A Very Long Engagement (aka Un long dimanche de fianšailles)
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Fuckin' Jeunet, man. Few can compare in the visually astounding when bringing a film to life. And his love for black humor is again beautifully illustrated. What could have been a rather somber adaption of a WWI love story turns into a finely crafted, engaging and yes, sometimes humorous tale combining the horrors of war wrapped in an investigation of looking for a lost soldier who is the true love of the main character, Mathilde (Audrey Tautou). If you liked Amelie, you should like this (once again casting Tautou as the main character, and telling a tale in the same kind of quirky style and visual panache). Includes a brief role by Jodie Foster as a conflicted soldier's wife (doubly-so you could say, as the soldier himself is conflicted, and the wife is as well after being presented with a certain proposition). And yes, Dominique Pinon is present as well, in a fairly substantial but downplayed role as a loving uncle.
The narrative jumps around a bit, but essentially we're dealing with Mathilde, a couple of years after the War, still waiting for the love of her life to return despite all evidence suggesting he's dead. Her determination to find out the truth throws a whole slew of characters at us, and really just has to be watched to be appreciated. Fuck you, I'm not elaborating on the plot more. Like pretty much every Jeunet flick, a summary in words can not do justice.
In what continues to be a fine Jeunet style, you get a bit of everything here, from some great epic WWI battle sequences sprinkled throughout what is essentially a tale of lost love. Throw in a slightly intrusive but endearing postman, a farting dog and suspected pyromaniac cat, and a vengeful hooker, and you got a great story. As with all his films, subtitles are key but really suck as it takes away from watching the beautifully shot movie that unfolds before you. It drags out a little by the end but still a great film from beginning to end, with plenty of quick sidetracks and attention to details that make it interesting to watch and revisit from time to time.
Great Scenes: While relatively minor, the ongoing bit with the postman is a nice touch, taking what would be a nominal character and giving him some depth. But really there are multiple scenes here that even on their own play out great.
DVD Notes: Got kinda cocked on this one. While I love Netflix like any true filmlover must, sometimes it's frustrating when they end up splitting a 2-DVD set into separate "rentals." Still, the first disc is a great transfer of the film from Warner Brothers Independent, with commentary (in French, of course) by Jeunet. Tempted to get the 2nd disc, just because the film is so well done. Until then, though, I'll dig it as is. You will too.
One final note, I just noticed how crappy the DVD cover for this film is. I realize this is a French film, but Almighty Cthulhu does that artwork suck! Even worse than the lame-ass promotion WB threw out there to get people in the theaters in the first place. Too bad a foreign film's promotional budget is inversely related to its quality. But that's okay, cuz I'd much rather see yet another commercial for a movie like Firewall, you know, because I wasn't quite sure the film sucked total ass from the first time I glimpsed it. Totally changed my opinion. Quite certain is sucks total ass, now.