vendredi 31 décembre 2004

Fireworks in a no-man's-land

My Imdb comment regarding A Very Long Engagement. At last !

Adaptative authority

Before he was given the possibility to adapt this novel all of the Jeunet's works were original (counting Alien 4 as an intermezzo) and each one well-versed in both daydream and pure fantasy. This was the only concern I had when the project was announced but this concern was bigger for the people who had read the book. What's more this adaptation had been a pet project of Jeunet for a decade and eventually it seems he was too respectful of the original source and, in turn, Warner was too respectful of his absolute auteur authority.

For one thing this movie aims to transfer to the screen the very intricate plot of the novel, and there are a dozen major supporting characters with their own precise lot, waiting for their moment in the narration to expose their backstories, disclose subplots, so that you be able to reconstruct a jigsaw faithful to the original source material. OK, you get the big bold picture, i.e. bigger than carefully chosen evocative little words. Whereas the book revolved around a steady investigation the movie centers on a flashback that never stops building up. Flashback = investigation? It's a bit naive but, it's true, naivety is part and parcel of the charm in JP Jeunet's movies.

Well obviously style is a major concern with Un long dimanche de fiançailles. Simply put it doesn't fit the period and the story. It's a tough thing to say because it means nobody seriously questioned the spirit behind the next project 'by the director who gave us Amélie', but yes, Jeunet's bittersweet and snappy style is at odds with the gloomy days of lost generation 1920. Or maybe style is just too plain obvious, hence the scenery soaking up the story.

Too much style and too much substance makes Mathilde a dull girl

What's left in Un long dimanche de fiançailles? A collection of perfect frames, lovely pictures and funny situations since this assiduous fresco is as much sugar-coated as Amélie (indeed when Jeunet created Amélie he had some images of Mathilde in mind; then for Mathilde he was stuck with a plot plus Tautou).

The sepia postcards from Paris and Brittany are wonderful, the muddy trenches are nice, even the blood and guts are decent enough to be colorful parts of the general composition. On the whole, with the storyline eluding momentum and the 'great production values' emotion never has a chance to sweep in. Because no momentum means no pressure, no suspense... no empathy. This is all the more striking as Audrey Tautou's whimsical Mathilde is definitely not the more interesting character in the load but merely a visual assistant to the voice-over narration. As for me the Jodie Foster bit was a far more touching and more involving (I did not say arousing) part.

Now I must admit I got quite a kick out of watching these pictures, yet that's too much for a sole exhibition.
But not enough for a cinema lover.

Aucun commentaire: