*** Official A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT Review Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Chris, Nov 26, 2004.

  1. Chris

    Chris Lead Actor

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    On the same day that I had the misfortunate of watching Alexander, I stayed for the second feature, "A Very Long Engagement."

    I've spent the last few days thinking about what I wanted to say in this review, and how to present my general feeling about the film.

    This is a story set around WWI. With most modern filmmaking, wars like Korea and WWI have largely been forsaken in favor of dramatic turns depicting WWII or Vietnam. But "A Very Long Engagement" cannot easily be defined as a "war film".

    The film seemed to present ideas, feelings, thoughts far more then direct narrative. It's a slow building film that packs a monumental emotional "wallup" to it. In many cases, this can be seen as a psychologically anti-war film, delving into the psyche of the men who fight - and the lengths they will go to so that they will fight no more.

    The film is well done, and presents the happenings in a very broad brush, with secondary characters who may not directly advance the narrative, but provide for a much more realistic feel and setting to the film.

    At some point, the underlying messages can become too harsh, but the film does best with both subtle messages and prose.

    The film plays as a poem put to film, and does a very good job at accomplishing it's task.

    The cinematography is stunning in it's understated nature and stark changes.

    Ok, I talked to a few friends about this, and wanted to delve into the middle of the film in a much longer take. Any film dealing with WWI has a very difficult time explaining it's matter. WWI is not as easy to explain to the common person as is WWII, or even Vietnam. In so many ways, even for those of us who studied history for degrees, it's difficult to encapsulate the emotions and feelings of the time and make sense of it today. The causes and effects behind the prolonged happenings of WWI seem almost.. antiquated and removed from us now. What helps this film is that instead of trying to bring the audience in, trying to inspire us to understand it, it ratchets it up and makes it "as it was" rather then tell us a narrative of the war; the reasoning is hard for us to fathom, and through set devices, it seems more distant in the past then it is - even at the time of her quest.

    I have a feeling a great number of people will "read into" this film a number of different messages. And I have no doubt that the artist may have intended many of them. That having been said, I think more as a commentary about the human condition, the film succeeds.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] .5 /[​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "A Very Long Engagement". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.



    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Copied from a review in the 2004 alternative film thread.; originally posted on Nov. 30, 2004:

    I loathed Amélie; so when I read that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was reuniting with leading lady Audrey Tatou, I was unenthused. But the trailer for A Very Long Engagement persuaded me to take a chance, and I'm glad I did. It's one of the year's best films.

    The film is a love story and a big-scale war story -- or, more precisely, an anti-war story. It's set in France during and immediately after World War I -- the so-called "Great War" that ushered in the modern era for Europe and America, and that has always been a fertile source for anti-war stories (a discussion of why would be too big a digression). The film opens with five French soldiers who have been sentenced to death for deliberately injuring themselves to obtain a discharge. As in Amélie, there's a genial omniscient narrator who introduces each man, with flashbacks to give us the history. The film continues to move forward and backward in time, until we ultimately learn what became of each of these five men.

    The fifth man is Manech, a young farm boy whose fiance, Mathilde (Tatou), cannot be dissuaded from looking for him after the war. According to official French records, Manech is dead, but Mathilde will not accept that. Manech and Mathilde were childhood friends, then sweethearts, and throughout the film we get fragments of their lives before the war. Mathilde's search will lead her through conflicting stories, fragmentary records, mistaken identities and a vendetta by someone who loved one of the other men condemned with Manech (Jeunet is bold enough to show us two elaborate murders before explaining why they were committed or, in one case, even who is being killed -- somehow it works). Mathilde may be just a superstitious country girl, but she is second to none in determination. A victim of childhood polio who walks with a limp, she is not above exaggerating her disability to wheedle cooperation when nothing else will work.

    Jeunet doesn't stint on showing the gore and the horrors of war, but the tone of the film still manages to be poetic and magical, with grace notes of comedy to lighten the grim truths that Mathilde's investigation uncovers. The visual style is epic and intimate at the same time, and the images are often loveliest when the events onscreen are most horrific. There's a fiery explosion near the end that you know is coming -- because a character has already referred to it -- but Jeunet builds to it with technique worthy of Hitchcock. As sheer cinema, the scene is glorious; as a depiction of something that probably happened to real people in wartime, it's sickening. I haven't seen anything that gave me such contradictory sensations since Apocalypse Now (which otherwise bears no similarity to Jeunet's work).

    The title of the film hints at its conclusion, but it's still not what you expect. The film doesn't cheat. It respects the damage that organized slaughter imposes on both the living and the dead, but it allows Mathilde's quest to be resolved in a way that's surprisingly satisfying. You leave the theater with a renewed sense of how fragile love is, and yet how powerful. I never felt that Amélie earned its sweetness; this film does and then some.

    Although foreign language films don't often get a wide release, this one has major award potential and may be an exception. If Warner Independent Pictures decides to mount a big ad campaign, don't be surprised if they play up Jodie Foster's role, which is relatively minor. She plays a widow (of whom is somewhat complicated), and she's good as always. But it's a small part and no more important than the many other personalities that people the story. The entire cast is first-rate. So is the score by David Lynch regular, Angelo Badalamenti.

    M.
     
  4. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    A Very Long Engagement is a very long movie that probably does not warrant its 134-minute running time. The film is populated with extraneous material and secondary characters that keen attention to detail is needed to keep track of their comings and goings.

    Jean Pierre-Jeunet uses the spectacle of modern day storytelling to tell a story of a woman’s search for her fiancé who fought in World War 1 in France. Audiences’ reaction to the film will depend on how patiently they are willing to maneuver through the police detective type work and mystery of its story, when in the end, only two possibilities exist. So, does the end justify the means?

    While 134 minutes is certainly not long for this kind of film, it is how Jeunet manages this time to tell his yarn with material on hand that will determine foreign audiences’ reception to it. The film starts out slow which then builds to a rushed second half and ultimately to its long-awaited climax.

    Even with Jeunet’s signature quick editing along with his flair for visual wizardry and use of comic book style shorthand storytelling, a lot of the material still requires translation where the need to read surpasses the time needed for some quiet reflection.

    In the end, A Very Long Engagement is visually arresting, magnificently filmed technically, has excellent cinematography, and most of all, is special effects laden. Jean Pierre-Jeunet spends a lot of his time in these areas and he will razzle-dazzle you with his visual effects. Its human story of the consequences of war and a woman’s search for her loved one, which are the more compelling ones, unfortunately, takes a back seat. In these days, it is hard to compete with that kind of available technical wizardry even with a good story on hand. Where’s the balance?

    ~Edwin
     
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    A very engrossing film that I need to see again. Unlike Michael, I liked Amelie, but I think this film is better even though they're two different types of film. The war sequences were well-done and goes hand to hand with previous WWI films in which trench warfare was brutally depicted. Also, it's ashamed that Hollywood can't find a project in which Audrey Tautou can appear in because she is such a fine young actress, who can display so many different human emotions with her face and beautiful eyes.





    Crawdaddy
     
  6. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    I had a very hard time finding this thread and I am usually good with the search function [​IMG].

    For a good part fo the running time, I had a hard time keeping track of all the characters, and I speak french... That detracted from my enjoyement quite a bit, as the film didn't come togheter for me until the field of survivors had significantly narrowed down to like two. Because of this, I suspect I will like it better the second time around.

    Jeunet has got to be one of the most visually interesting directors out there. The sepia tone chracteristic of photos of that period was clever. It's frustrating to think that some of the beauty of this film got lost in the crappy presentation it got at the local arthouse theater - but eh, at least we have one...

    Good movie, recommended.

    --
    H
     

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