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But French visitors make pilgrimages there, happy just to take pictures of its exterior if they arrive before opening time.The reason for their enthusiasm is that the cafe is a key location in Amelie, the most successful and beloved French film in years.Influenced by Hollywood, they are making commercial films that sell widely abroad, yet remain distinctively French."They're genre films with a European touch," says Lamassour.She devises complex schemes of random kindness to cheer up strangers and neighbours. These are a few of his favourite things: goldfish, garden gnomes, skimming stones on water, plunging one's hand into a sackful of grain, cracking the surface of creme-brulee with a spoon.
Jeunet thinks it all stems from the French victory in the 1998 World Cup.Her Amelie is an oddball character who as a child retreated into a fantasy world.As an adult, working as a waitress in the Deux Moulins, she discovers her life's mission: spreading happiness to others. It's easier and fashionable to talk of violence and guns."Jeunet also thinks that French audiences respond to Amelie because he wrote into its story sequences involving small pleasures in his life.This quirky, upbeat and ultimately heart-warming story is set exclusively in a Paris that looks ravishing - Jeunet has effectively created a cinematic love letter to the city. "And I know it works."Even so, Jeunet is amazed by the movie's success. After Alien, I wanted the freedom to work with my friends, in my own language, with French actors.
"It's a Paris of dreams," he says, over breakfast at a chic brasserie on the Champs-Elysees. "I stayed in Los Angeles making Alien: Resurrection for 20 months, and I missed it. But I had a fake Paris in mind, an idealised Paris."He has developed theories about the film's success in France. I tried to write this story for a long time."The French have flooded him with enthusiastic letters and e-mails.Of course we have dog shit on the streets in Paris; we have traffic jams; and, yes, it rains."Some critics prefer militant movies.