A Very Long EngagementDon’t get me wrong, I do love the American film industry in all of its shiny, happy glory but every once in a while I crave something a little off the beaten path. For this I turn to foreign films. I recently watched Audrey Tatou (of Amelie fame) in Un Long Diamanche Fiançelles, (A Very Long Engagement) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and set in France during and after World War I. Yes, this is a war film of sorts and yes, I am a war film junkie, but the most interesting aspect of this film was the way the director combined several seemingly incongruous genres to create an unexpected tale that was part war story, part detective story, and part romance. I won’t give away the end of the film but I will say that one of the best things about foreign films is their endings–they are not Hollywood! Jeunet also explores two themes, fate and hope, and skillfully develops them independently and as they relate to one another throughout the story. A Very Long Engagement is a wonderful and unexpected tale, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something out to the ordinary.

As I was looking for pictures to accompany this post, I also started to think about the differences between American and European culture and the way these differences emerge in unusual ways. The two images chosen to advertise the film in France and the United States, respectively, seem to indicate the differences between our two nations’ cultures. Un Long Diamanche FiancellesThe American version (at the top of the post) depicts a young couple entwined in one another’s arms blissfully unaware while a line of soldiers is marches across the top of the scene, emphasizing the romantic aspects of the story and suggesting a line demarcation between the war and the young lovers, as though their own joy holds everything else at bay.A less generous reading might find that their self-absorption comes at the expense of a national tragedy. Either way, it recalls the distance with which the United States held the rest of the European community during World War I, entering only when failure seemed eminent without our involvement. In contrast, the poster advertising the French release of the film only depicts the actress Audrey Tatou shot from behind looking over her shoulder slightly to suggest some engagement with the audience or perhaps something in the past, but little else. I’m not sure what this says about French culture, and I would welcome any ideas, but it certainly differs dramatically from the poster produced for the international release.

 

The American onesheet of Jeunet’s film is borrowed from the following Warner Brothers website and the French version is from a web discussion on The Lost Forum.

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