A Very Long Engagement – Un long dimanche de fiançailles (2004)

Very Long Engagement

It’s entirely the fault of movies like A Very Long Engagement that this blog lies dormant most of the time. Who wants to write about a film like this?

There are movies that I call “darlings” of the public. Everyone goes “oh” and “ah” and “oh so wonderful” just upon hearing the title. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Améelie is one of them, and – not surprisingly starring the same actress, Audrey Taoutou – Un long dimanche de fiançailles is another of those “darlings”. The fact is that most of the time these are precisely the movies I cannot stand. I watched Un long dimanche de fiançailles for the second time, hoping I’d succumb to its charm – but that didn’t happen. On the very contrary. I liked it even less. Why though? I’m not sure. It’s particularly sad because there aren’t all that many WWI movies.

A Very Long Engagament tells the story of two young lovers separated by WWI. Mathilde and Manech fall in love just before the war breaks out. They are still almost children. Both are outsiders. She because she is limping, he because he seems to be a bit simple-minded.

When he doesn’t return from the war, Mathilde swears to find him. It is said that he was court-martialled together with four others. The five men shot themselves in order to be sent home.

Mathilde acts a bit like a PI, interrogating people, following every lead. Although everyone tells her that Manech has been shot, she is convinced that he is still alive. Their connection is strong, she would feel it, if he was dead.

A Very Long Engagement is a typical Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie. His films often look like old sepia-colored photos and have a vintage feel. The trench scenes are not bad and from a purely cinematic point of view it’s a beautiful film but I always have a problem with his characters and find many of them off putting. I would still like to read the book by Japrisot.

Has anyone seen it? Did you like it and if so why?

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War Movie Event – War Movie Watchalong – The Movie Choices

I think it was already pretty clear last week, that we will watch two movies, or let’s say, I will watch two and it’s up to you, for which one you would like to join me or if you would even like to watch them both as well. The poll shows, that Talvisota – The Winter War is the winner but I will also watch Master & Commander. The reason is simple, we have 5 votes on Talvisota, one from me, one from Guy but there are 3 others, so maybe people just want to watchalong but not say much. Fine by me. We will watch the 195min movie but if Netflix has only the 125min, maybe that would be fine as well. It’s up to you.

Master & Commander has 4 votes of which I know 3 people, that’s why we will include it too.

The problem is now the schedule. I don’t think it would be a good idea to have them on consecutive days, so lets space them out and move them. My proposal is as follows.

The questiosn for the movies – which you can answer on your blog or write a review, whichever works best – will be posted on

Friday 16 December for Master & Commander and

Saturday 17 December for The Winter War/Talvisota 

Should you want to contribute questions like Novroz, send them to me via allaboutwarmovies at gmail dot com.

The Watchalongs will take place on 

Tuesday 27 December for  Master and Commander and

Thursday  29 December for The Winter War/Talvisota.

Here is last weeks post including the poll.

War Movie Event – Anyone In For a War Movie Watchalong?

We’ve been discussing this with my friend, The War Movie Buff, for a while now and the idea of doing what is done very often on book blogs, struck us as something that was worth trying on a movie blog as well.

The idea is to choose a movie and to post on the same day. December is upcoming and so are the holidays, I thought chances might be higher that we manage to find a few like-minded people who will join.

First step is to choose a movie. The second step will be posting questions. You can then either choose to answer the questions or go freestyle, meaning either just comment on our blogs or post an independent review.

I would propose to choose from the below list. I will post the choice on Saturday 3 December. The questions will be posted on Saturday 17 December Friday 16 and Saturday 17 and the Watchalong reviews/posts will be due on Watchalong Wednesday 28 December Tuesday 27 and Thursday 29. Please check newer post for details. Change is due to the fact that 2 movies have been chosen. 

Here are the IMDB links – Jarhead, Master & Commander, Waterloo, The Winter War, A Very Long Engagement.

Do I have a preference? Yes, I do. No 1 – 3 or 4. But it’s up to you as well.

I hope there will be some interest. If not, it was at least worth a try.

