Wednesday, May 16, 2007


This week's movie:

Most people know that World War I was no walk in the park. A few films even do a decent job of dealing with the horrors of trench warfare. Paths of Glory and All Quiet on the Western Front come to mind. As great as these two movies are, this week’s film is better.

A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT is not really meant to be about the war. It features the war, it graphically depicts the gruesome realities of the war, it even deals with the devastation that the war produced on the loved ones left behind – but it’s not about the war.

It’s about Mathilde. No sooner does Mathilde become engaged, when her fiancé is called off to war. Some time later, she gets word that he has been executed for desertion. However, she feels down in her gut that the reports are wrong and he is still alive. The movie is about her journey to find out exactly what happened to him.

The French military had a policy, during the war, in which they would execute any soldier that was suspected of self-inflicting a wound in order to be excused from combat. They made examples of them – to discourage others from doing the same. Mathilde’s fiancé was supposedly one of five men killed that particular day. Instead of a firing squad, they were simply expelled from their trench and forced into No Man’s Land (the area between the opposing armies) where they could be easily picked off by the enemy.

During her investigation, Mathilde learns the story and fate of each of the five men. She is helped along the way by other women, each with ties to one of the men, who are seeking their own closure. It is a journey of epic proportions as she slowly unravels the mystery of what happened that day.

Mathilde is played by Audrey Tautou, who imbues her character with much the same charm, wit, optimism, and hopeless romanticism that she gave to her character in the film, Amelie. But make no mistake – this is not a comedy! This is a serious film, about a serious matter, and a serious set of events, I’m serious here! There is often a sense of disorientation as the scenes switch from Mathilde’s investigation to flashbacks of her days before the war to the grueling scenes of the war. This is to keep you on your toes and to draw you in and involve you in the story.

It’s not difficult to understand that certain filmmakers have a unique style that identifies all their work. With some, you can tell who made the movie just by looking at it. Certainly, Hitchcock had a recognizable style. Spielberg is pretty recognizable as well. You can surely tell a Coen Brothers (Raising Arizona, Fargo, Oh Brother Where Art Thou?) film a mile away. Others include David Mamet, David Lynch, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Quentin Tarantino, and Spike Jonze & Charlie Kaufman. One of my favorite stylish filmmakers is Jean-Pierre Jeunet. He continually makes films that are both visually stunning and somewhat whimsical (Amelie, Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children). This week’s film is no exception.

I have mentioned this film in the past and I may have already recommended it to a few of you on occasion, but here are a few more reasons why I think you’ll like A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT.

  1. Mathilde moves heaven and hell to find the man she loves. You need only visit a video store or click on a NetFlix link to find a movie you’ll love.
  2. Though it’s in French, and you hate to read subtitles, you occasionally make an exception. This is that exception – don’t pass it up.
  3. If you weren’t in France during WWII, and you were wondering what it was like ……here’s your chance.
  4. If you’re getting a little burnt out from realistic war carnage (Saving Private Ryan, Flags of Our Fathers, etc.) don’t worry. There’s not a lot of that here. The story is more about Mathilde and her detective work and the other surviving spouses/girlfriends and the back stories of each of the five soldiers and the events of that day seen from different perspectives and the diverging paths taken by the various parties since then and the conflict between those that want to find out more information and those that want hide information and ……… well, there just isn’t time for more battlefield carnage.
  5. The cinematography is as much a character in the film as Mathilde or anyone else. It sets the mood of each scene with color schemes and saturation. It conveys boatloads of information at a single glance. It was recognized for outstanding achievement by the American Society of Cinematographers. Rare, for a foreign film.
  6. I liked it. Why not you? What? You think you’re better than me?! You think I can’t tell a good film from bad?!!! You think I can’t appreciate the nuances and complexities of films like Blades of Glory or Delta Farce?!!!!! And you think I’ve gone all artsy and snooty because I call them “films” instead of “movies”?!!!!!!!! Well ………………………I got nothin’.
  7. Oh - One of my favorite films MOOO-VIES is Dude, Where's My Car? Now, does that sound artsy to you?
  8. So like I said, I liked A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT. Why not you?
  9. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be asking for your 2 hours back at the end.
  10. Yes, that is Jodie Foster! And yes, that is more of her than you’ve seen in other films MOOO-VIES. …..and speaking French, no less.

A very good mooo-vie.



At 6:21 AM, Anonymous Teleza said...

Good post.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home