A Very Long Engagement 2004

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(86) IMDb 7.7/10
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Set in France near the end of World War I in the deadly trenches of the Somme, in the gilded Parisian halls of power, and in the modest home of an indomitable provincial girl and her relentless search to find her fiancée, who has disappeared. He is one of five French soldiers believed to have been court-martialed under mysterious circumstances and pushed out of an allied trench into an almost-certain death in no-man's land. All an investigation into the arbitrary nature of secrecy, the absurdity of war, and the enduring passion, intuition and tenacity of the human heart.

Starring:
Gaspard Ulliel, Chantal Neuwirth
Rental Formats:
DVD

Product Details

Discs
  • Feature ages_15_and_over
Runtime 2 hours 14 minutes
Starring Gaspard Ulliel, Chantal Neuwirth, Audrey Tautou, Jean-Pierre Becker, Jodie Foster, Ticky Holgado
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Genres Drama, Romance
Studio WARNER HOME VIDEO
Rental release 13 June 2005
Main languages French
Subtitles English
Original title Un Long Dimanche de Fiancailles

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 58 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Mar. 2006
Format: DVD
Sure, the name is an open target for dumb jokes. But Sébastien Japrisot's haunting romance "A Very Long Engagement" translates well onto the big screen, with a bit of help from "Amelie" director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the wonderful Audrey Tautou.
Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) is a pretty young girl who was left crippled by polio, and is being raised by her uncle and aunt. Before World War I, she fell in love with a boy called Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), but he was sent to the war and killed. Three years later, Mathilde gets a mysterious letter with shocking news: Manech was not killed in action, but condemned to death by being sent unarmed to the front lines -- and miraculously, he might still be alive.
Mathilde is determined to find her lover -- dead or alive -- and learn what really happened on that day three years ago. So she puts out ads in the papers, gathers accounts, and hires a detective to follow the cold trail. And slowly the gaps in the stories emerge, giving Mathilde clues to whether Manech died... and where he might be now.
"A Very Long Engagement" (French title: "Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles") diddles a few details from the novel, but is faithful to it in the ways that matter -- the "MMM" inscriptions, the non-linear storytelling, the horrors of World War I. In some ways, it seems almost impossible to transfer onto film without creating a pretentious mess -- but it wasn't.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet proves that "Amelie" was no fluke, but this time he relies mostly on visual artistry, rather than in magical realism. He also reminds us, by displaying the French countryside along with flashbacks of the front lines, that war is stupid and wasteful. But it's not an obvious, slam-in-your-face reminder. Like the romance, it's delicate and wistful.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By MarkE on 23 April 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I bought this when someone recomended it to me after I spoke to them about Amelie, and I'm grateful for the recomendation. Having to watch with one eye on the subtitles and only one on the action made it difficult to follow at times, but it does reward repeated viewings (and I should work on improving my French). The ending is just ambiguous enough not to fall into cliche.

My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that I felt the somewhat surreal quirkiness that gave Amelie its charm was not always appropriate for the darker subject of this film, hence only four stars.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 1 April 2006
Format: DVD
A Very Long Engagement does a surprisingly deft job of balancing the absurdities and horrors of war with the absurdities of everyday life and the tenuous nature of hope and history, both ever changing and prey to the unbalancing influence of the smallest detail. More than most, this is really a film about the enduring pains of war that linger long after the last shots are fired and the battlefields are grown over as Mathilde's journey for her lost love goes from hospitals to widows to cripples to the thousands of official forms that once meant life or death. It's here that the film's lavish budget is really felt, allowing the story to span a wounded country eager to forget but unable to, as well as recreating the front lines. The reconstruction of the trench scenes is similarly impressive, although, as in Jasprisot's novel, the attitude of the poilous is much more sympathetic than it would have been in reality (deserters and self-inflicted wound cases were widely hated by soldiers at the front, who generally felt they should take their chances alongside them).
Its use of narration pays dividends, establishing that each of the five condemned man has a life and people that care about them. It's still done with Jeunet's characteristic quirkiness and black visual humor, but that's all too the good. And while there are some similarities, Tatou is not exactly Amelie here, all-too-ready to dismiss a helpful source as a slut in her own small-minded determination. The little games she plays with fate might seem whimsical, but she loses as many as she wins. Even the ending that proved so unacceptable for US audiences by opting for neither an obviously happy/unhappy ever after ending is just right, leaving its characters in limbo but not without hope.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Budge Burgess on 14 Jun. 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
As a supplementary to my review of the film, it's only fair to offer a few words on the quality of the video release and, in particular, the extras provided. Picture and audio quality are excellent throughout, the subtitles legible and easy to follow. The film, however, is released in so many countries it can be quite fiddly choosing the right option first time round. But that's a minor quibble.
The extras are superb. Many DVD's offer extras which barely warrant a look. Here, you have extras which you can truly enjoy. Jeunet delivers a commentary on the film which is highly instructive. He introduces the players, the technical staff, and offers a scene by scene explanation of influences, intentions, in-jokes, options he'd considered. It's a fascinating insight into the mind of a cinematographer.
There are also a number of superb little documentaries on the making of the film and the efforts which go into specific scenes and locations. For anyone considering a career in the cinema, or for anyone simply interested in the technical side of it, these are highly entertaining and instructive analyses of how to make a movie - from storyboard to final edit. It's amusing, it's educational, and it is seriously good entertainment in its own right.
This is a first class film, but the DVD extras offer superb value for money - both film and extras are highly polished productions, and you will watch both again and again.
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