War Romances: A Very Long List

I’m amazed about the length of this list and even more so as I know exactly I have certainly forgotten quite a lot. It seems as if the combination of love and war was extremely well liked. Some of the movies I have included are somewhat more on the war side, like Enemy at the Gates, others are much more romantic. I was also surprised to see that I have seen a lot of them. And also liked quite a a few. Some of my favourites are Admiral, The Man Who Cried, Gloomy SundayKing Arthur, Aimée and Jaguar and The Cranes are Flying. Others like House of Fools sound interesting but I haven’t seen them. What struck me was how often the main theme is about two men falling for the same woman. Amazing. As if war wasn’t complicated enough.

A Farewell to Arms (US 1932) Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. Affair between an English nurse and American soldier during World War I.

Dark Journey(UK 1937) Conradt Veidt and Vivien Leigh. Spies of from opposing sides fall in love.
Gone with the Wind (US 1939) US Civil War. Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in the movie based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel.

A Yank in the RAF (US 1941) Tyrone Power and Betty Grable. Americans serving in the British forces meet and rekindle an old flame.

Casablanca (US 1942) WWII, Morocco. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in one of the greatest classics of cinema history. (See my review)

For Whom the Bell Tolls (US 1943) Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman in a movie based on Hemingway’s novel of the Spanish Civil War.

Crash Dive (US 1943) Starring Tyrone Power, Anne Baxter and Dana Andrews. A submarine lieutenant and his commander fall in love with the same woman.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK 1943) Roger Livesey and Deborak Kerr. British soldier falls in love with various incarnations of the same woman.

To Have and Have Not (US 1944) Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in a WWII drama about an American expat and a French resistance fighter. Set on Martinique.

I’ll Be Seeing You (US 1944) Ginger Rogers, Jospeh Cotten and Shirley Temple. Soldier falls in love with a girl he meets in a train

I Live in Grosvenor Square (UK 1945) British aristocrat falls in love with American airman

Piccadilly Incident (UK 1946) WWII. War separates husband and wife with tragic consequences.

A Matter of Life and Death (UK 1946) David Niven and Kim Hunter. Pilot falls in love with radio operator.

From Here to Eternity (US 1953) WWII, Pearl Harbor. Love and drama before the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. Great actors (Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Donna Reed, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra), great story.

Battle Cry (US 1955) Love and drama among a group of young Marines.

The End of the Affair (UK 1955) Deborah Kerr, Van Johnson, John Mills in the movie based on Graham Greene’s novel about a novelist who falls in love with a married woman during WWII. There is a later version of the same movie, see below.

A Town Like Alice (UK 1956) Peter Finch and Virginia McKenna starring in a WWII romance set in Asia. A British woman, POW of the Japanese, falls in love with an Australian soldier.

D-Day, The Sixth of June  (US 1956). On their way to the Normandy a US and a British officer remember their love for the same woman.

A Farewell to Arms (US 1957) Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones in a movie based on Hemingway’s novel. It tells the story of an affair between an English nurse an American soldier on the Italian front during World War I.

Sayonara (US 1957) Marlon Brando as US air force major who falls in love with a Japanese performer. Based on a novel by James Michener

The Cranes are Flying (Russia 1957) WWII. Extremely moving film about a young woman who waits for her lover to return from the war. (See my review)

South Pacific (US 1958) WWII, South Pacific. A young American nurse and a Frenchman who might be an agent fall in love.

A Time to Love and a Time to Die (US 1958) WWII. Russian front. German soldier on leave falls in love.

Ballad of a Soldier (Russia 1959) A Russian masterpiece. A young soldier falls in love with a girl on a train. (See my review)

Hiroshima Mon Amour (France 1959)  WWII, Japan. A love story between a French woman and a Japanese man after the war. The woman lived a romance with a German soldier during the war. (See my review)

Doctor Zhivago (US/Italy 1965) Omar Sharif and Julie Christie starring in a war romance set during the Bolshevik Revolution. Based on the novel by Boris Pasternak.

In Harm’s Way (US 1965) A classic John Wayne movie. WWII, Pacific. A naval officer falls in love with a nurse (Patricia Neal). A story of second chances. (Here is my review).

