July 19, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
We gave it a B-

The talented minds behind Amélie, the quirky 2001 French film that introduced doll-eyed Audrey Tautou to American audiences, focus their vibrant visual sensibility upon a darker tale. Superstitious Mathilde (Tautou) refuses to believe the news that her fiancé, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), died during the war and sets out to find him in A Very Long Engagement. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet expertly depicts the grim realities of trench warfare during World War I while simultaneously dazzling us with the beauty of 1919 Paris and the French countryside. But, as even Jeunet concedes in his commentary (in French with English subtitles — mon Dieu!), ”the story is so complicated. . .even we were lost at times.” Moreover, the clever narrative style that made Amélie so endearing disrupts the timbre of this somber piece. Think Edith Piaf singing a Tammy Wynette tune. EXTRAS The film’s deft, seamless blend of CG effects — of Paris, of an exploding zeppelin — is revealed in a 73-minute making-of and two featurettes. In his commentary, Jeunet playfully commends Jodie Foster’s cameo: ”She has a nice future in front of her.”

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