Release date: Nov. 26
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures
Oscar alumna: Jodie Foster (actress, “The Accused,” “The Silence of the Lambs”)
Despite being a French-language pic with an almost entirely Gallic cast, the epic scope and tech savvy of “A Very Long Engagement” demands kudo voter attention.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s adaptation of Sebastien Japrisot’s WWI-era novel about a woman who won’t give up on the hope that her missing fiance will return from the war is as touching as it is harrowing.
With war on the minds of many these days, Jeunet makes a statement by sparing no detail when it comes to showing the gruesome realities of combat situations. At the same time, he paints a poignant picture of hope and undying love.
Jeunet’s “Amelie,” a 2002 Miramax release, garnered five Oscar nominations, including one for foreign lingo film. This time, “Engagement” isn’t France’s foreign-lingo submission, but U.S. distrib Warner Independent, headed by former Miramax marketing topper Mark Gill, already has its sights set on picture and other major categories.
The reteaming of Jeunet, “Amelie” star Audrey Tautou and most of his tech crew produces a comfortingly familiar effect that could win over voters, though “Engagement” is much heavier in tone than the helmer’s previous pic. Still, Jeunet’s signature flourishes shine through: His painstaking attention to detail, rapid-fire edits and descriptive character backstories serve the material well and show off the talents of his collaborators.
Tautou, who missed out on a nomination for “Amelie,” could fare better in a year with few standout female performances.
Other “Amelie” alumni, such as scribe Guillaume Laurant (who co-wrote with the helmer), cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel and set designer Aline Bonetto, could again be recognized for their efforts. As could Oscar virgins such as costume designer Madeline Fontaine and editor Herve Schneid, who has worked on most of Jeunet’s features going back to 1991’s “Delicatessen.”
Pic’s score, by David Lynch’s go-to composer Angelo Badalamenti, who worked with Jeunet on “The City of Lost Children,” could get kudo notice as well.
The real test will be in how the Warner Bros.-financed pic goes down with the various kudo voters in coming weeks — and whether it can overcome a recent kudo trend that seems to discriminate against darker pics.