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November 08, 2010

Starz Denver Film Festival 2010 - Blue Valentine

Blue valentine.jpg

Derek Cianfrance - 2010
The Weinstein Company 35mm film

I could have probably waited for the inevitable unrated DVD version of Blue Valentine. At the time of this writing, The Weinstein Brothers are fighting the NC-17 rating given this film. By the end of December, when the film gets its theatrical release, we will know if the outcome, whether the film gets a limited release with the more restrictive rating, release as is with the "R" rating, or if scenes are trimmed to satisfy the MPAA. I don't think the problem is with the "NC-17" rating per se, but with the perception of that rating, conflating it with pornography. There are a host of other films that aren't intended for children and shouldn't be seen by children. Jack Valenti had his heart in the right place when the rating system was created. What he didn't count on was the assumption by an audience of dunderheads that just because a film is rated "R" and one could take the kids to said film, you should be taking them, no matter how young. Yes, there are several scenes of sex in Blue Valentine, but they are not erotic nor are they meant to be erotic.

Blue Valentine did make me think of French films, with the subject of "l'amour fou" as well as Jacques Rivette's epic length film with that title. Also, it may be impossible to think of the fractured chronology, perhaps designed to mirror the fractured relationship chronicled, with Alain Resnais. But this story, about a working class couple, takes place primarily in Brooklyn, rather than Paris. I don't want to be dismissive of work that was clearly of labor of love about the labor of love, that is, the work in maintaining a relationship, but Blue Valentine is not a successful film for me. I do appreciate that Cianfrance and company have made the effort to make a film doesn't conform to the usual formulas, either.

I might have to see the film again, simply because the venue for the film was not a movie theater, but an auditorium fitted with a screen. Maybe it was where I sat, but some of the dialogue was unclear, which did not help. What also got in the way for me was that I never felt convinced about the relationship between Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, the young couple that get together at Gosling's insistence, and finally fall apart. On the other hand, little Faith Wladyka, the five year old who plays the daughter of Williams and Gosling, acts up a storm. Not only does she look somewhat like Williams' daughter with her round face, with brown hair suggesting that Gosling might be her biological father, but her relationship with her screen parents is more palpable than what the two stars share with each other.

One scene where Cianfrance got it exactly right is when Williiams and Gosling are on the Brooklyn Bridge. Gosling climbs the fence, threatening to jump over, while Williams talks him back down. Words of reconciliation are followed by more anger and misunderstandings. In a well framed two shot, the camera tracks back with Williams in the foreground, walking towards the camera, while maintaining Gosling standing in the background, banging his hands against the fence. Blue Valentine has a few visually inspired moments, just enough to hope that given the opportunity, Derek Cianfrance can create a film that is the equal of his ambitions.

Posted by peter at November 8, 2010 01:27 PM