Amélie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain) 2001
When I first saw the poster for this movie at my local art house cinema, I knew I was going to love this film. By now, of course, most of you know that it stars the wonderful Audrey Tautou (He Loves Me He Loves Me Not, Priceless, A Very Long Engagement, etc.). Already a relatively well-known actress in France, this film made her world famous. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (A Very Long Engagement, and more recently, Micmacs) starts the film off with a brilliant gag on Amélie’s beginning before taking us to present day, where she works as a waitress in a small café.
As the impish and meddling title character, Tautou takes it upon herself to change the lives of those around her, starting with her father. A widow, he dreams of travel but can’t seem to take that fabled first step. In order to give him the nudge he needs she kidnaps his garden gnome and sends it on a trip around the world (by the way, this is a gag that had its origin in Australia back in the 1980’s). Her interfering in others lives continues as the film progresses. She engineers a romance between two unhappy people in her café, and a grocer that’s being cruel to his assistant (Jamel Debbouze, Angel-A) gets his comeuppance.
This film is full of the gags that Jeunet likes to put in his movies, but the sum is much bigger than the parts, despite the mild criticism he received for showing the city of Paris in such a fantastical light. After all, Amélie is a fairy tale. There are so many delightful, quirky moments in Amélie that you’ll want to watch it over and over. Click here to buy your copy.
• Actors: Audrey Tautou, Jamel Debbouze, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Serge Merlin
• Directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
• Writers: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant
• Producers: Arne Meerkamp van Embden, Claudie Ossard, Helmut Breuer, Jean-Marc Deschamps
• Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, DVD, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
• Language: French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
• Subtitles: English
• Region: Region 1 U.S. and Canada only.
• Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
• Number of discs: 2
• Rated: R (Restricted)
• Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
• DVD Release Date: July 16, 2002
• Run Time: 122 minutes
• The “Look of Amélie” (English) Featurette
• Fantasies of Audrey Tautou (French with English subtitles)
• Q & A with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (English)
• Q & A with Director and Cast (French with English subtitles)
• Auditions — Audrey Tautou, Urbain Cancelier, Yolande Moreau (French with English subtitles)
• Storyboard Comparison
• An Intimate Chat with Jean-Pierre Jeunet (French with English subtitles)
• Home Movies – “Inside the Making of Amélie” (French with English subtitles)
• The Amélie Scrapbook — “Behind the Scenes,” French Poster Concepts
This DVD got rave reviews on Amazon, with an astonishing average of 4.3 out of 5 stars from over one thousand customer reviews.
Apres Vous (2003)
Daniel Auteuil (The Valet, The Closet) is one of the finest actors working today. Equally adept in a drama or comedy, he possesses a willingness to completely inhabit the character; those chameleon-like qualities help make the difference between a good film and a great one. In Après Vous (After You) he plays a headwaiter (Antoine) who stumbles upon a lovesick man (Jose Garcia as “Louis”) trying to end it all. After preventing the suicide, and concerned for the safety of the lovesick man, Antoine takes Louis in and soon begins living the Chinese proverb that you are responsible for the life you save. He tries to intercept a suicide note Louis mailed to his grandparents, gets the nervous Louis a job as sommelier in his upscale restaurant, and tries to help Louis reconcile with his girlfriend, all the while destroying his own life.
Garcia’s character only manages to hit a few notes in this film, but to be fair, Louis is meant as a comic foil to Auteuil’s Antoine, and Garcia does a fine job as the despondent, lovesick Louis. This is Auteuil’s movie, and he plays Antoine with just the right mixture of grace, determination and envy to great comedic effect.
Cinematically, this is not a fairy tale version of Paris with gratuitous shots of the Eiffel Tower and boys with baguettes on bicycles, but a truer to life (and still mostly gorgeous) representation that Parisians will recognize as they travel through the city during their daily routines.
• Actors: Daniel Auteuil, José Garcia, Sandrine Kiberlain, Marilyne Canto, Michèle Moretti
• Format: Color, DVD, Widescreen, NTSC
• Language: French
• Region: Region 1 U.S. and Canada only.
• Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
• Number of discs: 1
• Rated: R (Restricted)
• Studio: Paramount
• DVD Release Date: November 8, 2005
• Run Time: 110 minutes
The Closet (Le Placard)(2001)
The Dinner Game (Le Diner De Cons) (1999)
If you’ve only seen the unfortunate American remake of the 1998 French comedy “Le Diner de Cons” then someone owes you an apology. The usually reliable cast of fine comedic talents in “Dinner for Schmucks” couldn’t save a bad and somewhat mean-spirited script.
