Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
France/USA, 2004. 2003 Productions, Warner Bros., Tapioca Films, TF1 Films Production, Canal+, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Région Ile-de-France, Région Bretagne, Région Poitou-Charentes, Gerber Pictures. Story and adaptation by Jean-Pierre Laurent, Guillaume Laurant, dialogue by Guillaume Laurant, based on the novel by Sebastien Japrisot. Cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel. Produced by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Music by Angelo Badalamenti. Production Design by Aline Bonetto. Costume Design by Madeline Fontaine. Film Editing by Herve Schneid. Academy Awards 2004. Golden Globe Awards 2004.
Just after World War I, an orphan girl (Amelie‘s Audrey Tautou) believes that the orphan boy she has loved since childhood (Gaspard Ulliel) didn’t die on the battlefield as reported and is still alive waiting to be found. She investigates the lives of those who shared a trench with him and follows a spiderweb of a mystery, all the while fearing with absolute dread the possibility that it is simply a caprice of her mind and that he really is dead. This exquisite film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet is his absolute masterpiece, a fantastic combination of touching romance, horrific war drama and Clouzot-worthy mystery, led along by Tautou’s sterling performance and a host of colourful supporting characters (none the least of which include Jodie Foster, who gets to show off her skills in French on the big screen). As with all Jeunet’s films, the visuals are fantastic, with colourful cinematography and detail-perfect sets and costumes that bring the period to life with vivid imagination, but it is the emotional content that really makes this one soar. The romance isn’t drippy but is nestled safely in a powerful story about the tragic reality of war and the effect it has on the chain of our existence, augmented by a healthy sense of humour (“Doggie Fart, Gladdens My Heart!”) that buoys the experience in reality. Hope is the only ally against the enemy here, and when it is taken away is the greatest adversary of them all.