A brief conversation ... 

With Audrey Tautou on her new film, A Very Long Engagement

click to enlarge Audrey Tautou in A Very Long Engagement.
  • Audrey Tautou in A Very Long Engagement.

From the director (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) responsible for the top-grossing foreign-language film of all time (Amelie) comes a fiercely anti-war movie wrapped in an epic love story. Audrey Tautou (pronounced toe-too) plays Mathilde, a French woman committed to tracking down her missing young fianc Manech (Gaspard Ulliel of Strayed) after his disappearance during World War I when he and four other soldiers were court-martialed for inflicting wounds on themselves in a desperate effort to leave the war. A Very Long Engagement is based on the late Sebastien Japrisot's novel, and accumulates a bracing sense of the lasting effects of war as they infect generations of people many years after the fact.

At the core of the film's enormous scope is the sprite appeal of Tautou, whose tangible merit as a dramatic actress comes across with an irresistible charm reminiscent of another beguiling Audrey, the late Audrey Hepburn.

Cole Smithey: What attracted you to this character?

Audrey Tautou: I respected the love that Mathilde has for Manech and the way it gives her power and the way it enhances her power to find him. First and foremost I like her determination.

CS: Is it easier to play a character from a novel?

AT: In the beginning, it was harder for me because I had a vision of Mathilde from reading the novel and a different vision when I read the script. So I tried to make the connection between the Mathilde in the novel [and] the Mathilde in the script, and the very strong and personal universe of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It took me some time.

CS: What was your impression of the film when you saw it?

AT: I was impressed by the war scenes because I hadn't seen any of that during shooting. The differences between the novel and the movie were always in the script. I think Mathilde was much more petulant in the novel. She could insult people and curse at them. She was more extroverted in the novel. Jean-Pierre Jeunet likes characters who are modest and don't expose a lot of feelings.

CS: How has your relationship with Jean-Pierre Jeunet changed since you made Amelie?

AT: Our relationship changed because this part was different. I was different. I had lost my fear. He trusted me to do something that he would like.

CS: Did he give you any advice about playing the character?

AT: We discussed a lot during the preparation for the film. I spent two months in the studio, while the crew was preparing the movie, doing readings and learning to play the tuba, just to feel the atmosphere of where everybody wanted the movie to go. We discussed very subtle things, but it was more of a natural maturation that occurred over time.

CS: How has the success of Amelie affected you?

AT: I like the creation of a movie. I like to be on the set with a team of technicians. Everything else in life is not normal. Of course, the fame brought me more offers from different companies. It's a huge luxury for an actor to work and to have a choice, but in life I like to be anonymous.

CS: Did you always want to be an actor?

AT: No, I wanted to study monkeys when I was a child.

-- Cole Smithey

Now showing at Kimball's Twin Peak theater. See times on page 42.

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