Movies and TV

Novel Pleasures

Audrey Tautou about to crack the crust of crème brulée in “Amélie” (2001), courtesy of Claudie Ossard Productions

Certain movies have a comfort to them that’s exactly like the old-fashioned joy of curling up with a book. In some cases this is because they are embarrassingly guilty pleasures, but in others this is because the films actually ooze novelistic qualities. In fact, one of my favorite movies, “Amélie” (2001), opens with a lengthy prologue one might expect to find in a Dickens novel. This prologue is delivered by a male narrator who guides us throughout the film, and – in an admittedly narcissistic way – with each viewing the narrator makes me not only want to fill my life with the Parisian beauty and cuisine of Amélie’s, but to also one day have my life described in an equally romantic way by a mysterious Frenchman. I mean, how could you not want to have narrative and music wash over you with the following sentiment as you stroll down a cobblestone street?

Amélie is a shy young woman with a pronounced taste for all life’s small pleasures: immersing one’s hand in a sack of grain, cracking the crust of a crème brulée with the back of a teaspoon or skipping stones on the Canal St-Martin.

Other films that strike me as similarly novelistic thanks to their narration include “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), “Forrest Gump” (1994), and, of course, the TV show “Pushing Daisies” (2007-9). There are many other films that are bookish enough to require a reading lamp, but my question is this: what narrated movies are your favorites? Also, can you think of movies that feel very novelistic yet don’t have a narrator? I would simply love to hear your perspective on movies and TV shows that feel like written works of fiction.

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  • Reply Pat Oey May 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    The first thing that came to my mind was the way Desperate Housewives is narrated by the woman who committed suicide. Although this is not my favorite show (far from it), it is the one that sticks in my mind as being narrated.

  • Reply Jennifer R. Coté May 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    Ooh, thanks for sharing, Pat. Isn’t it crazy how sometimes our least favorite shows/movies stick in our heads because of their styles? I guess that goes to show that when we dislike/hate things, the creators are at least doing something right in the sense that their work is memorable (even if it’s memorable in a bad way).

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