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Jun 18, 2004


Remember that scene in American Beauty where the kids are watching the video of the plastic bag aloft on a current of air, and speak about there being so much beauty in the world that it's hard to take sometimes? Or the montage at the end of that film where Kevin Spacey's character reflects on his life and takes joy in the simplest things (the rough texture of his grandmother's hands, or lying in the grass and watching the stars, or the sight of his daughter with a sparkler in a princess costume)?

Now imagine an entire movie filled with moments like that. I've never gotten teary-eyed during a movie out of sheer joy, except during this movie and its ending montage Amelie and her new boyfriend on the motorbike. I actually felt a sense of loss when the credits began to roll and I realized that I would never again get to experience new adventures with these characters.

This is what all art should be. It's not pretentious, I find it to be the opposite. In a world full of cinema where extraordinary people are always achieving extraordinary things in extraordinary settings, this movie has the balls to find joy in the life's tiniest treasures, the things most films would consider too mundane to commit to celluloid: a pair of wine glasses dancing on a tablecloth, a goldfish's suicide, finding shapes in the clouds, a traveling lawn gnome, a homeless man refusing alms because he doesn't work on Sundays, photobooths, haunted house rides, long lost letters, horses breaking free to run alongside the riders in the Tour de France, skipping stones, setting up unsuspecting couples, exacting well-planned revenge on bullies, helping a stranger to relive his childhood and reconnect with his grandson. In a world full of movies where the greatest thing a person can do is often saving the world from aliens or saving the country from some shadowy force of superevil, this film is brave enough to say that the most daring, rewarding and scary thing you can do is to just join the party, to run the human race, to risk falling in love.

Yes, it's optimistic and romantic and passionate, but it's never saccharine. Much ado has been made about this movie being "feel good" and it is. It's heart candy; the true chicken soup for the soul. No one I've ever met that has given this film an honest chance has failed to be completely disarmed and swept into the lives of these quirky characters inhabiting an impossibly gorgeous Paris.

Yet, for all of its visual flare and flash, it isn't ashamed to celebrate the real things that make real life so worth living. This is American Beauty without the morbid fascination with death and cynicism and spite. Both movies are on my short, short list of cinema favorites, but I have to say Amelie will be the DVD I wear out first.



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