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By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's visually lush extravaganza follows the elfin café watiress Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou), for whom Princess Di's death is a call to begin committing anonymous good deeds, such as matchmaking the café's hypochondriac tobacconist and her resident stalker and pulling ingenious pranks on the neighborhood's cruel fruit merchant. Finally, Amelie plays good Samaritan to herself, wooing complicated Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), a sex-shop clerk whose hobby is collecting discarded passport photos. Jeunet (co-director of Delicatessen and City of Lost Children) keeps us in the palm of his hand as he transforms a thematically slight romance into something much more. He asks audiences to believe, like Amelie, that life can be composed of perfect, controlled moments; for two hours, we do. Jeunet establishes himself as a softer, smoother Leos Carax (Lovers of the Bridge); both are the inheritors of the relentlessly enchanting cinema of Jean Vigo, striving with each instant to show us something completely new.

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