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A Very Long Engagement  (2004)


Rating: R

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Release Date: July 12, 2005
Review posted: July 5, 2005


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




A Very Long Engagement is set in France near the end of World War I in the deadly trenches of the Somme, in the gilded Parisien halls of power, and in the modest home of an indomitable provincial girl (played by Audrey Tautou). It tells the story of this young woman's relentless, moving and sometimes comic search for her fiancé, who has disappeared. He is one of five French soldiers believed to have been court-martialed under mysterious circumstances and pushed out of an allied trench into an almost-certain death in no-man's land. What follows is an investigation into the arbitrary nature of secrecy, the absurdity of war, and the enduring passion, intuition and tenacity of the human heart.




A Very Long Engagement is a great movie directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie). The story is engaging in several good ways; it's dramatic, dangerous and fun at times. The character played by Audrey Tautou is a caring and interesting person, and the actress performs beautifully. The many supporting characters (especially the soldiers who we get to know throughout the movie) are very good as well, and I cared much about these people and their outcome. Visually the movie is extraordinary, cinematography is breathtaking and the visual effects are compelling. Jeunet's direction is great as always, and the score by Angelo Badalamenti is very thoughtful and sets a great tone for the movie. This is one of my top thirteen favorite movies of 2004.




Warner Bros. presents A Very Long Engagement in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a wonderful looking video presentation with vivid colors, great color balance, very fine detail and sharpness, nice black levels, and good definition. Some grain appears in several scenes but that's okay. Optional subtitles include English, Spanish and French.




Warner Bros. presents A Very Long Engagement in French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. A solid, great surround sound presentation. Dialogue is presented clearly and the sound effects come across very well through the rear speakers.




Disc 1:


The Audio Commentary by Jean-Pierre Jeunet is pretty informative as he delves into a majority of topics and tells interesting stories from the production.


Disc 2:


A Year at the Front: Behind the Scenes of A Very Long Engagement (73:58) provides an interesting and very detailed look at the production. It starts off with pre-production showing the director working with the storyboard artist, a few casting tapes, the creation of costumes, wigs, and other materials, location scouting, and other things. The filming of scenes continues for almost an hour as we are right on the set and see the rehearsing and other preparations to shoot various scenes. Watching the filming of the battle and trench scenes is very interesting, and it becomes evident just how intricate and prepared the production had to be to get everything right, from the 200 extras playing soldiers to the explosions on the battlefield to working in the rain created by a large sprinkler system. Throughout this documentary, which is divided into 22 chapters and subtitled in English, we get to see the inner workings of the production and what it takes to get each shot just right.


Parisian Scenes (13:37) takes a look at the creation of 1920s Paris in terms of the city’s look, the various antiques and props, the design of the costumes, and so on. Jean-Pierre Jeunet and his long-time collaborators have worked on five films together and for this movie they researched everything they could about the city at the time and much more looking at written material and photos from books. This featurette includes interviews with the director, costume designer, production designer and visual effects supervisor, and shows behind-the-scenes footage from the set and the building of props, as well as several storyboard drawings along with some animated scenes (part of the 3-D pre-visualization process) and discussion about the visual effects.


“Before the Explosion…” (12:37) examines the scene inside the Zeppelin hangar in the stages of previsualization, dressing the set, and filming the action. As we see the finished previz scene Jeunet mimics explosions and “panic” much to the delight of the animators. The filming of this sequence is very interesting to look at; extras/stunt people running for cover from explosions and so on. Towards the end we see a scaled model of the hangar blown up for cut-in shots. As a side note, the making of this sequence was not featured in the documentary, so we get to see it here in detail.


Lastly there are 14 Deleted Scenes (11:03) with optional commentary by Jeunet. These scenes are a mixture of deleted scenes and extended takes with some more character moments. Jeunet’s comments (spoken in French and subtitled in English) are helpful in understanding why these scenes or variations of them we cut from the movie. A “play all” option is available.




The movie is great and the extras are very insightful. DVDs don't get better than this. This 2-disc DVD comes highly recommended.




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