The original is a different story. Written and directed by Francis Veber, “Le Diner de Cons” (released in the U.S. as The Dinner Game) is one of the most popular French films of all time, and with good reason. Starring Thierry Lhermitte as snobbish publisher Pierre Brochant, and the late Jacques Villeret as hapless idiot François Pignon, “Le Diner de Cons” (literally, “dinner for idiots”) had its start in the theater. Based on a play of the same name by writer/director Veber, it enjoyed a run of over nine hundred performances, with Villeret in the role of Pignon during the last year of the play’s tenure. This marathon of a dress rehearsal combined with the comedic talents of its stars and the brilliant script made for a smooth, almost flawless movie.
Brochant is one of a group of successful Parisian businessmen who meet once a week at a special dinner, where each of them brings a guest to be secretly ridiculed by the others. Pignon is a government drone at the tax office, whose hobby is building matchstick replicas of famous landmarks, his sad sack expressions and eagerness to impress sure to give Brochant bragging rights for having invited the biggest idiot. Fate, of course, has other plans and Brochant injures his back during a round of golf. Before he can call Pignon and postpone the dinner, Pignon shows up at Brochant’s fabulous apartment with photographs of his matchstick models, excited at the prospect of having a book published about his work (this was the ruse that Brochant used to get Pignon to the dinner). As the evening develops the eager to please Pignon manages to destroy Brochant’s love life, put him in danger of an audit from the tax office, and perhaps worse, unknowingly turns the tables so that Brochant and his pals are revealed to be the true idiots.
Most of the action takes place in Brochant’s apartment. Pignon mistakes Brochant’s wife (the lovely Alexandra Vandernoot) for the mistress, and shoo’s her away from the entrance to the apartment in order to protect his new-found friend. Concerned that the news of his infidelity has driven his wife into the arms of a known sex-addict, Brochant enlists the aid of his friend Juste Leblanc (Francis Huster), who despite his willingness to help can only laugh at his buddy’s predicament. Desperate to find the sex addict’s secret love nest before his wife can consummate Brochant’s comeuppance, Pignon has the brilliant idea of enlisting the aid of the tax office’s lead investigator Lucien Cheval (Daniel Prevost). Cheval is a man who takes an enormous amount of pleasure in catching those that would cheat on their taxes, and during the evening makes a discovery that might very well end in prison time for Brochant.
Villeret and Prevost both won Cesar awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars) for acting, while writer/director Veber won his for the screenplay.
Funny is universal. One of the top ten French comedies of all time, “Le Diner De Cons” proves that even the hippest Parisian has a wicked sense of humor. Click here to buy the DVD.
- Actors: Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Alexandra Vandernoot, Catherine Frot
- Directors: Francis Veber
- Format: Color, Import, PAL, Subtitled, Full Screen, NTSC
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 2
- Number of discs: 1
- Run Time: 85 minutes
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (2002)
When we first meet rising young artist Angelique (Tautou), she is in the glorious throes of true love, and the whole world has seemingly fallen under her spell. Her handsome lover Loic is madly in love with her, her paintings are winning wide acclaim, and a glorious future seems all but assured. But Angelique’s blissful world may not be as enchanting as it first seems, and in a quick startling moment, her life – and our understanding of it -seems to unravel in front of our eyes. Starring Audrey Tautou (Amelie), Samuel Le Bihan (Three Colors: Red).
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)
Jean DuJardin stars as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, agent OSS 117. DuJardin’s performance is absolutely brilliant. Agent OSS 117 looks suave and sophisticated, but beneath his fashionable tux beats the heart of a well-meaning but clueless imbecile. On assignment in Egypt, moments after meeting her, he manages to insult his contact (the stunning Bérénice Bejo as Larmina El Akmar Betouche) by bursting into incredulous laughter when she mentions that over a million people speak Arabic. “Silly girl, do you know how much a million is?!” The insults don’t stop there. OSS 117 is clearly a man with unnaturally high self esteem, and some of the best comedic moments stem from his overconfidence.
This spoof hits all the right notes, winking at western colonialism and our sexist past. Clueless racism is also poked fun at, as OSS 117 asks the Egyptian foreman at his “cover” job as a chicken importer how many children he has. “Eight, nine?” he inquires, his voice dripping with concern and sincerity.
The action sequences acted as the straight man in this movie, and the choreography for the fight scenes were enjoyable to watch, but one of the best surprises about this film was its cohesiveness. Most parodies are a string of jokes loosely bound together to make a movie, but OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies feels like a complete film.
- Actors: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, Aure Atika, Philippe Lefebvre, Constantin Alexandrov
- Directors: Michel Hazanavicius
- Format: Anamorphic, Color, DVD, NTSC
- Language: French, English
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: Unrated
- Studio: Music Box Films
- DVD Release Date: September 30, 2008
- Run Time: 95 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews here.
