Audrey Tautou as ‘Mathilde Donnay’ in “A Very Long Engagement”To mark Armistice/Remembrance Day, I decided to dig out A Very Long Engagement (aka: Un long dimanche de fiançailles) (2004), which stars Audrey Tautou as ‘Mathilde Donnay’, the fiancée of a young soldier supposedly killed while stranded in no-man’s-land, who is determined to get to the bottom of the strange circumstances surrounding his demise. It’s a hard film to categorise, really… part romance, part mystery, part sitcom, part tragedy, part thriller, part anti-war satire… but if aliens arrived and threatened to blow up all the cinemas on the planet, this is one of the films I’d recommend to make them change their minds (along with several other Jean-Pierre Jeunet joints). It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me care, it makes me think… and it makes me swoon over the gorgeous set-dressing and cinematography. It’s not a perfect film, I know… and I still get confused by all of the character names and backstories that come up as Mathilde unravels the tangled fate of her fiancé… but despite its flaws, it’s still an awesome artistic achievement, and one of my fave films of all-time.

Marion Cotillard as ‘Tina Lombardi’ in “A Very Long Engagement”I used to be quite obsessed with Tautou back in the day, though my crush has rather dimmed over the years… I still consider her an incredible actress, and think she gives a powerhouse performance here, while wearing a fixed leg-brace to simulate her character’s polio-related impairment. She also learned to play the tuba (sort of) for the sake of a running gag, but that’s beside the point. The supporting cast includes Chantal Neuwirth as Mathilde’s unsupportive aunt ‘Bénédicte’… Marion Cotillard as ‘Tina Lombardi’, a murderous prostitute pursuing a parallel line of enquiry to Mathilde’s, using far less respectable methods… Julie Depardieu as ‘Véronique Passavant’, the girlfriend of another deceased solider, who runs afoul of Tina… plus a French-speaking Jodie Foster as ‘Élodie Gordes’, another soldier’s widow, who’s hiding a somewhat shameful secret. Oh, and not forgetting Elina Löwensohn as the sister of a German soldier who witnessed pivotal events from the opposing trenches (and helpfully reminds us that there were “good” and “bad” people on both sides of the conflict).

Note: The two-disc edition comes with a lengthy “making of” featurette, that touches on pretty much every aspect of the production process, from casting animals to composing scores, and is greatly enlivened by Jeunet’s participation. Seems like he’d be a fun guy to make a film with…

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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