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‘A very long engagement’ 2007/04/02

Posted by Daddy Dave in Movies, Reviews.

Un long dimanchedefiançailles or ‘A very long engagement’ DVD rental arrived in the post from easycinema, so we settled down this evening to enjoy the movie.

For a while, at the beginning, it was unconvincing, and disengaging — but soon enough the story began to take grip, and we actually wanted to find out if ‘Mathilde’ (played by Audrey Tautou who starred in ‘Amélie‘) was right in thinking that her betrothed ‘Manech’ had survived the first world war.

Naturally, the film was beautifully and convincingly photographed. Wonderfully lit and marvellous scenery with perfect sets, superb camera angles and editing for effect rather than for pace. As a result the movie can be said to be firmly European (rather than Hollywood), and being from 2004, it carries the modern flavour of ‘Amélie’. The charm and light-treatment manages somehow to deliver without skipping a beat, some violent and terrible scenes, from self-mutilation to a just-guillotined woman’s body being rolled into a box. That was ‘Tina Lombardi’s’ execution for the murder in the brothel (a cinematic masterpiece), and the eyeglasses assassination (a real touch of class)!

I suppose the BIG surprise was the sudden and unexpected short appearance of Hollywood’s Jodie Foster as ‘Elodie Gordes’ — in a fabulous role that was both memorable and fluently French (and not just in speaking either)! I was as surprised to find a French Jodie Foster as I was to find an Italian Cate Blanchett last week! (see ‘Heaven‘)

Like all the best French tales, there is a tragic mix-up that wrings out the soul — in this case the prisoners’ pardon. Unlike Hollywood movies, the ending is ambivalent and leaves the audience wondering if it would have been better had ‘Mathilde’ not stubbornly pursued the investigation, or if the outcome had been as she had been led to believe earlier.

I like the way sub-titles and translations have to cope with slang. For young lovers in the UK, carving initials on a tree, for example, would use the letter “L” between the lovers’ initials; “L” stands in for the word “Love”, and I was told some years ago, at school in fact, that the French version, is “M” not “L” because “aime”, is pronounced like “M” so rather than translate the “MMM” carving as “MLM” or “Manech Loves Mathilde”, the subtitlers came up with: “Manech’s Marrying Mathilde”. Brilliant!

There is a lot to recommend this film, it has funny and cute moments, clever retributions, smart detective work and (for once) a view of the First World War (or any war for that matter) from the French perspective. In fact this film carries some of the most realistic battle scenes possible, and I will not forget the firecrackers scene, for a long time — just one example of the many impressionable and memorable scenes provided by this film. Well worth renting.


1. FAKING IT « davedevine.co.uk - 2010/11/13

[…] the Italian movie, “Heaven“, and Jodie Foster was a surprise French-speaker in “A very Long Engagement“. Juliette Binoche was amazing in “Certified Copy” — acting her socks off […]

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