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Film: A Very Long Engagement

Director of

Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Film Director
Friday, November 19, 2004; 11:00 AM

From the director and star of "Amelie" (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Audrey Tatou) comes "A Very Long Engagement," a film that takes place as World War I draws to an end.

A young French woman (Tatou as Mathilde) receives word that her fiance (Manech) has been court-martialed and pushed out of an Allied trench into a no-man's land. Matilde then embarks on a journey to discover the fate of her lover.

Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church star in Alexander Payne's "Sideways." (Copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures)

View the: trailer

Jean-Pierre Jeunet was online Friday, Nov. 19, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss "A Very Long Engagement," a film that explores the absurdity of war, the beauty of hope and the tenacity of the human heart.

A transcript follows.

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washingtonpost.com: Jean-Pierre is being slightly delayed. He will join us shortly. Please stay with us.


Medicine Hat, Alberta: Bonjour Jean-Pierre, cava? Amelie is one of my all-time favorite movies. How do you think Amelie fans will like the new movie? It seems a lot more serious than Amelie. Keep up the great work and I'm looking forward to seeing the new movie!

Jean-Pierre: I hope it won't be so different because you can recognize the style and because I put some of my own ideas in it.


Fairfax, Va.: What was it about the novel that sparked your interest in adapting "A Very Long Engagement" into a screenplay?

Jean-Pierre: Three different things: My fascination about the WWI, the opportunity to recreate the 20s in Paris and of course the character of Mathilde.


Fairfax, Va.: When you were developing the script for "A Very Long Engagement" had you already planned on casting Audrey Tautou?

Jean-Pierre: Yes, because I met Audrey Tatou for Amelie. I felt like adapting his book because before I had no idea about who should play the part.


Falls Church, Va.: Salut! Thank you for making such magical films! What has been your inspiration?

Jean-Pierre: In French we say there's 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.


Springfield, Va.: Greetings Jean-Pierre. Your movies are incredible! I would like to know which directors are your favorites. Merci beaucoup.

Jean-Pierre: Two very important films in my life when I was a teenager: Once Upon a Time in the West by Sergio Leone and A Clockword Orange from Stanley Kubrick. And later, Citizen Kane by Orson Welles and Night of the Hunter by Charles Laughton.


Melbourne Beach, Fla.: In the book "A Very Long Engagement" the author exposes the complicity of government and the military in ethical treatment of combattants, as well as the emotional devastation those crimes had on the families of those involved. Do you feel the current war in Iraq and the accompanying revelations of so many atrocities will have immured your audience from responding to the emotional themes of your film?

Jean-Pierre: Every war is the same. Pain and suffering, destruction, torture. I just wanted to show that war because it's pretty unknown even in France. We have maybe just 12 pictures about that war and thousands about WWII.


Arlington, Va. : Bon jour!

How do you think your style of moviemaking (planning, storyboards, sound recording, special effects) compares to your contemporaries and to French filmmakers of the past?


Jean-Pierre: I don't feel French. Luckily my films are released everywhere in the world and in France for French people I come from another planet.


Vienna, Va.: Mr. Jeunet,
I LOVE YOUR FILMS!; You must do a tour or talk in the U.S. -- in D.C.!;

In the DVD of Amelie, you talk about accenting colors. I was wondering if that coloring is a technique that you plan to use in all of your films?

Jean-Pierre: Yes, the digitial tool is very useful. For "Engagement" we spent seven weeks to fix the color and we made digital masks to fix just a certain part of the picture because I pay attention to the aesthetics.


Houston, Tex.: When is the movie being released?

Jean-Pierre: It comes out Nov. 26 in New York and Los Angeles and opens in D.C. on Dec. 17.


Montclair, N.J.: Bonjour, I have found that your films are the most original and refreshing films I have ever seen.
I was wondering how long it took for you to make the film and where did most of the filming take place?

Jean-Pierre: We spent two years to make the film and we shot in Brittany, Corsica and we made the trench in a military camp in France. Only the shooting was 22 weeks.


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