Closely Watched Trains (Czechoslovakia 1966) WWII. Set in occupied Czechoslovakia. A young man working for the railway company falls in love for the first time. Based on Bohumil Hrabal’s novel.

Landscape After Battle (Poland 1970) Poland after WWII and the liberation of the concentration camps. A young poet falls in love with a Jewish girl.

Summmer of my German Soldier (US 1978, TV) WWII, US home front. An American girls falls in love with a German POW.

Yanks (US 1979) WWII. British woman falls in love with an American soldier while her husband is at war. Richard Gere, Vanessa Redgrave and others.

Hanover Street (UK 1979) Margaret is a nurse in England during WWII and married to a secret agent. Things get complicated when she falls for David, an American pilot. Starring Harrison Ford, Christopher Plummer and Lesley-Ann Down.

We’ll Meet Again (UK 1982 TV mini-series) WWII, Britain. American bomber pilots in the UK.

Winds of War (US 1983, TV mini-series) Robert Mitchum and Ali McGraw. WWII, America, until the attack of Pearl Harbor.

A Year of the Quiet Sun (Poland/Germany/US 1984) A US soldier in Europe falls in love with a Polish refugee after the war.

An Indecent Obsession (Australia 1985) Nurse falls in love with psychiatric patient.

Top Gun (US 1986) Not set during a real war. Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis star in this movie about a young fighter pilot who falls in love with a female instructor. Macho bravado and romance.

And a Nightingale Sang (UK 1989, TV) Starring Joan Plowright. One family’s struggle to survive during the Blitz. Funny and touching. (See my review)

The Last of the Mohicans (US 1992) Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe in an epic of the war between British and French colonialists and Indians.

1942: A Love Story (India 1993) Bollywood drama  starring Anil Kapoor. A young Indian couple, both from wealthy backgrounds, find themselves caught up in the 1940’s Indian revolutionary movement against their families who are under the thumb of a sadistic British general.

Braveheart (US 1995) 13th Century Scotland. The fight against the British rule. Some love this epic, some hate it, still it’s impressive for many reasons. Starring Mel Gibson and Sophie Marceau.

The English Patient (US/UK 1996) WWII, North Africa and Italy. Two interwoven love stories. The first is the tragic story of a married woman falling for a Hungarian count. The second tells the love between a nurse and a soldier from a bomb disposal unit. With Kirstin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, Ralph Fiennes, Colin Firth and Willem Dafoe. (See my review)

In Love and War (US 1996) WWI, Italy. the story of the love between Ernest Hemingway and the nurse Agnes von Kurowsky starring Chris O’Donnell and Sandra Bullock.

Aimée and Jaguar (Germany 1999) WWII, Germany. Holocaust. Two women fall in love in Berlin during the war. One of them is Jewish and in the Resistance.

The End of the Affair (UK/US 1999) Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in the movie based on Graham Greene’s novel. A novelist falls in love with a married woman during WWII in London. She leaves him without an explanation. Two years later he has her followed to try to find out why she left him.

Gloomy Sunday (Germany/Hungary 1999) Set in WWII Budapest. Starring Joachim Król and Ben Becker. This is such a beautiful movie. Another love triangle. A young woman loves a Jewish restaurant owner. One day he hires a young pianist. She falls in love with the young man but still loves the older one. They save the life of a German man who also falls in love with the woman. When WWII breaks out the German comes back. He has turned into a Nazi officer who loves to abuse his power. Gloomy Sunday tells  also the story of the famous Hungarian song Gloomy Sunday that is said to have caused more suicides than any other song ever.

The Man Who Cried (UK/France 2000) Starring Johnny Depp, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, Christina Ricci. A Russian Jew falls in  love with a gypsy during WWII in Paris. She befriends another Russian who helps her find work in a theater. For lovers of sumptuous movies and opera.

Dark Blue World (Czech Republic/UK/Germany/Denmark/Italy 2001) Czeck fighter pilots in England in WWII. Two pilots, a very young one and an older one fall in love with the same woman.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin ( UK/US/France 2001) WWII, Italian troops in occupied Greece. Based on Luis de Bernières eponymous novel, starring Penélope Cruz and Nicolas Cage. An Italian commander falls in love with a Greek girl whose fiancée is fighting in the war as well.

