A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

film and television
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (article first published : 2005-03-1)

Nominated for this year's Golden Globe award for best foreign film, A Very Long Engagement is a handsome, quirky and unashamedly sentimental French film, equal parts war-drama, black comedy, mystery and romance, marks the re-teaming of two wonderful talents.

They are director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and elfin actress Audrey Toutou, last together for Amelie. And they produce sterling work in a film that also features in a small role halfway through, Oscar-winner Jodie Foster, speaking French and adding a touch of poignancy to a sprawling, snaking story.

Presented with subtitles, the tale, co-penned by the director and Guillaume Laurant, sprouts characters and sub-plots continually, to the point that one wonders if all the loose ends will ever come together. But they do, rather deftly, in a movie that is visually glorious, the art direction, costumes, magical cinematography and breathtaking landscapes pulling together to hold one's attention throughout its two-and-a-quarter hours.

Darker than Amelie but not without elements of its cheeky charm and off-tilt humor - recurring scenes involving games to test fate, a dog passing wind and a postman making a nuisance of himself are incidental delights - the film focuses on childhood sweethearts separated by World War 1.

Tatou is 20-year-old polio victim Mathilde, who, when she gets news that her handsome young fiancè, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), has been court-martialed and forced, with four others, to roam no-man's land in the war zone, makes it her mission to find out if he is still alive.

So she starts a lengthy, meandering adventure in which she crosses paths with many soldiers, their wives, mistresses and other relatives, who have either met, seen or heard of the man who proposed to her in a lighthouse near their coastal village shortly before he marched off to war. Slowly Mathilde starts to piece together fragments of a convoluted story which, while not without its share of red herrings, gets her closer to the truth about her fiancè's fears, crime, punishment and fate.

It's a story she ultimately concludes by also uncovering the tales of the other four soldiers ostracised along with her lover. Some have rolled eyes over the film's length, or wailed that Jeunet has delivered too much to appreciate. Others have declared that the director's flits between cold, graphic war realities and golden-hued, post-war whimsy simply don't gel.

No such qualms here. So lyrical, inventive and captivating is the story-telling, so fine the performances and attention to detail, that not once did this reviewer become restless or bored. Rating: 9/10 – Billy Suter




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart