PARIS – Never mind that Jean-Pierre Jeunet's new film is a French story filmed in the French language featuring one of France's biggest actresses. A Paris court has ruled that "Un Long Dimanche de Fiancailles" (A Very Long Engagement), which opened Friday in the United States, is too American to compete in French film festivals — because of its Warner Bros. backing.
The movie, which opened at the end of October in France to much acclaim, stars Audrey Tautou, the winsome young actress who went from virtual unknown to international star with Jeunet's 2001 romance "Amelie."
The National Center for Cinematography, or CNC, made state funds available for Jeunet's movie in October 2003. A producer's association immediately questioned the film's nationality and filed a complaint.
On Thursday, the court canceled the CNC approval, saying that 2003 Productions, a French company acting as the delegated producer for the movie, was created solely "to allow the company Warner Bros. France ... to benefit from financial help even though (the fund) is reserved for the European cinematographic industry."
Jeunet was traveling and not immediately available for comment on the decision, Warner Independent Pictures said in Los Angeles.
The CNC said it was "carefully studying this judgment and its consequences," but did not say whether it would appeal.
In an ironic twist, Jeunet's movie cannot even become a candidate for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival awards because, with its U.S. debut, it will have been screened outside its country of origin, France. Movies shown at Cannes must not have been screened outside the country where they originate ahead of the festival.
The travails are not yet over for "A Very Long Engagement," which faces legal action from Corsicans angered by what they consider to be the movie's demeaning treatment of the population from the French Mediterranean island.
Five associations that defend the interests of Corsicans said Friday that the film, "spits" on them by showing a Corsican soldier "abject in his cowardice."
Jeunet told the newspaper Corse Matin that he was "sincerely affected" by the charges and that the soldier depicted in his film was not meant to be representative.
Despite his legal troubles in France, Jeunet can still hope for honors in the United States — but not this season's best foreign film Oscar, because the film did not open in France in time to qualify. It is, however, eligible for Oscar nominations for best picture, actress or director.