Priceless (Hors De Prix) (2006)
Priceless provides a sweet and sour look at the world of the super-rich. Jean (The Valet‘s Gad Elmaleh) works at a luxury hotel on the French Riviera. His opposite number, Irène (Amélie‘s Audrey Tautou), lives off wealthy men, like elderly benefactor Jacques (Vernon Dobtcheff). While staying at Jean’s Biarritz hotel, Irène meets the bartender, mistakes him for a guest, and plies her considerable charms. Flattered, Jean neglects to tell her the truth, and they spend a drunken evening together. The next day, she’s gone. The only trace of her presence: a discarded paper umbrella. A year passes, and Irène returns with Jacques, who dumps her when he find out about the cheating, so she bilks Jean out of everything he owns before disappearing again. Wealthy widow Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam) offers to takes care of Jean’s debts–for a price. And just like that, he’s sunk to Irène’s level. The next time she sees him, she quips, “Now we’re equals.” So, instead of teaching her the value of legitimate work, Irène teaches Jean how to play Madeleine like a violin. Following in the footsteps of Pierre Salvadori’s Après Vous, which centered around a suicidal sommelier, Priceless is unexpectedly melancholy for a comedy. Like the couple in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Jean and Irène are essentially two lost souls. Irène may be an icier creature than Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, but Salvadori finds a satisfying way to tie a pretty bow on this somewhat prickly package and, naturally, the scenery is ravishing. –Kathleen C. Fennessy
Tatie Danielle (1990)
If you’ve ever wondered what goes through the minds of certain sweet old ladies, this is your movie! Not your typical grandmotherly type, the audacity of the title character will amaze. Here’s the synopsis:
Tatie Danielle is a black comedy about a widow who is intent on ruining the lives of her great-nephew and his wife. Tsilla Chelton plays the title character, who mourns the death of her husband by tormenting everyone she meets. Eventually, she moves in with her nephew and his vain wife. Soon, her family is at war with Tatie, and takes off for Greece, leaving her in the care of Sandrine (Isabelle Nanty), an au pair who is as equally bitter as Tatie herself. At first the two don’t get along, yet the two eventually become friends.
The DVD is not in the US format, so if you’d like to watch this film I recommend that you purchase an inexpensive DVD player that will show this movie. It’s worth the investment!
2 Days in Paris (2 Jours) (2007)
2 Days follows two days in the relationship of a New York based couple; a French photographer Marion (Julie Delpy) and American interior designer Jack (Adam Goldberg) as they attempt to re-infuse their relationship with romance by taking a vacation in Europe. Their trip to Venice didn’t really work out,–they both came down with gastroenteritis. They have higher hopes for Paris. But the combination of Marion’s overbearing non-English speaking parents’, flirtatious ex-boyfriends’, and Jack’s obsession with photographing every famous Parisian tombstone and conviction that French condoms are too small, only adds fuel to the fire. Will they be able to salvage their relationship? Will they ever have sex again? Or will they merely manage to perfect the art of arguing?
Written and directed by Julie Delpy, this was an unexpected pleasure, especially the scenes involving her real life parents, who also played her parents in the film. What could have easily been a myopic treatment of Delpy’s version of life in her home town is instead a smart, funny, slice of life visit with the two main characters, with the City of Love as the backdrop. Click here to buy the DVD.
The Valet (La Doublure) (2006)
A light, zippy farce from Francis Veber (writer/director of The Closet and The Dinner Game), The Valet is another masterful comic escalation of lies and pretenses. When a billionaire (Daniel Auteuil, Cache, The Eighth Day) gets photographed next to his supermodel mistress (Alice Taglioni), he tries to persuade his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas, The English Patient) that the supermodel must be with the other man in the picture–a parking valet (Gad Elmaleh) who just happens to be walking by. Naturally, the billionaire has to follow through by setting the valet and the supermodel up as a couple, lest his wife’s detective uncover the truth. The valet agrees, but not because he wants to cozy up to the beautiful girl; he hopes that the money he’ll be paid will win the heart of the bookstore owner he’s in love with (Virginie Ledoyen, The Beach, 8 Femmes). The sneaky machinations of the characters multiply and cascade with delicious results, particularly the hapless envy of the valet’s best friend (Dany Boon, My Best Friend). The Valet isn’t quite as brilliantly orchestrated as The Closet (some of the plot threads feel underbaked), but it’s still sly and wonderfully engaging. Don’t judge Veber by the hamfisted Hollywood remakes of his films Les Comperes and Le Jouet; Veber’s films have a deft sweetness that American filmmakers just can’t recreate. –Bret Fetzer.
The Visitors (Les Visiteurs) 1996
Actors Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, along with director Jean-Marie Poiré, were the creative team behind The Visitors, a French comedy from the early 1990s that was a massive hit in its native land and a cult favorite in America. Enthusiastically compared by some to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Visitors concerns a time-traveling, medieval knight and his lowly servant, both lost in the 20th century and both shocked by the discovery of their descendants’ reversal of fortunes. The film works not only as a nutty bit of slapstick, but as a cheeky satire about class conflict.
This film was also remade as “Just Visiting”, also starring Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, but was set in the U.S. instead of France. The remake wasn’t nearly as good, or popular.