Jeunet’s Monster of WW I Hellishness


Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s monster of serendipity, blind devotion, and WW I hellishness is an easy movie to be cynical about, if that’s how you fill your afternoons. (It was also a movie the French establishment enjoyed drubbing, declaring it ineligible for a foreign-language Oscar nomination because it used American bucks.) But rejigger your paradigm, and it’s just as easy to submerge into—Jeunet brings a fresh brain and a wisdom about digital effects to his Great War battlefields, respects Sébastien Japrisot’s rich and rambling story for the roasted lamb chop it is, and musters dozens of unforgettable images. A sense of magical thinking pervades the film, but it nevertheless remains harrowingly faithful to the verities of early-century warfare. Saying that it’s about a crippled girl (Audrey Tautou) who will not accept the news of her fiancé’s death at the Somme is like saying Tolkien wrote about a dispute over jewelry; know little, and ride the wave. Expect a Brontझan canvas (if only Emily B. had gone to war) and watch for Denis Lavant, André Dussollier, Tchéky Karyo, and Jodie Foster bustling around in the movie’s throngs. Jeunet provides an audio commentary to the DVD, alongside extra scenes and cast interviews.