Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Amélie's V-Day Return to Theaters

Reflections on the film and ads for Chanel

If you've never seen Amélie in a movie theater (or if you did experience this delightful film in a cinema and want to do so again), here's your chance. The French arthouse classic that debuted in the U.S. in 2002—and made an international star out of Audrey Tautou—returns to 250 big screens across the country on Valentine's Day.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the gem set in Paris follows a quirky and charming waitress, Tautou's Amélie, who devotes herself to bringing joy to others.

Jeunet, who wrote the script with Guillaume Laurant, describes the film as "a once-in-a- lifetime" project that remains close to his heart. "It's very important. Why? Because this is a dream for every creator, to imagine something very personal. I put so many things in it. Probably, I am Amelie," muses the director. His other credits include the 1991 black comedy Delicatessen and 1995's surrealist fantasy adventure The City of Lost Children (both co-directed by Marc Caro). He's lensed high-end commercials as well.

Among Amélie's good deeds: she reunites a man with a box of mementos he lost when he was a boy; she inspires her dad to travel by sending his garden gnome on a trip around the world; and she plays matchmaker for two miserable people in need of love—a jilted customer and the hypochondriacal tobacconist at the corner bistro where she works.

Our heroine could use a matchmaker of her own. Amélie develops a crush on a guy after finding an artful book he has created—it's full of ripped up photos pieced back together. But she is too shy to approach him directly to return it. A sweet cat-and-mouse game ensues.

Jeunet was actually in the initial stages of cobbling together the story for Amélie when he was interrupted by the need to temporarily relocate to Los Angeles to direct 1997's Alien: Resurrection.

"It was very difficult to take the crumbs, all those crumbs, to make a story, and it took a lot of time to find the best, the main way" to bring Amélie together, Jeunet reflects.

The director had a breakthrough when he returned to France after finishing the Alien project. "I started again to look at the main story. And one day, one morning I will remember all my life, suddenly it was in front of me. It was one detail in the middle of my notes—the girl helping other people, and she doesn't ask anything in return. And I thought, this is a great idea. It'll be the story!" Jeunet says. "And after this time, everything was easy: easy to write, easy to shoot, east to edit."

"Not easy to find the money, of course," he cracks. "But it was such a pleasure."

Shot in Paris, mainly in Montmarte, the film shimmers with magnificent green, red and yellow hues. The color palette was inspired by the work of Juarez Machado, a Brazilian painter Jeunet met at a party in Paris.

The auteur gave photos from one of the artist's books to his crew get everyone on the same page. "The best way to work with artistic collaborators is to give them pictures, photographs; because if you speak with words, everyone can imagine something else, or something different," Jeunet says. "When you give a picture, at the end, the film won't be like the picture, but it's a guide."

As for a potential sequel, Jeunet does have an idea for a follow-up involving "another girl, a fan of Amélie," he teases. "She would like to do the same thing [Amélie did with the good deeds], but she's very awkward, she's very bad."

That said, financing such a production would be expensive. "It's so difficult to get the money to make a feature. You have to be passionate. You have to convince people," he says.

Jeunet found a less expensive but fantastically creative way to re-enter the world of Amélie last year when he made Amélie: The Real Story, a short film reimagining the character as a spy. "I had so much fun doing that with my friends," he says.

Other recent work includes a new Chanel spot that came out a few weeks ago. The commercial touts a new perfume called Chance and finds four girls frolicking around an amusement park.

"It's a pleasure to work for Chanel," Jeunet says. "They give you freedom. I wrote the story, I produced it, I directed it. And, of course, you have a big budget. At the end, they don’t change anything."

Twelve years ago, Jeunet directed a gorgeous commercial for Chanel No. 5 that reunited him with Amelie's Tautou. The spot depicts a night train journey to Istanbul that ends in romance. The director says he spent three weeks filming the ad—an unheard of amount of time for a commercial shoot.

And he actually had the budget to rent the iconic Orient Express.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.