Friday, May 23, 2008


My very favorite movie is Amelie—although if you hate reading subtitles in French, it may not be your favorite movie. Because I have so little character of my own, I love movies that develop complex characters, and Amelie does it so well.

Just to set a baseline for comparison, consider the characters in a television show like Little House on the Prairie:

Charles Ingalls – strong pa
Caroline Ingalls – brave ma
Mary Ingalls – sweet pioneer girl
Laura Ingalls – spunky pioneer girl
Carrie Ingalls – little pioneer girl

See what I mean? (Yawn) How can a script writer develop those characters?

Now, here’s what the characters look like in Amelie:

Amelie - lonely, imaginative French girl who likes to dip her hands in grain, crack the top of crème Brule with a spoon, and skip stones

Amelie’s mother – killed (squashed flat) by a Canadian tourist who happened to be committing suicide off the top of Notre Dame (classic case of wrong place/wrong time)

Amelie’s father - the retired military doctor, who builds a shrine to his dead wife in the backyard, centerpieced by a painted plaster gnome

Blubber – Amelie’s only pet as a child, a goldfish with suicidal tendencies

Madeline Wells - the landlady whose husband ran away to Panama with his secretary

Callignon - the cruel and sarcastic grocer

Lucien - the one-armed cretin grocer’s assistant, often the target of Callignon’s cruelty and sarcasm

Madame Suzanne - owner of the Windmills café who limps because of an accident in her earlier career as a bareback rider

Georgette – Amelie’s hypochondriac co-worker

Gina – co-worker with a stalker ex-boyfriend

Joseph - the stalker ex-boyfriend who only stops stalking Gina, his ex-girlfriend, when he starts stalking his new girlfriend, Georgette, the hypochondriac.

Nino Quincompoix – Amelie’s love interest who scavenges for photos in the subway photo booths as a hobby, but whose real occupations are working part-time in a porn shop and part-time in an amusement park

There’s Raymond Dufazel, the Renoir painter suffering from brittle bone disease; Domonique Bretodeau with his hidden tin box of toys; the Mystery Man who turns out to be—oops, better not tell; and a host of other interesting characters too numerous to mention.

Amelie just has to be better watching than Little House on the Prairie, no offense to the strong, brave, sweet, and spunky Ingalls family.

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