The Mark of Excellence

A Very Long Engagement

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

> > Aug 2005

A Very Long Engagement - Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
By Noel DixThough not as rewarding as Amélie, Jeunet's follow-up has all the same qualities that have made his past efforts so magnificent. It's difficult not to compare the two films, especially with the casting of the phenomenal Audrey Tautou, but A Very Long Engagement comes at us with a much darker angle, best demonstrated by its World War One trench scenes where flying body parts are a common occurrence. The story focuses on the young love between Mathilde (Tautou) and Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), a timid fellow who deliberately wounds his hand in order to escape the torture of fighting in war. Word returns to Mathilde that her fiancé was killed after being tossed into no man's land for his actions, but she knows deep down that Manech is still alive and devotes all her energy to discovering his whereabouts. As you would expect from Jeunet, this film is absolutely breathtaking on the visual front and is filled with clever montages and dialogue. There's never any doubt of the outcome of Mathilde's quest, but we question the end result because we get so wrapped up in her investigation. This double disc edition contains one of the best "making of" documentaries I've ever seen, clocking in at well over an hour and touching on almost every aspect of what it took to produce this stunning motion picture. Without the aid of a narrator, we follow the crew as they scout locations, construct costumes and make the impossible possible. With the use of digital effects, A Very Long Engagement recreates Paris in the '20s, but the use of CGI is subtle and blended alongside traditional models and sets. We're allowed to see how they manage to cut off Tina Lombardi's head and how they miraculously turn a parking lot into a fantastic chapter from history, but it's all done in an engaging fashion rather than ho-hum technical mumbo jumbo. Jeunet usually has the best one-liners, but his verbal sound effects for a separate extra on the magnificent zeppelin explosion are quite charming as computer 3D models run for their lives. The dozen or so deleted scenes are all very short and of little importance, but it's the fantastic "behind the scenes" footage that enhances our love for this film. Plus: commentary by Jeunet. (Warner)


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