Saint, Waitress and Probably – a Woman
(an attempt for a feminist approach on the feature film Le Fabuleux Destin de Amelie Poulain)
#17 The author of the feature film – the Oscar nominee – Le Fabuleux Destin d’ Amelie Poulain (The Unusual Destiny of Amelie Poulain), Jean-Pierre Jeneux, is one of the most recognizable French film directors (City of Lost Children, Delicatessen Store, House of Lost Children). The co-scenarist of the project is another French guy – Guillaume Lorain. So, the both authors are – men. That’s why this feministic approach on the feature film The Unusual Destiny of Amelie Poulain has in sight, of course, the conclusions of the different tendencies within the frames of this method (radical feminism, anarchistic feminist critic, the genocritic i.e. critic that is interested in the feminine letter/writing – ecriture feminine, then – the analysis of the woman as a writer and of the woman as a reader, etc.), but this text’s main obsession is the presenting way of the central female character in The Unusual Destiny of Amelie Poulain.
James Bond against Joan of Arc
#16 Putting the main characters’ names in the film title – is often practice. Recently, we saw Jerry McGuire, Barry Lyndon, Billie Elliot, and Blade, Rambo, Rocky… What’s characteristic for these titles? All those refer onto the male characters.
Really, the case when the center of the film story, or the active principle of the story is the male character – is much more often case (even if his name isn’t in the film title), especially in the action movies (the Die Hard and the James Bond serial) and in the thrillers (Seven, Usual Suspects, and the most famous exception is The Silence of the Lambs). In such case, the female characters are objectified (I wonder how Bond isn’t sick of swinging partners like socks) or their semantic level is extremely reduced down to their physical existence, on their pure corporal elements – their body (I can’t remember even one of the Bruce Willis’ partners while he was “dying hard”, but I’m more than sure that none of them had rotten teeth or bent nose).
#15 Much less often in this feature film production (not to mention Latino TV serials), female characters are put as an equal partners to the male characters, on the story and on the narrative film function level (Sandra Bullock is “O.K.” in Miss Congeniality, for example, but only after she would left the gun under her pillow, after she’d put the high heals and the mini-skirt on – for men, she would become “a real woman”.
#01 Really, in the last recent years we witness numerous cases where the females carry the action and the plot, being central characters in the feature films, and they’re allowed to be women of flesh and blood, of reason and emotion and of sense and sensibility. These “strong” women, or more precisely – “strong” female characters, besides the ones of certain (proto)biographic provenience (Evita, Hours, Frida, Joan of Arc), succeeded to gain the typically male tools – swords and guns (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and some of them even succeeded to gain the male’s strongest weapon/tool (in the theory considered for one of the rare 100% male assets) – the language (Erin Brokovic).
#14 In the Macedonian cinematography – we can note one fascinating fact: there are few films (but it is a large number in percentage of the whole national film production) that put the female characters in the center of the film deed’s attention (even in the film titles) – not only the very first Macedonian film Frosina, but also, there are Miss Stone, Three Girls Named Ana, Stand Up Straight Delfina, We are Cursed Irina, which explicitly position the woman as a center-pillar of the film narration. In opposite of the female characters that participate in the culture with their mental or physical potentials, abilities and qualities (Stand Up Straight Delfina), stand those who emerge from the typical patriarchal environment as in Frosina, where the female character is the “absent one” (E. Šeleva), namely “the dead center” of the action. In Miss Stone, not to forget that, even besides that Miss Stone is a missionary, she has her individual identity; but, we mustn’t forget that she isn’t a woman that origins from the Balkan context.
”A Sweet Little Parisien”
#13 In opposite of the other female characters with a task to attack with their beauty and sex-appeal (typically female) and with force, words (characterized as a motherly characteristic), the character of Amelie Poulain (as many other things in this film) steps out of the norms, the stereotypes, and of the convention black & white understanding of things, or to be more accurate, Jeneux and Lorain deal with the combination of the stereotypes, or with their partial “estranging” (by the term used by the Russian formalists).
That’s why Amelie isn’t “a sweet small Parisien” as she was mentioned in some critics for the film, but much more of an unusual French girl, atypical female character.
#12 Amelie Poulain doesn’t attract (primarily) with her outer appearance – she doesn’t have “boobs” like Pamela Anderson, nor “rear end” like Jennifer Lopez. But she does have a smile and a glance in her eyes that are more or less “fabulous” and a specific look and even more specific attitude and behavior.
Unlike Frosina, for instance, a woman that comes out from a typical falocentric environment, Amelie lives in a family environment where the mother is the dominant person in the family, and Amelie and her father are in their shadow, leaving in the specific, mild matriarchate. Such non-dominance of the male characters in the social communities, i.e. marriages, can be seen in The Unusual Destiny of Amelie Poulain also at the parents of the grocery owner Colignon. His mother is the one who acts with verbal aggression, “shutting down” her husband. Also, Mr. Colignon is the one who remembers/recalls, he’s the family’s memory, while the mother is the one who writes down things, the one who rules with the language – that is completely opposite from the usual traditionalistic aspects. But anyway, there is immediate contrast: the husband has a “penetrating” profession – he “perforates” the tickets in the subway. The predictive manner in the parents’ professions is noted at Amelie’s family – the mother i a teacher, the father is a doctor (and commonly, the little girls “play” teachers and nurses, but the one who “puts the wood-stick in the patient’s mouth is, of course – a man).
#11 But, exactly because of the professional orientation of Amelie’s father, her right to educate herself is taken: at her first domestic health check out, she shivers at her heart because of the first male touch she ever had, so the father gets the diagnosis some kind of a heart disease (?). Amelie, because of her first experience of her “Other”(ity), of her female nature, looses one of the basic rights of every child – the education. There are no retrograde, patriarchal reasons that caused it, which, of course, isn’t out of logic to be a factor in some of the contemporary Macedonian film.
Normally, the mother-teacher, or the teacher-mother – gets on stage. But Amelie isn’t very skilled with the language, so the education didn’t went quite well for her. Her greatest joy is her fish, which, by the metonymical principle, faces the silence – again. But, because of the mother (untypical again), the fish is silenced by throwing in the river. In spite of it, Amelie doesn’t loses herself, creating her own hyper-reality, her “own and personal soba” (V. Wolf) in the world of fantasy, her reality.