Thirteen years ago, an off-beat French film captured the hearts and imaginations of people all over the world and propelled Audrey Tatou to stardom. Le Fableux Destin d’Amelie Poulain remains an iconic Parisian film, with such a sweet story at its heart that you just can’t help but fall in love with Amélie and her city, and there’s no better way to relive the film than with an Amelie tour of Paris.
If you’d like to know more about the film, read the review here.
These days, though the Amélie obsession there once was in Paris has quietened, the film is still deeply intertwined into Paris life. Stand long enough in the Gare du Nord, which was one of the locations used in the film, and the tinkling, melodic music of Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack will fill the air, courtesy of an amateur pianist at one of the public pianos.
But it is in Montmartre that the film really comes to life. Walking up Rue Lepic, close to the Moulin Rouge, the Café des 2 Moulins is an unprepossessing sight at first; one street café among many along this stretch. Patrons sit in the wicker chairs beneath the scarlet awning, sipping coffee and flicking through the morning paper, keeping one eye on the hustle and bustle of life around them.
But it is unmistakably Amélie’s café. Inside, the long bar, and even the layout of the chairs and tables, is exactly as it looks in the film. The only thing that is missing is the hypochondriac waitress, and you can’t help but watch the glasses on the shelves behind the bar, waiting for them to shake to tell you that she is locked in a romantic tryst in the toilets.
Considering it’s something of a film fan’s pilgrimage, the concessions to tourists are remarkably few. There are a few prints from the film on the walls, and the waiters don’t bat an eyelid at camera flashes. Still, it’s really just a working café, and even the most ardent Japanese fans, who are practically trembling with excitement, take only the odd surreptitious snap. They do, however, order crème brulée at 9am, just so that they can crack the hard topping with a spoon and enjoy the the creamy deliciousness underneath – one of Amélie’s little pleasures.
A few streets away, on the Rue des Trois Frères, stands the grocers’ shop Au Marche de la Butte, with fresh produce spilling out onto the pavement. There are no big grain buckets here to dip your hands into, but it’s not much of a stretch to imagine the bullying grocer Collignon and his simple but kind-hearted shop-boy standing behind the stalls.
It’s possible to take the funicular up to the Sacre-Coeur, the setting of the climax of the film, but it is much more authentic to do as Amelie does and race up the steps. It’s a bit of a slog, but as the basilica appears high on the hill, and the steps zig-zag up, offering the same viewpoints and platforms where Amélie set a path of arrows for Nino to find her, it is enchanting.
At the top, the crowds, music and and sublime views of Paris, create an atmosphere which just makes your heart sing – much like Amélie. The film shows all the signs of being an enduring classic, so it seems inevitable, and rather joyous, that parts of Paris will always belong to Amélie.