No French film of this century is more popular than that of Jean-Pierre Jeunet Amelia. Or rather, no French film protagonist of this century is more beloved than Amélie Audrey Tautou.. So there is no doubt why the film is best known by the short version of the title rather than the long version, Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain. Now, more than twenty years after its release Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie PoulainJeunet followed it up The True History of d’Amélie Poulainwhich you can watch (with optional French or English subtitles) immediately above.
“After so long,” Jeunet says in a brief introduction, “I felt the moment was right to finally tell you the true story of Amélie Poulain.” Through his narrative that follows, it turns out that she is no ordinary Montmartre waitress dedicated to secretly enriching the lives of those around her.
She actually works as a spy for the KGB, having first been recruited as a child with the promise of candy bars. It may sound far-fetched, but Jeunet supports every detail of Amelie’s double life and the story of her re-entry into espionage after the fall of the Berlin Wall, using the same scenes and featuring the same characters we remember from Amelia.
On one level, The True History of d’Amélie Poulain it testifies to a lingering playfulness that prevents Jeunet from taking his own work—even work that has become a global phenomenon—too seriously. (Indeed, that spirit comes through in the original film’s exaggeration of whimsical French cinematic tropes.) Much like the Hollywoodized Kubrick trailers we’ve previously featured here on Open Culture, this new short also showcases how the meaning and impact of cinema isn’t created by images alone, but rather by their context and juxtaposition. And so, with characteristic cleverness, Jeunet reinvented Amélie as a Soviet agent using the principles of Soviet montage.
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based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcastson cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books about cities, book The Stateless City: A Walking Tour of 21st Century Los Angeles and video series City in cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.