Enigma (UK/US/Germany/Netherlands 2001) Dougray Scott, Kate Winslett and Jeremy Northam starring in this WWII drama about a young heartbroken man trying to break the Enigma code.

Pearl Harbor (US 2001) Real blockbuster cinema.  WWII. Pearl Harbor. Two young bomber pilots are in love with the same young woman, a nurse. Slick, good-looking movie with equally good-looking actors (Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Ben Affleck).

Enemy at the Gates (US/UK/Germany/Ireland 2001) Showdown of two snipers in Stalingrad. The Russian sniper is a local war hero and in love with a Jewish woman who is in the resistance. Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz and Ed Harris in a beautifully shot war drama. (See my review)

House of Fools (Russia/France 2002) A war movie that is no war movie. Set in a mental institution during the Chechen war.

Charlotte Gray (UK/Australia/Germany 2002) Cate Blanchett in a movie based on Sebastian Faulk’s novel. She plays a Scottish nurse who joins the French Resistance looking for her boyfriend, a RAF pilot who got lost in France.

Yossi and Jagger (Israel 2002) Love between two Israeli soldiers stationed on the Lebanese border.

Resistance (US/Netherlands 2003) Starring Bill Paxton and Julia Ormond. WWII, occupied Belgium. A reconnaissance plane crashes. The pilot, Ted, is brought to Claire and Henry Daussois who are in the Maquis Resistance. Ted and Claire fall in love.

Cold Mountain (US 2003), Renée Zellweger, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in a story of the American Civil War.

Head in the Clouds (UK/Canada 2004) Starring Charlize Theron, Penélope Cruz, Stuart Townsend,Thomas Kretschmann. A romantic drama set in 1930’s England, Paris, and Spain. Three people share an apartment in Paris, one lives a hedonistic life, the others want to join the fight against fascism.

Island at War (UK 2004, TV mini-series) WWII. The channel islands during German occupation. After the island is invaded by German forces, life changes drastically. The series focuses on three families.

A Very Long Engagement (France/US 2004) Audrey Tautou in a movie about a woman whose husband doesn’t return from the battlefields of WWI and sets out to look for him.

King Arthur (US/UK/Ireland 2004) An epic adventure of war and romance starring Clive Owen, Keira Knigthley, Mads Mikkelsen, Ray Winstone and Ioan Gruffud. The re-telling of the story of King Arthur and his Knights.

The Christmas Card (US 2006, TV) A US soldier visits a town from where a Christmas card has been sent to him during his tour in Afghanistan.

The Poet (Canada 2007) A Rabbi’s daughter and a German soldier fall in love in Poland in WWII. Starring Nina Dobrev and Daryl Hannah. (See my review)

Closing the Ring (UK/Canada/US 2007) Christopher Plummer, Shirley MacLaine and Mischa Barton in a love story that plays then – during WWII – and now. A woman between two men. One is a pilot and gets lost after crash landing in Ireland during WWII. In today’s Ireland a young man finds the wedding ring and brings it to the woman living in the US. Set in Ireland and the US.

Admiral (Russia 2008) Russian revolution. A real heartbreaker. The true story of Admiral Kolchak and his lover. (Here is my review)

Dear John (US 2010) Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried in a weepy romance about a young Marine who falls in love prior to 9/11. When he leaves for Iraq their love is tested.

What about you, have you seen many of these movies? Did you like them? Have I forgotten one you would like to recommend?

12 French War Movies You Must See Before You Die

France, a country that has endured and fought many wars, was at the center of many a battle and armed conflict, a country famous for its outstanding filmmaking has produced a very modest amount of war movies. You will find numerous WWII movies on the Resistance and a fair amount of rather psychological war-time movies but if you are looking for combat movies, you will not be lucky. I know of no French air combat or submarine movie at all.

