French-lingo fairy tale “Amelie” may just satisfy Oscar voters’ sweet tooth this year. The film, which can be likened to last year’s Miramax contender “Chocolat,” uses special effects-enhanced magical realism to spin its surreal story about a Parisian waitress whose lonely childhood and vivid imagination lead her to orchestrate the lives of those around her.
And if overseas awards are any indication if a film has Oscar legs, “Amelie” should be in the running. It scored four European Film Awards (the most of any entry this year) for film, director, cinematographer and people’s choice award for director. It also won a series of prizes at the Toronto, Edinburgh and Karlovy Vary film festivals.
Miramax can also take heart in the mostly positive reviews and good buzz the film pic generated on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Amelie” has not only been a critical success for Miramax, but a financial one, too. It has grossed more than $40 million in its native France; more than $1.5 million in Quebec, besting the previous French record-holder “The Fifth Element”; and has earned a respectable $10 million in the U.S. so far.
Newcomer Audrey Tautou, who stars as Amelie Poulain, is not a familiar entity to voters, but may well catch Oscar’s eye for actress. At 24, the French thesp received an EFA nomination for “Amelie” and won a Cesar for her film debut in Tonie Campell’s “Venus Beauty Institute” (1999). Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Adjani are three other Gallic sirens who have nabbed Oscar noms in the recent past.
The film’s helmer, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Delicatessen,” “The City of Lost Children”) could also come away with his first directing nomination. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel could also get a nod for his dazzling camerawork.
Others who might come away with nominations for setting the film’s pace and mood are editor Herve Schneid; production designer Aline Bonetto; and the film’s team of digital effects creators.
If “Amelie” misses in the main picture category, it still has an excellent shot at best foreign-language film as France’s official selection: Highly creative and different, “Amelie” seems to follow in the path of recent offbeat winners in the foreign category including “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Life Is Beautiful.
- Picture: producer Claudie Ossard
- Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
- Actress: Audrey Tautou
- Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel
- Editing: Herve Schneid, A.C.E.
- Production design: Aline Bonetto
- Visual effects: Rip O’Neil, Yves Domenjoud and Olivier Gleyze