Sometimes it's enough to attend the cinema to escape to another world - one more innocent and romantic than the often unpleasant one in which we live. While the movie industry was created as a money-making occupation (more-so today than ever before), it was no accident that it became known as "The Dream Machine." And no wonder, say, that during the Great Depression millions of Americans paid their dimes to retreat into the dark for a few hours and forget their troubles - a temporary sublime escape.
Such is the case for a charming romantic comedy fantasy from France and tomorrow's offering at Club Indigo.
"Amlie" is the movie, as sweet and pleasing a visual experience as you'll ever likely attend.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a Belgian filmmaker who gained fame by providing unexpected surprises on European screens, has crafted this quirky, life-affirming tale of an introverted caf waitress, Amlie, who crafts elaborate schemes and practical jokes either to bring happiness to some or unpleasant justice to others who visit the Montmartre eatery. She leads a fanciful life, as she has done ever since her lonely life as a child. She observes people from afar, conjuring various whimsies, gazing over the rooftops and wondering how many people are experiencing lovemaking at that moment. And director Jeunet satisfies us with visuals, adding to the comical, romantic touch of the film.
Amlie's first life-changing experience dovetails coincidentally with the tragic death of Princess Di, when she discovers, inadvertently, a box of someone's childhood treasures dating back to the 1950s. Recalling her own sheltered life, she determines to return some joy to the unknown owner of the box. It brings such happiness to her that she continues by matching up a crotchety customer with the caf's shy pharmacist, then by bringing happiness to a widow, and helping an innocent simple-minded grocery clerk by creative booby traps in the apartment of the boy's abusive boss. And more.
Unexpectedly, she also falls into a boy-meets-girl love interest and wonders if she is up to handling herself in it.
For all the surprises revealed by her character and her puckish humor, Amlie remains an adorable, wide-eyed, even delectable, creature - a far cry from the simplistic and even loathsome characters in most Hollywood films. It's a welcome break, enough to sit in a Paris caf and be entertained with the nostalgic sounds of an accordion while munching sweet French pastries. The movie serves that purpose.
Incidentally, much credit for the bright and colorful look must go to cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, who makes Paris's Montmartre section look especially inviting. Never have Parisians looked warmer, whether inside a sleazy adult video store, embarking on an old funhouse ride, practicing backhands against the Sacre Coeur or just drinking coffee at a local caf.
The film was invited to be shown in advance of the 2001 Cannes Festival, receiving an unheard of special free screening at the time, and the response was unanimously all raves.
"Amlie" will be shown tomorrow at the Calumet Theatre, at 7:15 p.m., preceded by a French buffet at 6 p.m. from the chefs at the Calumet Miscowabic Club. Cost for both film and buffet is $18. The film alone is $5. To plan attendance at the buffet, call the theatre today at 337-2610.
The film has been sponsored by Joseph Daavetilla, CPA, of Houghton.
For those seeking alternative entertainments this week: At Finlandia, today at 2 and 6 p.m., is the monthly free Nordic film - a revealing documentary on Estonia.
For light-hearted music, MBY presents a scholarship fundraiser tomorrow, including Lindsey Whitfield, the Backroom Boys and Gary Tunstall at the Uphill 41, Hancock - 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., for a $5 donation at the door.
Also tomorrow at 6 p.m. the Carnegie Museum, Houghton, presents "We Have to go Out," with a live presentation on the history of the U.S. Life-saving Service of the Keweenaw - admission free, with refreshments. A range of other historical, topical exhibits are also on hand.