There may be many reasons and I can only attempt an interpretation, comparing French cinema in general to the cinema of other countries. What becomes apparent soon is that the French are not keen on producing large-scale, epic or very action driven cinema. French movies are psychological and intimate. They focus on the dynamics between a few people, their interaction, the dialogue. Many of the most famous French movies focus on tiny details, small things. It’s easily understood that this doesn’t fit in with infantry combat movies with their huge casts and more action driven story lines.

In choosing 12 movies  I tried to pick the few real combat movies I knew and added the ones that I think excellent or that absoultely need to be watched. I also tried to covera wide range. I left out good ones, I’m sure.

For those who want to further explore French cinema the website French War Movies offers a great overview.

I discovered one huge problem for the non-native speaker when I watched La Grande Illusion recently as I bought a movie with English subtitles. Almost 2/3 of the dialogue was missing. I noticed the same when I watched and reviewed the Italian Rome, Open City (here is my review). Since French and Italian movies are dialogue driven, it’s very hard for a non-native speaker to fully appreciate them. I’m sure this is done better in more recent movies, still it is a problem.

With all this said, let’s open the curtain for twelve stunning movies:

La Grande Illusion aka Grand Illusion (1937): WWI. Jean Renoir’s movie is one of the great classics of European cinema starring the late great Jean Gabin. A POW movie that offers a lot. Interesting German characters included. (Here is the review)

Nuit et brouillard aka Night and Fog (1955): WWII. Alain Resnais’ Holocaust classic. Death Camps. Final Solution. Documentary/original footage about the horrors of the concentration camps. Gut-wrenching. Impressive. A must-see. (Here is the review)

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959): WWII. Another movie by Alain Resnais. A love story between a French woman and a Japanese man from Hiroshima. Interspersed with original footage of Hiroshima. Very special and poetic based on the scenario by Marguerite Duras. A must see for French cinema aficionados. (review upcoming)

L’armée des ombres aka The Army of Shadows (1969): WWII. Jean-Pierre Melville’s Resistance masterpiece. Another classic. Claustrophobic, impressive, sparse. Excellent actors. One of the most depressing movies I’ve ever seen. (Here is my review)

L’honneur d’un capitaine aka A Captain’s Honor (1982): Post war. Algeria. A captain who died on the battle field in Algeria is accused of having been a torturer and a murdered. His widow tries to prove that he wasn’t guilty. (review upcoming)

Dien Bien Phu (1992) : Indochina. Infantry Combat. Schoendoerffer’s movie shows the final defeat of the French in Indochina. Not nice to watch at all. (review upcoming)

Le pianiste aka The Pianist (2002): WWII. Holocaust. Tells the story of a Jewish pianist in the Warsaw ghetto. Harrowing and beautiful. My favourite Holocaust movie. Very moving. (review upcoming)

La chambre des officiers aka The Officer’s Ward (2001): WWI. Everything you never wanted to know about the horrible facial wounds that were so frequent during WWI. Made me quite sick. Painfully well-done  (Here is the review)

Un long dimanche de fiançailles aka A Very Long Engagement (2004): WWI. Based on Sébastien Japrisot’s eponymous novel it tells the harrowing story of young Mathilde who travels to the no man’s land of WWI in search of her lost fiancé.  This is one of the darling movies of international film critics. I did like it but wasn’t awed. Starring the much-loved Audrey Tautou. (review upcoming)

Joyeux Noël aka Merry Christmas (2005): WWI. The story of the little peace during the Great War. During the first Christmas in WWI, German, French and British/Scottish troops cease fire and play football together. Wonderful movie with great actors. One of  my Top 10 all-time favourites and one of the bestanti-war movies that exist. (Here is the review)

L’ennemi intime aka Intimate Enemies (2007): Algeria. One of the very few French Infantry Combat movies. Very good and very critical. About the ugly side of an ugly war that was officially no war. If you want to find out why I found this hard to watch, you’ll have to read the About page. (Here is the review)

L’armée du crime aka The Army of Crime (2009): WWII. French Resistance. Based on the true story of a group of young people and immigrants who fought a desperate fight against the Nazis. They were led by the poet Manouchian. This is an absolutely stunning and very tragic movie. One to watch and re-watch. It went directly on my Top 10. (Here is the review)