A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (UN LONG DIMANCHE DE FIANÇAILLES) (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2004)
AMÉLIE director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and star Audrey Tautou collaborate again on a story of lovers separated during World War I in A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT. Tautou’s Mathilde refuses to believe reports that her soul mate Manech, one of five French soldiers facing reprimand, has been killed. Like a Gallic Nancy Drew with a polio-induced limp, Mathilde searches for the truth of the matter and the location of her beloved.
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT is equal parts whimsy and war horrors, a potentially combustible combination that succeeds largely due to Jeunet’s ability to turn absurd melodrama into something magical. Mathilde’s detective work introduces her to a colorful array of characters. Most memorable is her opposite, the prostitute Tina Lombardi played by Marion Cotillard, who employs ruthlessness instead of Mathilde’s above-board methods for finding answers. Tautou’s lovely, expressive face would have made her a star in the silent era. This quality is why she’s so effective as Mathilde. For all of the film’s technical beauty and sophistication, everything essential to the story is written on Tautou’s face.
(Review first aired on the January 4, 2005 NOW PLAYING)