unfair to demand realism from a fantasist. In any event, if engagement with the real world is what’s required, Jeunet’s heroine gets that - early in the film we see her having sex, later she falls for a nerd who works in a pornography shop.
Much pleasure is to be derived from Amélie’s interaction with the everyday eccentrics of Montmartre.
She gives her own father, ever more dulled to life since his wife was killed by a tourist falling from the top
of Notre-Dame, a wake-up call by stealing his beloved garden gnome and having it send photo
postcards of itself from around the world: standing in Red Square, outside the Taj Mahal, etc. With mean
Collignon the grocer, however, Amélie slips into his apartment unnoticed and swaps his toothpaste for foot cream, door nobs for handles, comfy slippers for a size too small, etc.
Then there’s the wonderful way characters are defined: we’re told Amélie loves surreptitiously dipping her hand into a sack of grain, breaking the crust on creme brulée with the back of a teaspoon and
turning round to look at people behind her in the cinema watching the screen (see picture). This is truly a
film which celebrates all the little, great things in life. Like a Swiss timepiece. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected release from Fri 5 Oct.
THRILLER THE PLEDGE (15) 123 mins .00.
In the cold mountain reaches of Nevada the body of a little girl is found. raped and murdered. A simple-minded Native American (played by ethnically flexible Benlcio del Toro) is swiftly taken into custody and a confession is extracted. following which the man kills himself. An open and shut case . . . for everyone but Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson). a
26 THE LIST 4-18 Oct 2001
Compelling psychological study
retiring police officer who thinks they have the wrong man.
Couched in the conventions of a
thriller, Sean Penn's third film as director is what he describes as a ‘no good deed goes unpunished movie'. The Pledge is first and foremost a compelling psychological study of a middle- aged man attempting to give his life meaning post-retirement. Black's ongoing efforts to bring the little girl's murderer to justice. fuelled by a promise made to her mother. tips right over into obsessional behaviour. But has Black lost sight of the case. or is he on the right trail?
Jerzy and Mary Olson Kromolowski's script. adapted from Friedrich Dtirrenmatt's novel. keeps things ambiguous. Penn counters this. directing with an even hand and casting a sombre mood over the proceedings. His director of photography. Chris Menges. opens up the film with stunning widescreen imagery. his compositions just as impressive
out in the wilds as indoors negotiating the spaces between the actors.
Playing Black. Nicholson reigns
in the emotion, letting out a little at a time in a controlled performance that comes as a pleasant surprise
given the amount of self-parodic mugging he's been guilty of in recent years. And he‘s supponed by a terrific cast that includes Robin Wright-Penn as the mother of another potential child victim, Vanessa Redgrave as the music teacher of a possible previous victim of the same killer. Helen Mirren as a psychiatrist who troubles Black with doubts over his professional conduct. Sam Shepard and Aaron Eckhart as unsympathetic fellow cops. and Mickey Rourke playing a missing girl's distraught father in a rnonumentally touching scene. Finally, look out for the ingenious Surprise cameo appearance. (Miles Fielder)
I Fi/mhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 72 Oct.
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS
(PG) 96 mins .0...
If you slit the end of your tongue with a razor blade and then sucked on a lemon. it wouldn't sting as much as some of the dialogue in Sweet Smell Of Success. Venomous newspaper columnist J. J. Hunsecker on slimy publicist Sydney Falco: ‘Mr Falco. let it be said at once. is a man of 40 faces. not one. None too pretty. and all deceptive.‘ They don't write dialogue like that no more.
Two of Hollywood's greatest screenwriters. Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, did though, back in 1957. Theirs is a study of the destructive effect of power on both those who wield it and those victimised by it. Drawing on Lehman‘s early career as a copywriter for a Broadway publicist. Sweet Smell Of Success tells the story of Falco lTony Curtis). a slimy sycophant worming his way to the top. There's nothing Falco won't do for the whiff of power. so when Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) asks him to break up his younger sister‘s romance with a jazz musician Falco's only too happy to start sowing seeds of discontent between the lovers.
The two leads are brilliantly cast against type: until this point in his career Lancaster had played only rugged. romantlc heroes. while Curtis was Hollywood's archetypal studio pretty bOy. In a Superny controlled performance. Lancaster keeps in check (but barely) behind those black- rimmed glasses Hunsecker's animosity for those feeding off him. his own self-loathing and the incestuous desire for his sister. But you can see the corrosion going on within. Curtis. by contrast. oozes sleaze. And he imbues Falco with such desperation that though he's a class A slimeball. you can't help but feel some slither of Sympathy for the schmuck.
James Wong Howe's photography of Broadway at night. all dazzling lights and shadovw alleys. is as evocative as the film noir style ever got. Elmer Bernstein's crime jazz score (with contributions from the Cnico Hamilton Ouintet) completes the impression of a filthy. corrupt city. And astonishingly. the whole film was pulled together by Scotsman Alexander Mackendrick. who untll this time was best known for whimsical Ealing comedles. Astonishineg good. (Miles Fielder)
I Fi/mhouse. Edinburgh from Fri 5 Oct.