Jean Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie

Amélie or Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amélie Poulain, follows our eponymous hero as she travels through the stylish Parisian neighborhood, Montmartre, to help friends, family, and strangers find joy in their lives while ignoring her own needs and loneliness. Released 24 years ago, the film became a great critical and commercial success — thanks to director Jean Pierre Jeunet’s inventive story, delightful cinematography, and actress Audrey Tautou’s infectious charm.

Jeunet is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important directors in modern French cinema. For his work on the Amélie, Jeunet won a European Film Award for Best Director.

Jeunet debuted as a director with the acclaimed 1991 black comedy Delicatessen, collaborating with Marc Caro. Jeunet then co-wrote and -directed with Caro again on The City of Lost Children (1995). His work with science fiction and horror led him to direct Alien Resurrection (1997), the fourth film in the Alien film series and his first and thus far only experience with an American film. In 2001, Jeunet achieved his biggest success with the release of Amélie, which won him international acclaim.

The filmmaker, who had previously made “Delicatessen” and “The City of Lost Children” (both with co-director Marc Caro), wanted to do something hopeful, even though he’s a glass-half-empty guy himself. “It’s much easier to make something dark, something negative, something pessimistic,” he tells me. “To make something positive — with a positive ending — it’s more difficult.”

“The film speaks about generosity. Amélie doesn’t want anything in return. She does what she does for free, and I think that’s a very strong idea. It’s a strong idea, because everybody thinks that every human being has some good in them, too. The film speaks on that, and there are also ideas in it about the small details of life, and those resonate with people. Sometimes the stars are just aligned. Sometimes, you cross a city and every light is green. Sometimes, it’s the opposite.”

Read more about Jean Pierre Jeunet

Maybe I love loneliness. I love to live on my hill in Provence with my wife, my dogs, and my cats. And I am not a Parisian. I hate parties, I hate to honor, I hate to receive medals and this kind of stuff, awards and blah, blah. I hate that. I am a bear, really. I share my time between Paris, and Montmartre to see some people and the hill in Provence. And this is a very good way to do work. And my favorite place is my workshop in Provence. And I love to build something, to make something with my hand. Augusto Renoir, the painter, used to say, every job, don’t use a hand, it’s suspect, it’s not right. I love this line.

I try to be like Amélie, taking some [enjoyment from] the small pleasures of life. For example, when she puts the hand in the grain — every day, I try to have the same kind of little pleasure. It seems like nothing, but it’s very important.

I am probably the only filmmaker in the world who loves to watch his own movies, because even if I see things in them that I think are flawed, I’ll go, “Oh, this isn’t good. I’ll make something else that’s better now!” But I always have the good memories. Watching my films reminds of the memories I created while I made them. It’s like watching a vacation you took on film, you know? I love it. Recently, Amelie was on TV and I watched it. I can’t avoid it.

When I see [my] film, it’s like when you watch a film from vacation: “Oh, I remember it was good to do that.” I love so much to make — this is the most important thing for me. Even when I don’t make a film, I have here in Provence a workshop, and I make something with my hands. I don’t know to draw, I don’t know to make sculptures, but I make some animals and I make an animation short film with that.

This is my best advice I can give to young people: Just take the pleasure to make. Don’t think about the future. Don’t think about [being] famous. Sometimes they ask me, “What do I have to do to be a director?” I say, “Do you want to be, or do you want to make?”