'Amelie' team back on screen in war epic

27th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 27 (AFP) - Three-and-a-half years after their box-office triumph of "Amelie", French actress Audrey Tautou and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet have again teamed up for a new film - this time though it's about war not whimsy.

PARIS, Oct 27 (AFP) - Three-and-a-half years after their box-office triumph of "Amelie", French actress Audrey Tautou and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet have again teamed up for a new film - this time though it's about war not whimsy.

"A Very Long Engagement" opened across France Wednesday to massive media coverage, and already the word is that it's an Oscar contender.

Based on a novel about a young Frenchwoman who desperately and determinedly searches for her missing fiance, a soldier, amid the horrors of the trenches of World War I, it sweeps along like an epic, bathed in period detail and emotion.

With a production cost of EUR 45 million (USD 58 million), it is officially France's second most-expensive film ever, after the EUR 49 million "Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra" in 2002. And much of the money is on screen in the form of huge set pieces featuring hundreds of extras and the transformation of Paris monuments such as the Left Bank art museum, the Musee d'Orsay.

The beautiful and elf-like Tautou is again the star because "she seemed to me the only one who could do the role," Jeunet told the national movie industry magazine Le Film Francais.

Unlike Jeunet's Amelie, the 26-year-old actress said she built up the new film's character of Mathilde herself.

While "the role of Mathilde was certainly heavier to carry off than that of Amelie," she said, "it was so great to be able to play a woman who is so in love, with an unshakeable and indomitable love."

The US studio Warner Brothers, which owned the movie rights to the 1991 novel by Sebastien Japrisot, footed the production costs but Jeunet said he retained full control over the result - despite some initial fears.

"I kept expecting them at any moment to ask me to make the film in English. But that never happened," said the 50-year-old director who has avoided Hollywood since making 1997's "Alien: Resurrection".

In order to better sell the film in the United States, where it opens in next month, the studio has said it will tap into the global success of "Amelie".

That film revived almost single-handedly the French cinema industry following its release in 2001 and now ranks as the most popular French film of all time internationally. References to "Amelie" are expected to liberally sprinkle the marketing for "A Very Long Engagement" as it rolls out around the world.

For Jeunet, and possibly Tautou, the care that has gone into the new movie could also earn them what they missed with "Amelie": an Oscar or two (or three, given the special effects mastery on show) in the US Academy Awards on February 27.

The movie was released too late in the year to be nominated in the Best Foreign Language category, but Warner Bros. thinks the film is so good it has a shot at the top prize, the Best Picture Oscar.

A little extra that could spur US interest is a cameo appearance by actress Jodie Foster (who speaks impeccable French) in an uncredited role as a market vendor put in a dilemma by her soldier husband.

Backing the Oscar buzz, the British movie trade magazine Screen International called the film "a flamboyant mixture of battlefront spectacle, home front romance, revenge drama, and detective story" that is "cinematically bigger and dramatically richer" than "Amelie".

In France, the media declared the movie the cinema "event of the year".

Le Figaro's critic, Dominique Borde, called it "a perfect film. Too much so, some will say." Le Monde said it had a "poetic visual arsenal" but, searching for something negative to add, opined that such sweet lensing of the barbarity of war robbed the bloody scenes of their suffering.

Le Film Francais, the national bible for the industry, had no such reserves.

It dedicated a special issue to the film that lauded the "rare elegance" of a production that it said triumphed as much on the technical level as on the emotional one.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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