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Le Petisme: flirting with the sordid in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain

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The happiness carefully constructed in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain/Amélie (2001), finds its roots in the recent French phenomenon of a return to minuscule pleasures of daily life, le petisme. Petisme is first a reaction to and a concern about everything that is gigantic or growing in France, that is, globalization, crime, ordinary violence, unemployment, hypermarkets, and the loss of individual identity in the technological age. Petisme bears homage to the little things. It prioritizes the local, the immediate, that which can be quickly rectified, and implies a diversion from the larger issues. It centres on the familiar, resulting in a withdrawal into oneself. It involves an interest in the ‘fait divers’ or usually sordid, current local event. Jeunet’s film taps into this need for a diversion from a mistrust and growing malaise in a France facing the rise of globalization, increasing cultural diversity, a growing lack of confidence in governmental institutions, public security and an unstable economic climate. As this article demonstrates, Jeunet’s film remains well anchored in its socio-historical and cinematic period, exploiting the same issues of loneliness and isolation found in recent French new social cinema.

Keywords: French film; Jean-Pierre Jeunet; Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain; Petisme; faits divers

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/sfci.4.3.197/0

Affiliations: University of North Carolina

Publication date: November 1, 2004

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  • Studies in French Cinema is the only journal published in English devoted exclusively to French cinema, providing scholars, teachers and students from around the world with a consistent quality of academic investigation across the full breadth of the subject. Contributors scrutinise the cultural context of various works and the diverse stylistic approaches that infuse the visual fabric of this genre.
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