Sunday, December 19, 2004

Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement)

For years now, I've said there are two types of films that do very little for me. One is a war film. The other is a foreign film. And so what did I decide to head out to see tonight? What movie have I been looking forward to immensely since seeing the trailer two and a half months ago? A foreign film that deals largely with war.

It attracted me for two reasons, both of which it delivered on. First, the imagery. It is simply an incredibly beautiful film to look at. I didn't think any film for awhile would top "The Passion of the Christ" in terms of cinematic beauty, but man...this did it. Every single frame was a work of art.

Second...this is really a qualification for making a good war movie...it uses war as a backdrop to tell a different story. In this case, the main story was this woman (Audrey Tautou) waiting for her fiance, the man she's loved all her life, to return. He might be dead, he might be alive...but she is determined to find she is alive, despite all evidence contradictory. And her actions should never be surprising...the audience should never wonder why she doesn't give up. They tell you right off the bat..."If Manech was dead, Mathilde would know."

But that isn't the only story. The unexpected aspect of this film is that it also tells numerous stories within the larger stories. They're not subplots exactly, because they still function within the larger story, and the way in which they are worked in is simply wonderful. And each actor brings with him or her EVERYTHING in that character. There's a rule that supporting actors are usually instructed to follow, which is to pretend the story is about them. They have to figure out the story from their perspective and use that as a guideline for their character's actions, moods, anything. This film should be shown as the pinacle of that.

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet took a lotta risks with this film. He was disqualified from festivals and awards, and received a large amount of criticism from fans, for using Warner Brothers (a.k.a. America) money to help finance the picture. But it simply wouldn't be possible any other way. The sheer scope of the story, the costume design, the war scenes, Paris...none of it would have been possible.

There is very little about this film that is bad. In fact, I can think of nothing. If anything, I'm not good enough for it. And that's pretty much because I can't speak a word of French. As gorgeous and mind-blowing as this film was, I felt I only caught like a third of it.

This is the first year ever in which I actually care about the foreign films. With "The House of Flying Daggers" having just been released this week, "The Motorcycle Diaries" increasingly being a film I gotta see, and "The Sea Inside" taking its good sweet time getting here, I'm actually looking forward to that category at the Oscars. Oh, and "Hero" was incredible, though technically that was a 2003 film (though it wasn't released in the U.S. 'til this last August).

8 comments:

John and Karolyn said...

OOHHHH, now I will have to see this movie. The previews all looked good but I harbored a lingering fear it would end up sucking. I've been disapointed too many times by war/romance movies, and foriegn films are always risky.

My apologies I didn't call you back tonight, btw...I left the celly in the car when I went to see A Series of Unfortunate Events with the fam and then to dinner/desert at Papa Hyden's.
Also, when does The Aviator come out? We should go to that opening day (unless it opens Christmas or Christmas Eve, when I'm fully booked with the fam.) Assuming you love The Life Aquatic, I'm hoping to go on the 26th or 27th, depending on if the fam will let me out.

-JB

Scott said...

You saw Lemony Snicket without me? Wow, now I feel a lot less bad about not calling you about A Very Long Engagement :-D

As long as we're on the subject, how was that?

The Aviator comes out Christmas Day, as does Life Aquatic. Naturally, Life Aquatic is far more important, but no one see that without calling me, because I'll be seeing that a coupla times. As for The Aviator, we'll work out a way.

In the meantime, I still have to see the following (which are in release right now):
Ray
House of Flying Daggers
Lemony Snicket
The Polar Express
The Motorcycle Diaries

And from now 'til the end of the year, there's still Life Aquatic, Aviator, Beyond the Sea, Million Dollar Baby (which is released in January), The Sea Inside (also January), Meet the Fockers, and In Good Company (January). How I'll get this money, I have no clue.

Nancy said...

I just saw House of Flying Daggers, it's quite good. I thought the fight scenes were very original. Also, there's a more identifiable plot in this movie than in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Adrianna said...

I'd be up for a viewing of "The House of Flying Daggers"... I'm really astounded at the sheer quality of the martial arts movies being imported to the US these days. We've come a long way since the 70's! (/martial arts nerd)

Cory said...

I saw Lemony Snicket Saturday with my family last night. The books are probably better than the movie. It combined the first three of them to make the movie. As such, you get an ending that characterizes the rest of the movie- kinda disappointing. It definetly has its moments of genius, but overall failed to capture my interest. I found myself waiting around for the next unfortunate event to happen, not thrilled that all the events used the same formula.

On the other hand, my dad, brother, and i saw Blade Trinity last night. this trilogy kinda reminds me of austin powers: great opener, nothing special about the sequel, but a third one that redeems it. i like what they did with dracula. they coulda settled for entertaining the masses with the almost non-stop fighting, but they threw in enough new stuff for the extra mile, like ryan reynson's (sp?) humor and jessica biel's body. jk, if i had expectations for perfect decency from the film industry, i'd be disappointed. i think Christian ethics has made me more sensitive to the treatment of women characters- they always had her wearing tight clothes. but i kinda just ignored it. good movie overall, but i should remind you my taste in movies is very simple, i don't really get all analytical and i sometimes don't recognize the corniest of tricks the movie-makers try to pull paste the naive.

Shakeer said...

Dang, I wish I saw that intead of Sideways. It was a close call but I ended up choosing Sideways. Now I regret it.

John and Karolyn said...

Cory's description of Snicket is dead-on accurate. I'd characterize it mostly as disapointing, from the standpoint of having read several of the books and heard even more of them on tape (while driving down to cali with the fam over spring break). As a film, it seemed to do a decent job entertaining people. However, at no point did I really feel like the characters were in danger or at risk. It was like I a comedy that wasn't quite funny pretending to be a action/adventure movie all while trying to interest the viewer by claiming to be sad and depressing. That probably doesn't make sense but I can't say it any other way.

Of the above, Aviator and Life Aquatic are must-see for me, House of Flying Daggers sounds good but isn't neccessary, and I'll prolly end up waiting for Valley/DVD for Engagement unless you go see it again.

-JB

Shakeer said...

I just saw it. Sooo good! I had trouble following parts of it so I'll make sure to watch it again to get the entire picture. But yeah, brilliant!