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Overall Rating

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 U.J. Lessing

"Amelie goes to war!"
2 stars

Jean-Pierre Jeunetís films have always been fun to watch, because they are all well crafted fantasies (with the exception of the misguided Alien: Resurrection.) Delicatessen and City of Lost Children were both sinister, shadowy fairy tales, and Amelie injected enchantment into the world of personal relationships. Now Jeunet brings us A Very Long Engagement, a war movie with the same level of fantasy and enchantment. Can a war film be a fantastical while simultaneously expressing the horrors of combat?

Jeunetís Great War film is a strange combination of horror, whimsy and mystery. In A Very Long Engagement, we follow Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) as she searches for her fiancť who disappeared in the trenches of the Somme. She discovers he is one of five men who intentionally injured themselves to get out of combat, were forced into no-manís land and left to die. Despite all odds, she never gives up hope that he is still alive.

A Very Long Engagement is a beautiful film with sweeping shots of lighthouses, a gorgeously recreated 1919 Paris, lush farms, and breathtaking ocean-side cliffs. We are also presented with overtly stylized violence. There are close-ups of screaming faces, carefully composed shots of soldiers shooting their own hands off, exploding Zeppelins, and exploding bodies.

The characterizations are fascinating but implausible. Mathilde is a determined angel whose personal quirks are listed off and presented in the same manner as in Amelie. Her lover Manech is sweet, simple and unrealistically naÔve. Villains are snarling and one-dimensional, and as the mystery unfolds one idiosyncratic character after another flies out of the woodwork. No one portrays a credible human being.

All of this makes for light entertainment, but offers only a shallow insight into war. Like Life is Beautifulís portrayal of concentration camps, itís a form of exploitation that allows viewers to leave the theater with tears in their eyes, warmth in their hearts, and a sense that the human spirit can overcome the horrors of death camps, trenches and war. This is fairly unforgivable.

A movie that brilliantly exposes the horrors of the wartime mentality is Stanley Kubrickís Pathís of Glory. Kubrickís film didnít expose the viewer to gore, blood or violent combat, but instead followed the plight of French soldiers of the Great War who refused to leave their trenches into intense gunfire (a suicidal act.) Path's of Glory points out that any military force at war is a fascist system, where the fighting men are at the mercy of generals who are willing to sacrifice them in order to appear strong. His hellish portrait of war is fierce, intense and real.

Jeunet could have learned from Kubrick.

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originally posted: 01/01/05 11:43:42
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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
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 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
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  26-Nov-2004 (R)
  DVD: 12-Jul-2005



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