Friday, January 29, 2016

The 'Amelie' Technique

Image from Polyvore

One of my favourite books in the French Chic genre is Anne Barone’s Chic & Slim Techniques.  In this book Anne lists ten techniques to assist you in being chic and slim a la Francaise.  I dip into this delicious and petite volume from time to time and pick one technique to read and let soak into my consciousness.

It was from this book that I was inspired to think about my own chic techniques, so, may I present to you my first one:

The Amelie Technique

Most likely you are familiar with the sweet and whimsical movie Amelie, starring Audrey Tautou.  Can you believe it came out in 2001 – fifteen years ago?  Amelie is a very shy waitress at a charming café in Montmartre and seems to spend her spare time getting involved in other peoples lives.  She helps a blind man across the street, describing the sights around him for his benefit; she finds the owner of a tin full of memontos that she comes across by chance hidden in the wall of her bathroom; and she looks for the owner of torn-up photo-booth photos that are scattered around train stations.

The movie itself takes you on a tour around the Montmartre area of Paris, and watching it really fills up my heart with Parisian yumminess.  It’s just the tonic on an everyday day.  So just what inspiration could we take from this movie to create the Amelie Technique, which promises to enhance our daily routine with a little French pixie-dust?

Here are a few baguette crumbs that come to mind…

Simple pleasures.  Amelie sinking her hand into a sack of white beans at the greengrocers.  Cracking an egg with care and ease.  Sitting down to a perfectly prepared meal of pasta and tomato sauce topped with freshly shaved Parmesan.  Enjoying the area where she lives, by exploring on foot.  Living in a home that contains just the items she needs and plenty of free space even though her apartment is small.  Embracing analogue (as evidenced by Amelie’s dial telephone and old school alarm clock).

Amelie certainly is the princesse of simple pleasures.

What about our life though?  What simple pleasures can we think of that we can either do more of, or, simply notice when we do them rather than have them pass us by on auto-pilot?  For me it’s climbing into bed at night and relaxing my thoughts, picking up a big bag of library books for the weekend, or pottering around organising my wardrobe…

Routines and rituals.  Sure, Amelie was a little neurotic, but I adored the way she had her routines and rituals and was quite precise and methodical in how she spent her days.  From winding up her alarm clock up at night to shopping for dinner ingredients on the way home, to keeping an orderly and sparsely furnished home; you could tell she lived a simple and uncomplicated life.

We can cultivate and enjoy routines and rituals in our own life too.  Some that come to mind that I love to do are reading with my feet up for half an hour before dinner, having a face-mask and read in our bedroom before bed and my hot tea early in the morning.  Routines and rituals help me feel like everything is under control and life is on an even keel.

Joy and whimsy.  Taking inspiration from Amelie, why not keep our enthusiasm fresh and new, and approach life in a joyous and whimsical way.  We can retain our youth forever if we want to, by having a childlike enthusiasm for everything that we do.  Age truly is a state of mind.

Just like a young child, Amelie plays cheeky tricks on a mean man and then hides and watches.  She takes it upon herself to find out the identity of the mysterious person in the torn-up photos.  Amelie is almost like a kitten or puppy playing with its own shadow, in that she creates her an adventure where others might see none.

I believe it is possible to be this way, and at the same time be a responsible and reliable grown-up.  You can take life seriously whilst simultaneously not taking life too seriously.  For me, I have systems set up such as automated bill payments and set days to do certain tasks etc; this gives me the freedom to be spontaneous because I don’t have to think of those things at other times.  Having a streamlined life and decluttered home helps with this too - your mind feels more free when you have less to look after.

Personal style.  Amelie’s wardrobe in the movie is very stylised and appealing.  She looks quintessentially French with her black bob and red lipstick.  She wears cute little dresses and cardigans in a simple colour palette of red, green and black.  This is carried through to her home which is decorated in similar shades and (quite traditional furnishings).

We can apply this to our own personal style by viewing ourselves from the outside as others do.  What does the way we present ourselves say about us?  Does it say what we’d like it to say?  If you were going to have a movie about you, called (in my case) Fiona, would you want to watch it or would it be a boring story with a boringly-dressed main character?  It would be fun to create the capsule wardrobe for your own movie.  You’d want the wardrobe to capture your sparkling essence, naturellement.

And my home?  Can I view this as an outsider might, to see if there are cluttery areas I’m turning a blind eye to?  What do I want my home to say about me and can I be more intentional in portraying who I want to be?

I heard a great piece of advice in a personal development seminar I listened to a while back.  The speaker basically said to the audience that when they went back home they would need to change their environment, because going back into the same enrivonment would draw them back into how they were, and drag them back into their past stories.  The speaker referenced changes such as getting rid of pictures or clothes, for example, that brought back unhappy memories or made you feel bad about yourself.

I think that’s why having a big decluttering and/or organising bonanza feels so amazing because the process does literally change how you feel and act, from the inside out.  You can’t help but change and go in the direction that your environment dictates.

It’s fun to take inspiration from a movie or book and make changes based on that – you could take literal inspiration (such as when I made my own clothes inspired by Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink when that movie came out in the 80s) or simply be inspired to have more of your own point of view when it comes to a look (like watching Amelie does for me).

What did you get from the Amelie movie?  Can you think of any additions to the Amelie technique?  I'd love to hear.


