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A Very Long Engagement – nf – One of the advantages and pleasures of Netflix is that we have the opportunity to see very good movies that we probably otherwise would never have seen. In this case, this French 2004 film was nominated for Oscars for Art Direction and Cinematography and won several Cesars ( the French Oscar awards ) and was nominated for best picture , director and several acting awards in France. The setting for the film is France during World War I and shortly thereafter. There are many realistic brutal scenes in the trenches and on the battlefield . I was reminded of the classic film All is Quiet on the Western Front as the story begins with a court-martial of five soldiers but in this movie they are sentenced to being sent out to no man’s land and an almost certain death. The film focuses on Mathilde a young partially disabled Frenchwoman, played by Amelie Tautou, who is determined to find all the details about what happened to these men with the hope that maybe her fiancé has survived. Flashback techniques are used so we are able to have an insight into the development of their relationship since childhood as well as an understanding of many of the other characters. The movie is in French with subtitles. At times it appears that something is lost in the translation as we lose track of a small part of some of the storylines but that really doesn’t detract from the overall impact of this moving film. While we did not know most of the actors, the performances were all of a very high quality as emotions and nuances came across very clearly. Although not in the starring role, American actress Jodie Foster who speaks fluent French has a substantial part with a range of feelings from an empathic wife to being in a passionate bedroom scene. The cinematography is absolutely magnificent as it captured the grit of the battlefield, the beauty of the French countryside, the bustle of Paris in 1920s and the facial expressions of the superb actors and actresses in this film. There is an option on the DVD to hear the comments of Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet as he explains his thinking about the movie and many of the behind the scenes explanations of various details of the film. The cast was carefully chosen by him and includes very experienced actors and actresses even for some very small parts. Although the movie is an adaptation of Sebastiaen Japrisot’s novel, there are added scenes or images based on actual photographs or historical vignettes about World War I. He explains decisions that he made and a homage to some classic movies, such as Saving Private Ryan or his own earlier films which he has weaved into this movie. He discusses the effective use of digitalization to achieve certain effects such as writing on a wall of a cafe, the addition of buildings and vehicles, or the appearance of a busy 1920s Paris scene. He has also changed the coloring at times to bring about a certain hue or to emphasize various objects. The net result is a beautiful, haunting movie, which is gripping and quite memorable for the images and the characters. 2004
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