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Overall Rating
4.15

Awesome58.54%
Worth A Look: 15.85%
Average: 8.54%
Pretty Bad: 15.85%
Total Crap: 1.22%

8 reviews, 34 user ratings


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Very Long Engagement, A
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by EricDSnider

"The most beautiful, compelling film ever made that has a farting dog."
5 stars

What possesses a man to make a movie that could be described as "Amelie" meets "Cold Mountain," a film both whimsical and devastating in its depiction of war? And more to the point, how does a man so possessed manage to make it work?

French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet reunites with his "Amelie" star Audrey Tautou in "A Very Long Engagement," and it may be the best film he's ever made. It spotlights the absurdity of war along with its brutality, and underscores the indomitability of the human spirit with a "love conquers all" story line of uncommon poignance. It also has a farting dog and a woman who says "Doggie fart, gladdens my heart" every time. So you see what we're dealing with here.

Tautou plays Mathilde, a girl of Amelie-esque mirthfulness encumbered by the travails of her life. Her parents dead, she lives with her kindly aunt and uncle on a farm in rural France, and she walks with a limp as a result of childhood polio. Her lifelong love Maneche (Gaspard Ulliel) has not been heard from since he was court-martialed three years ago, near the end of World War I. The court martial was for self-mutilation: He intentionally got shot in the hand in order to be sent home to his beloved. Four other men were charged for nearly identical crimes, all with injuries to their right hands. One of the men received his injury accidentally, using his gun to hit a rat that was scampering around his bed.

The men were sentenced to death, but officers either lazy or cruel chose to execute them by sending them out into No-Man's-Land and letting them fend for themselves. Neither Mathilde nor anyone else -- including the viewer -- knows for sure whether any of the five survived. Mathilde is convinced she would know instinctively if Maneche were dead. But if he's alive, where is he?

Mathilde hires a private investigator named Germain Pire (Ticky Holgado) who, like everyone else in the film, is a cutely idiosyncratic character, to look for information about Maneche's fate. Pire finds witnesses and survivors from the particular trench that was the site of Maneche's sentencing, but not many, and none with much information. Meanwhile, a woman named Tina Lombardi (Marion Cotillard), whore and girlfriend of a Corsican man who was among the five court-martialed, is finding officers responsible for her lover's death and executing them herself in cruelly ingenious fashions appropriate to the occasion. War begets war, as you know.

Jeunet, who adapted the screenplay with regular writing partner Guillaume Laurant from Sebastien Japrisot's novel, gives us just enough flashbacks to Mathilde and Maneche's pre-war life to suggest the urgency and romanticism of their relationship. Her love for him has not faded in the intervening years, despite having had no word from him. Her apparent belief is that if he is alive, he still loves her. No other scenario occurs to her as a possibility.

Yet despite her head-in-the-clouds romanticism, she behaves with a certain pragmatism, too. She cannot travel the way her P.I. can, but she still finds clues in letters and belongings left behind by the five condemned soldiers. By learning more about them, she reasons, she can find out what happened to Maneche. If one of the five survived, then maybe Maneche did, too.

Because of this, we meet the families and loved ones of Maneche's fellow soldiers, all with compelling stories of love, loss and tragedy. For example, there is Elodie Gordes (Jodie Foster), wife of Benjamin Gordes (Jean-Pierre Darroussin). Benjamin was infertile, but the pair had five children from previous marriages and adoptions. Gordes knew that if they had a sixth, the army would send him home. He asked his friend Bastoche (Jerome Kircher) to impregnate Elodie for him. Heartbreak and sorrow followed. Jodie Foster, speaking French like a native, performs as beautifully and passionately as she does in English, lending the film more gravitas and emotion.

Between her breakthrough performance as Amelie and this one, Tautou has come to embody impish optimism, so much that if you Google "Audrey Tautou" and "gamine," you will get nearly 500 hits. Though there is much sadness in "A Very Long Engagement," there is also a driving, underlying sense of hope. It is a powerful, sweet film.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11186&reviewer=247
originally posted: 12/25/04 13:12:29
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User Comments

6/12/15 Paul This review is telling an artist what his art should be. Arrogant! And I love Kubrick! 5 stars
11/04/09 MP Bartley Lyrical and harrowing, if just a tad too dense and overdone. 4 stars
7/12/09 Jared Kreiner Jeunet's' best 5 stars
10/01/08 Annie G Beautifully filmed, but ultimately sadder than expected. 3 stars
6/18/08 gemma & kirstie a brilliant film that we cant seem to get enough of!!!!! definatly a 5 star!!!! 5 stars
6/06/08 PAUL SHORTT PRETTY LONG AND UNENGAGING 1 stars
3/02/08 Alisha Amazing, amazing, amazing. 5 stars
8/18/07 aliza its interesting 4 stars
3/13/06 Roderick Cromar Really great. Everything a film should be. Only tiny flaws. 5 stars
12/20/05 Nicole Good movie, but its hard to care about Mathilde's search...love story not devl early enough 4 stars
10/31/05 Christina OUrsler Very french, very existential....tuba, polio,war and love...mostly love. 5 stars
10/28/05 TPS worth it for the battlefield scenes alone but the rest is pretty good also 4 stars
10/27/05 Rosie everything you need in one film! 5 stars
9/23/05 Phil M. Aficionado Complicated and beautiful story full of vivid characters; slightly contrived in places, tho 4 stars
8/23/05 Taylor Fladgate Fantastic. Complicated plot, I had to watch it twice to catch the nuances. 5 stars
8/12/05 foxy familiar story line but Tautou makes it enjoyable 4 stars
8/04/05 Mark Albert The feel of Amelie, but deliciously dark and different! 5 stars
7/18/05 JFK great movie. Jean Pierre rules!!!! 5 stars
6/13/05 Helen Bradley Audrey Tautou disappointing, plot poor editing bad 2 stars
4/20/05 Dan Excellent cinematography and a compelling story 5 stars
2/24/05 ronnie surprising , deligthful movie 5 stars
2/17/05 John Cinematography masterpiece....... 5 stars
2/04/05 Veronica Serwin Absolutely phenomenal. 5 stars
1/16/05 jcjs fabulous, delightful surprize, great show 5 stars
1/13/05 nick2k wow...good stuff. nice to see jean-pierre attempt wwi. loved it! 5 stars
1/06/05 Green Gremlin Another masterful achievement from Jeunet. 5 stars
1/01/05 paul fantastic, beautiful 5 stars
12/29/04 T. Maj Does justice to a wonderful book 5 stars
12/28/04 John Bale Possibly the best antiwar film since Paths of Glory. Brilliant ! 5 stars
12/27/04 ajay I had a hard time with the French names/subtitles. I loved Amelie, so I'll see this again 4 stars
12/04/04 Luc Confirms a new way of making movies 5 stars
11/28/04 Eva masterful film making! 5 stars
11/25/04 Dianne A truly beautiful film with moments that will haunt/touch me forever. 5 stars
11/22/04 Vince One of the very best movies of the year. A must see. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  26-Nov-2004 (R)
  DVD: 12-Jul-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Dec-2004




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