  1. I keep hearing about this movie and I've never watched it! Will check to see if Netflix has it and also see what inspiration I can gather from it.

    Have you ever seen the movie Chocolat? The main character, Vianne, is charming. :)

  2. I have seen Chocolat, Tracy, but not for a long time. I think I'm due for a re-watch, thank you.

  3. Chocolat is my go-to movie whenever I'm feeling wistful or sad. It never fails to cheer me up. I haven't seen Amelie but it sounds good. I agree with you about the weather Fiona. I live in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia and it has been disgustingly hot and humid with thunderstorms. Looking forward to winter. Thanks for your site and blogs. They are inspiring.

  4. I'm ashamed to say I have never seen the movie. However, I am now inspired by your post to do so ;-)
    I was reading a book about the rituals of some of the most successful/inspiring people (both now and historically) and rituals seem to be the one thing they all have/do.
    Great post Fiona x

  5. I need to watch Amélie again! It's one of my favorite movies and I haven't watched it lately. I really do love her character and the way she enjoyed the small pleasures in life. She really lived a very simple life but it was full of creativity. Loved how she sent her father's gnome traveling and the tricks she came up with for the mean guy.

  6. I, too, have not seen Amelie, but have it on Netflix. It's a blustery day here in Central NY and perfect for settling in with some tea and a good movie. Think that will be today's plan.

  7. Amelie is one of my all-time favorite films, I've watched it so many times. I love how her gentle nudges push others to step out of their comfort zones/ mind sets and embrace life in a different way. I always think it's important to step out of your comfort zone - it turns everything into an adventure.

  8. I own the Amelie DVD, that's how much I like it. I own very few DVD's (maybe 5) and I had to have that one, I never tire of it. If you want to see Audrey Tautou in beautiful Parisienne clothes, see the film Priceless.

    My go-to French film star now is Catherine Deneuve, as she is closer to my age (I'm 50), and more my fashion style. I believe Ms. Tautou is something like 20 + years younger than I am. I've always tended to go more toward a sophisticated/mature look rather than too young, but I do love Amelie's look!

  9. I own the DVD, and watch it at least once a year. I guess you could say it's a ritual! I find Amelie's joi de vivre inspiring, nd love seeing the clothes, decor, Paris....

  10. I love this post. I adore Amelie. When I saw that you used it as inspiration for chic living, I expected you to bring up indulging in simple pleasures, but you are so right about the other points as well.

    I saw that some of the other commenters have yet to see it. Watch it today, I say! I know you will love it!

  11. I also like how Amelie created her own entertainment, however quirky it was. Her do-gooder activities were so charming and she delighted in them. I also loved her habits at home as you described.

  12. Susan, 'disgustingly hot', such a funny saying! It makes me laugh. Right, I'm definitely watching Chocolat soon.

    Vanessa, no shame necessary! It's just a movie, but a fun one. I love reading books like the one you describe.

    Charlene, the gnome is such a cute part of the story, how could I not have mentioned it!

    Kristien, yay, your day sounds like perfection to me. I'd probably add knitting needles to your recipe :)

    KBG, so true. I heard a saying that said 'if you're feeling uncomfortable, it means you are outside of your comfort zone' (and obviously that's a good thing, but it sometimes feels easier to hop back into the comfort zone!)

    Anonymous, I love Priceless as well, and adore Catherine Deneuve. I've seen Belle De Jour and Potiche/Tropy Wife and loved them both. I too have been dressing in a classic way since I was a teen!

    Jeanne, 'the ritual of watching Amelie once a year', perfect. It's like a petite trip to Paris, and you're right, it does inspire joie de vivre.

    Michelle, yes, I couldn't talk about Amelie without mentioning simple pleasures, even though it could come out cliched. Even talking about the Amelie movie is somewhat of a cliche because so many of us know it so well! Still, I had to :)

  13. Lovely post! I love Amelie! I love how she "was who she was"- no apologies, no looking to others for how she should/could be. Actually my favorite part of the movie was the beginning where it went through what each of the characters liked doing, such as her mother, who liked to sort out her her handbag each day....I like to do that, also. I also love Chocolat.....wonderful films , thank you for reminding me of them again.

  14. Marguerite, I love that part too! Didn't she even vacuum clean out her handbag? I emptied out my bag last night a la Amelie's mother/Marie Kondo, and let it 'rest' overnight :)

  15. I rented a beautiful apartment in Montmartre three years ago and my épicerie was the one in the movie. I love to watch French films on Netflix. Amélie is such fun and she is inspiring!

  16. I recently re-watched after my cousin's husband played so beautifully the theme song on our piano on Christmas Eve. I was SO moved that I also purchased the music which I now listen each morning on my drive to work. I love how she also has a cat that's reminds me of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. I simply adore her Amalie's quirkiness.

  17. Madame, how inspiring!

    Lori, thank you for reminding me that I have the Amelie soundtrack cd too. It's gorgeous music. What a lovely Christmas Eve experience you had.

  18. Hi Fiona! Frankly speaking I've never liked Amelie movie but through your eyes I see it differently. I like your suggestions about creating a personal style for a movie about myself, about rituals and simple pleasures. Very inspirational post as usually! Thank you!

  19. Hi Maria, so lovely to hear from you!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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