Five desperate French soldiers during The Battle of the Somme shoot themselves, either by accident or with purpose, in order to be invalided back home. Having been "caught" a court-martial convenes and determines punishment to be banishment to No Man's Land with the objective of having the Germans finish them off. In the process of telling this tale each man's life is briefly explored along with their next of kin as Methilde, fiancée to one of the men, tries to determine the circumstances of her lover's death. This task is not made any easier for her due to a bout with polio as a child. Along the way she discovers the heights and depths of the human soul.Written by
The mournful tune that Mathilde plays on the tuba is "Aase's Death" from the Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg. See more »
As the farmer in "The end of the World" is telling his story, bottles of Dom Perignon Champagne can be seen in the basement he is hiding in. Moët & Chandon did not produce Dom Perignon until 1929. See more »
Jeunet, beware of stereotyping yourself! But very well done nonetheless...
If I were to judge this movie solely on its entertainment value, I would have awarded it a 9 out of 10. Instead, I will blend entertainment with art, whatever that may mean, or with its artistic integrity my usual method of evaluation for movies. I'm actually one of those people who found Amèlie delightful on first viewing, and more than a little irritating on second viewing two years later. And I must say that overall, I preferred Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles.
Right from the opening shot of a broken Christ statue dangling off a cross that's been blown to bits in a muddy WWI trench, you are reminded of how well director Jean-Pierre Jeunet has understood the importance of masterful cinematography. Immediate, attention-grabbing snappy editing is also a speciality of his. A collection of memorable stills, beautiful enough to be made into pictures to hang on your living-room wall, are the carriers of a compelling story with a universally accessible poetry, both visual and verbal (which alas, is too often spelt out by a persistently meddling voice-over a narrator, just like in Amèlie just in case you weren't paying attention to ALL the little quirks, jokes and poetry). A feast of visual humour we can trace right back to Delicatessen and a collection of interwoven, snappy little stories from endearing or comic minor players, could render the movie Disneyish (The way Les Choristes was) had Jeunet failed to also blend into the cake mix two helpings of darkness to one of sex: he does exactly the same thing in both Amèlie and Delicatessen. The resulting movie is one that most adults the world over will respond to, a fairytale for grown-ups (also considering the devastating WWI setting, it's even more grown-up than both Delicatessen, which IMO was too cartoonish, and Amèlie, too artificial and pleased with itself - like a small, furry creature such as a squirrel prancing around and being well aware of its own cuteness). But as good movie as Dimanche is, I don't consider it an "art" movie at all rather, a very accomplished and entertaining mainstream European movie.
Most of all, I loved the scenes in the trenches. This movie is an excellent example of how computer generated sequences SHOULD be used to enhance a feature! The CGI does its job without calling attention upon itself. The muddy, dusty, blood and gut-stained, grey-brown desperation and folly of the WWI battlefields felt authentic and never idealised, yet was visually stunning and also very entertaining to watch. The zeppelin in the improvised hospital scene was also amazing a tense, original and, as they say, memorable "cinema moment". I was also fond of some comic interludes: Mathilde imagining herself as the romantic heroine in her own erotic dream filmed as a silent movie, the postman and his pesky bicycle, Private Investigator Germain Pire (played by the late Ticky Holgado) and his antics, for instance in the Corsican brothel, etc. I also thought the flavour and FEEL of the epoch was beautifully evoked: I'm a sucker for thorough research in costuming and setting, so I cannot help responding positively when that aspect of a historic movie is accomplished.
But I was reminded of Amèlie's contrived little quirks one time too many when the German woman in the Paris bistrot (trying to discreetly attract Mathilde's attention to give her some clues), erases the writing on the "Today's specialities" blackboard by leaving just three M's. Or when we were told and shown the way Mathilde's parents had died when she was only a very small child. This was a quirky, comedy death just like Amèlie's mother being killing by a suicidal nun jumping off the top of a church spire. Also, the vengeful prostitute Tina Lombardi's deadly contraptions, used to murder the Army officials responsible for killing her beloved pimp on the battlefield, were also a tad too cutesy and contrived, and made me try to imagine a James Bond movie directed by Jeunet! Though this may be the fault of the novel that Un Long Dimanche is based upon, I also found the "mystery" part a little too convoluted and again, contrived. The pieces of the jig-saw fall into place a little too neatly for a situation as complicated as the search for Manech turned out to be! Regarding the central couple, Mathilde and Manech, whose young love for one another we are supposed to believe in and warm to in order to find the story moving at all, I thought Jeunet did a good job of remaining just this side of cloying and sentimental. Again, some of the poetic images were heavy-handed (did we really need to hear the "heart beating in the hand" line so often?), but on the whole, efficient and sweet. Though Manech was a little too much of a wet blanket for my taste (perhaps the role needed a slightly more charismatic actor than Gaspard Ulliel?), I did nonetheless feel concern for him throughout most of the movie. I was also impressed with the Jodie Foster subplot and was more than a little impressed with her linguistic skills: among English-speaking actors, so far I only knew of Kristin Scott Thomas being such a convincing performer in the French language.
Since Un Long Dimanche is a little too much of a ruffian to be a truly honest work of art, I will therefore knock a few points off the 9 I would have given it just for sheer entertainment value, and leave it with a more than dignified 7.5 out of 10 instead!
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