A Very Long Engagement (2004)

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Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Jean-Pierre Becker, Marion Cotillard, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Julie Depardieu, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, André Dussollier, Ticky Holgado, Tchéky Karyo, Denis Lavant, Chantal Neuwirth, Dominique Pinon, Jodie Foster

Synopsis

A crippled Breton girl refuses to believe in the death of her lover, sentenced to death for self-mutilation on the orders of Maréchal Pétain in 1917.

The Review

Dazzlingly cast and impeccably produced, this film has in common with its director's other work an indelible humanism in tandem with a childlike sense of mischief. It is also so intricate and technically ostentatious that, like some finely wrought town clock, it puts its characters through their paces without giving them chance to breathe. Jeunet was obviously the kind of child who enjoyed taking things to bits and putting them back together again, and so we sit for over two hours as his Mathilde reconstructs the true history of what happened on that fateful morning at the front. One cannot help feeling with the rather flat conclusion that one has been the victim of some hugely elaborate shaggy dog story, but there are many felicities along the way and repeated viewings vindicate the time spent on so desperate an act of faith, up against one of the grimmest views of life in the trenches yet put on film.