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A Very Long Engagement - Preview

Preview by: Jack Foley

AMELIE director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, has reunited with French actress, Audrey Tautou, for his latest movie, A Very Long Engagement, a World War One drama that looks set to become one of France's most expensive films.

The film is set in France near the end of World War I, flitting between the trenches of the Somme, the gilded Parisian halls of power, and the modest home of an indomitable provincial girl.

Tautou stars as the provincial girl in question, as she begins a relentless, moving and sometimes comic search for her fiance, 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.

The ensuing film investigates the arbitrary nature of secrecy, the absurdity of war and the enduring passion, intuition and tenacity of the human heart in typically inspiring Jeunet style.

It has already attracted strong advance reviews from America, where it is due to open at the end of the month, but, ironically, seems to be at the centre of a row with the French.

Rival producers have decided to challenge the director's right to French government subsidies because the film's backers include the massive American studio, Warner Bros.

Jeunet has dismissed such claims as 'completely surrealistic', insisting that the film was made in France, using French actors and French technicians.

But it needed some extra funding due to the high cost of the production, which is rumoured to be about £31.5 million.


He also pointed out that the upcoming epic, Alexander, starring Colin Farrell and directed by Oliver Stone, received funding from the French government despite not being filmed in the country, or in French.

But two associations of French producers have continued to contest the French origins of A Very Long Engagement by arguing that because the money did not come completely from French sources, the film should not be eligible for French subsidies.

The subsidies in question could be as high as millions of euros if the film does well at the box office.

The upshot of the row could be that Warner Bros might refuse to back other French films, in favour of Italian or Spanish products.

And Jeunet is reportedly furious, telling the BBC: "The producers are obsessed because there's a new studio and they don't want to share the cake. It's very cynical, very hypocritical."

France has developed a reputation for being very protective of its film industry and goes to great lengths to avoid the influence of Hollywood.

However, Jeunet has long been considered one of the country's brightest directors and his film could even be in the running for an Oscar nomination.

It could also bring more acclaim to the French film industry, which isn't quite as vibrant as it was a few years ago.

Variety, for instance, said of A Very Long Engagement that it's 'tld with a blend of visual mastery and emotional intimacy, ambitious venture sustains a special melding of romance and pragmatism that should engage discerning audiences'.

While the Hollywood Reporter wrote that 'the quest format keeps the story moving briskly, and Jeunet provides numerous pleasures, particularly visual, along the way'.

The film opens in the UK on January 21.

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