You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Amelie’: Montmarte sans blight

Jeunet, Delbonnel, Bonetto strive to capture warmth

For “Amelie,” Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s vision of an impossibly perfect Paris, the director didn’t enhance his beloved neighborhood of Montmartre so much as omit unnecessary details — leaving out cars, pollution and graffiti, and other blights of modern urban life. Instead, he and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and production designer Aline Bonetto chose to celebrate the small-town nature of Montmartre and their warm-hearted heroine.

“Montmartre is quite cinematic,” Delbonnel says. “It’s just like a village itself. If you remember when Amelie is walking with the blind man and describing the shops … it’s exactly the way it is in this street. The whole film is a vision of Paris, but Montmartre (really) looks like the way it is,” Delbonnel says of the neighborhood where most of the film takes place, and where Jeunet himself lives.

Delbonnel says there was little alteration of the film’s exterior locations, although in some cases, graffiti was painted over before shooting began, and in one case, removed digitally afterward.

The rich interiors, however, such as Amelie’s gorgeously appointed apartment of reds and golds, represented a real flight of fancy.

“The apartments don’t really look like that (inside). It’s closer to a vision of Marcel Carné — it’s a kind of poetry of the apartment,” Delbonnel says. These sets weren’t even built in France, but in Cologne, Germany, to qualify for the Euro Film program, he says.

Bonetto describes how she used the color scheme of each character’s living quarters to show their true nature. “We talked about the palette of each person and for Amelie, who was the heart of the story, I started thinking that her flat must be really warm, like a bird’s nest. Jean-Pierre and I decided to start with a really red color for Amelie, like the blood of her heart.”

For the quarrelsome grocer Collingon, “who is very sad and not very interesting,” Bonetto selected a rather dull green, as of “boiled vegetables.”

Amelie’s love interest, the collector of discarded strips from the photo booth, was assigned a warm brown, and his apartment strewn with evidence of his acquisitive nature: “There were, like, 6,000 matchbooks on top of his cupboard,” Bonetto cites as one example of the character’s collecting streak.

Just as Amelie’s apartment was like a nest, his apartment is under the roof, like a pigeon cote, explains Bonetto. For Delbonell, his concern in capturing a picture-perfect Paris was, “in terms of light and camera and lenses and beautiful locations” but that Jeunet’s goal was more personal, even ambassadorial. “Jean-Pierre wanted to convey a beautiful Paris (in a different way). For him, it’s more in the feeling,” Delbonnel explains.

Although the film has been a sensation at the French box office, Delbonnel claims, “It’s not even a French film … it’s (purely) Parisian. The grocery man is a typical Parisian, always arguing and rude with tourists. People from outside Paris don’t like us. I think that Jean-Pierre wanted to change this as well, to give another feeling of Paris from Amelie herself. I think he wanted to show this … (warmer side of) Paris.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Zack Snyder arrives at the 2018

    'Justice League': Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder Support Release of 'Snyder Cut'

    Zack Snyder, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck have taken to social media to request that Warner Bros. release the Snyder cut of “Justice League.” Snyder, who helmed “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” and was “Justice League’s” original director, had to leave production on the film partway through after his daughter died, with Joss [...]

  • Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On?

    Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On? (Column)

    Do we choose sides when we watch “Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach’s brilliant and wrenching drama of divorce? The question, on the face of it, sounds facile in a dozen ways the movie isn’t. Rarely are there winners in divorce, and there are two sides to every breakup. “Marriage Story” is a movie that reflects that [...]

  • The Letter

    IDFA: Kenyan Documentary ‘The Letter’ Debuts Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given access to the trailer for Kenyan documentary “The Letter,” by producer-director duo Christopher King and Maia Lekow, which world premieres Nov. 23 at IDFA. The film follows a young man who travels to his grandmother’s rural home when he learns she’s been accused of witchcraft. He soon discovers that the threatening letter she [...]

  • Warner Bros. Box Office

    With 'Good Liar' and 'Doctor Sleep,' Warner Bros.' Box Office Misfortunes Mount

    When Warner Bros. was crafting its 2019 slate, the studio took pains to offer more than just superhero movies. To be sure, there were lots of masked vigilantes too, but more than any of its big studio brethren, Warner Bros. was willing to take a risk on the kinds of thrillers, adult dramas, coming-of-age stories, [...]

  • Constance Wu

    Will Constance Wu Ever Watch 'Hustlers'?

    Despite her leading role, Constance Wu has never seen “Hustlers” and, spoiler alert, it’s very unlikely that she will. Wu explained why she doesn’t want to watch the film to Mindy Kaling (“Late Night”) during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” “This is crazy,” Kaling said in the beginning of the interview. “I [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    'Ford v Ferrari' Outmatches 'Charlie's Angels' at International Box Office

    Disney and 20th Century Fox’s “Ford v Ferrari” sped ahead of fellow new release, Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels,” at the international box office. Director James Mangold’s racing drama collected $21.4 million from 41 foreign markets, representing 67% of its overseas rollout. “Ford v Ferrari” also kicked off with $31 million in North America, bringing its global [...]

  • Mindy Kaling Constance Wu

    Mindy Kaling, Constance Wu on Working With Women Directors: 'Nothing Felt Exploitative'

    Constance Wu (“Hustlers”) and Mindy Kaling (“Late Night”) discussed the importance of women directors during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” Kaling began the interview by acknowledging how having female directors on “Hustlers” and “Late Night” benefited the films. “[‘Hustlers’ director Lorene Scafaria] doesn’t come from a place of, ‘Oh, let’s humanize this [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content