Sharon Knolle Freelance Writer

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Published in Variety, Jan. 15, 2002

Director short takes
Helmers elaborate on myriad approaches


"Amelie" represented a departure for French helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet, previously known for the baroquely dystopian "Delicatessen" and "City of Lost Children."

"I wanted to make a positive film for a long time, maybe because I did three dark movies before," says the director. "I had worked on this collection of stories for maybe 25 years that I wanted to make into a film. In fact, it was very difficult to find the (unifying) concept. One day I understood the center of the story. It was just one little story in the middle of the other stories, the story of the woman helping other people. And then everything was easy -- easy to write, easy to shoot, easy to edit."

"Amelie's" setting -- a kind of storybook Paris -- also represented a departue for the filmmaker. "The challenge for me was to shoot outside, because I did three movies (on a soundstage)," he says. "I tried to get the same quality of work. To shoot outside, it wasn't easy in Paris, because the Parisians are pretty tough. I remember one time, a guy parked his car in front of the camera, and he said, 'F--k the cinema!' That's Paris."

Although Jeunet says he makes films for himself, he says the opportunity to please viewers is only frosting on the cake. "I didn't expect success like this. It's much brighter than my other films, 'Delicatessen' and 'The City of Lost Children,' which I did with (co-director) Marc Caro. It's impossible to put some personal emotion in (when collaborating with someone else).

"I remember sometimes I wanted to put a love story in and I know he doesn't like this kind of story. So, I thought I would keep this idea for my own film. Almost all the stories in 'Amelie' are true, except for the joke with the garden gnome around the world. I use a lot of small details from my childhood. I modify a lot of things, but the hypochondriac woman in the cafe -- that's my mother. That's my life."

— Sharon Knolle

2002 Cahners Business Information 2002 Variety, Inc.