Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance) - 2010

I have always viewed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as our generations first real love story. After seeing Blue Valentine, I think I was a bit off on my judgement. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may be our generations first fairy tale love story. Blue Valentine may be our generations most true and raw love story. This is not to compare the two films. I will always hold Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in very high regards. I am only making a comparison based on the films view of contemporary love. Gone are the days of romance as witnessed in The Philadelphia Story, or most Katherine Hepburn films. Today, audiences want over the top humor (the horrid rom-com) or something painfully too close to home (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blue Valentine).

When does the relationship start to break? Is there a way to point out the exact spot when the problem began to split up the couple? And, is there ever just one problem? Or, is it a feeling? Is it the passing of time? When my first relationship ended, my partner and I spent a great deal of time trying to pin point the moment the end started. We were never able to find that point. I think it is safe to say that point can never be found. In fact, that moment doesn't exist. Relationships are a lot more complex and messy than we'll ever understand. Blue Valentine is willing to admit all of this.

Blue Valentine reminds me of a novel I read early in 2010, A Happy Marriage. The book, much like the film, jumps back and forth between the beginning of a relationship (the happiest moments) and the end of a relationship (the most painful, but most honest moments). In the novel, one half of the couple is dying. So, there are differences. But, the tone of two people when they recognize the end... it so drastically causes changes in your every day.

The film feels a lot like a play put on the screen. There are certain conversations, actions, and over the top gestures that don't always feel genuine enough. The action, the plot devices, aren't always realistic enough with other parts of the film. At first, this bothered me. I noticed the irregular behaviors. I quickly realized the significance of these changes. It is difficult to really involve yourself into the thoughts and realities of two strangers for two hours. Using play-like dialogue and actions allows for the audience to understand what is taking place. We are so quickly forced into the situation, the couple's past and present. What started out feeling slightly out of place, ended up making the film a much more compelling experience.

The soundtrack is beautiful. Grizzly Bear plays the instruments and sings. The soundtrack is basically a heavily instrumental version of Grizzly Bear's Yellow House. No complaints here. The music fits so perfectly in every scene. It never once steals the scene, but always creates more layers of atmosphere. The camera work creates a gritty film experience. The camera moves and shakes a bit. As if one is watching home movies. Or, a documentary. The flashbacks to the past are filled with gray tones and lots more shadow. I love the way the colors are used because the happier time period isn't necessarily brighter.

I feel most people will watch this film and want to blame someone for the relationship failing. I am very much one of those people. Cindy (Williams' character) feels the most removed of the couple. She seems to have given up before she ever starts. A character so afraid of falling out of love that she can't bring herself to ever fall in love. She uses the relationship of her parents as a guide. She saw their unhappiness and hate. She wants so badly to avoid the same life as her parents. It is sad to finally come to terms with how much the relationships we witness as children will go on to shape our future relationships. We can run and fight against this fact as much as possible, but there is a truth in this.


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