Monday, October 18, 2010

Philadelphia Film Festival: Blue Valentine

One hesitates in using such cliched terms as the greatest actor or actress of his or her generation, but I defy anyone, upon seeing Blue Valentine, to not willingly, and quite wholeheartedly, thrust these very same monikers upon both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.  Not that these two actors are in need of such newfound recognition - they have both had such epithets (and Oscar nominations) thrust upon them in past roles - but the raw nerves hit, with an almost machine-gun array of brutal emotionality, in Blue Valentine, do more than just cement such titles as greatest actor and actress of their generation to this deserving duo.  It is almost a cinematic coronation of sorts - or at least damn well should be. 

These are a pair of performances that deserve more than just the roar of cheers it received by the 400+ crowd at the Prince Music Theater the night I saw it.  These are a pair of performances, playing off each other with a non-linear, ever-evolving bloody melange of sweet Cinéma vérité nothings and emotionally abusive savagery, that deserve something akin to a chorus of post-operatic bravos and bravas, or, keeping more apropos to the unmerciful disintegration, nee goring of a once promising relationship that is at the epicenter of the film, a deafening thunder of maniacal oles after the bull is killed and systematically and traditionally mutilated at a bullfight.   These are a pair of performances for the ages, as they say.

But at the same time, hyperbole aside (and I thrust a whole lot of it around in those first two paragraphs), there is actually more to Blue Valentine that just the two best damned performances of the year.  Much more actually.  From the opening moments of the film, with its languid leanings abruptly  bombarded by meta-close-ups and torn asunder anguish, to its back and forth gutty-works, showing the brilliant glare of blossoming love and the harsh lights of relational realities, to its strangely placed fireworks-laden finale, Blue Valentine is a work of daring, sometimes stunning, sometimes purposefully ugly cinematic bravura.This is a powerful film indeed, and some may say a bit too powerful at times.

On its recent MPAA attached NC-17 rating (talked about briefly in a recent post of mine) one can only shake one's head and hope for a turnaround on appeal - without director Derek Cianfrance having to make any cuts from this beautiful, yet raw, disquieting, quite emotionally brutal film.  Even if the rating is severed down to an R (without the cats dammit!!) the stigma of such a rating (and its poisonous touch in both box office prowess and award-bait accolades - deserving of both!) will surely stick with the film through it's December 31st release date and beyond.  

The ratings board is a funny place, and who really knows exactly what set them off (the sex scenes, admittedly raw, are nothing physically we haven't already seen in R rated movies before) and such a rating should not tamper with a film's power, but we all know it will definitely limit its audience (especially in an ever-conservativizing world such as ours) and that is a shame, since everyone should be able to see Blue Valentine for the brilliant work of cinema that it is.  I am only glad I was able to see the film in its raw power, before anything happens to its narrative integrity.

A full (and probably quite long-winded) review of Blue Valentine will appear here closer to the year-end release date of the film.

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