Jenn Bennett is an artist and author who writes books for adults and teens. Born in Germany, she’s lived and travelled extensively throughout Europe, the US and the Far East. She currently lives near Atlanta with one husband and two evil pugs. Her debut YA novel, Night Owls (Simon and Schuster), which was published this month, is already receiving wide critical acclaim. Set in San Francisco, the title is taken from the name of the night bus service, and heads into the world of graffiti and anatomical art, and involved some gruesome research at the Willed Bodies Lab. Eithne Farry
With her bobbed hair, vivid imagination, and romantic heart, Amélie Poulain is my cinematic alter ego – my Parisian ultra-fantasy in surreal red, green and gold.
In Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s fanciful romantic comedy, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, better known simply as Amélie, the titular protagonist is a shy waitress (played pitch-perfectly by famously private French actress Audrey Tautou) who finds a box of childhood memorabilia hidden in her Paris apartment and decides to track down the owner, now an adult. If she finds him and it brings him joy, she’ll devote her life to making others happy. (‘Life’s funny. To a kid, time always drags. Suddenly you’re fifty. All that’s left of your childhood fits in a rusty little box.’)
Her mission a success, Amélie’s wheels spin in other directions. She decides to help two other lonely people get together, a tobacconist at the café where she works and a brooding regular customer. In her apartment building, she befriends an elderly painter whose bones are like glass. She persuades her father to follow his dream of travelling the world by kidnapping his favourite garden gnome and having a flight attendant take photos of it posed with landmarks around the world.
Part of the joy of this film is that it’s just plain enchanting – the eccentric supporting characters, Amélie, her attempts to help people, and all of her silly pranks. There’s also sublime magic in the way Jeunet and the cinematographer paint the City of Light, which isn’t really Paris at all, of course. It’s hyper-Paris. More Paris than Paris. It’s moonstruck and nouveau, the Paris of your dreams…if your dreams are a little surreal and lighthearted.
Amélie wouldn’t be a romantic comedy without the romance, which comes in the form of a mysterious young man, Nino, who collects the discarded pictures from passport photo booths. When Amélie tracks Nino down, she finds he’s just as odd and lonely as she is, and falls in love with him, playing one final game of cat-and-mouse to win his heart. ‘Times are hard for dreamers,’ says the owner of a porn shop where Nino works. That may be true, but I’d gladly fall into Amélie’s hope-filled dreams many times over.