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A Very Long Engagement

September 11, 2010

A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Actors: Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Dominique Pinon

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Synopsis: Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) looks endlessly for her fiancé who went missing in the trenches of WW1.

Review: It is beyond doubt that Jean-Pierre Jeunet and his production team are a very talented group of technicians, and Jeunet himself possesses a commendable eye and feel for narrative exposition. That said, A Very Long Engagement along with his previous film Amélie, leads me to the conclusion that Jeunet is little more than a cinematic charlatan with surprisingly little to actually say in those narratives. As in Amélie, serious topics are raised but paid lip-service to, in this case, tragic aspects of WWI such as trench warfare and the treatment of deserters. They are fighting for space and meaning though, amid the manic and somewhat trivial visual conjurings of Jeunet’s method. A good example of this is in the incarnation of the revenging harlot Tina Lombardi, searching for those who condemned her lover to his demise at the Somme. Instead of portraying the raging sense of injustice that underwrites her vigilantism, Jeunet spends most of the character’s plot-time indulging in pointless fetishisations of her murder methods. A sincere mode of narration would not only have been more tasteful to the sombre material, but would have quite simply made for a better, more unitary movie. Let’s hope in his next foray, Jeunet remembers the ‘ethics’ amid his obsession with ‘aesthetics’. (February 2006)

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