Saturday, January 08, 2011

"Blue Valentine": a interesting concept of layered storytelling; a commentary on permenance of intimacy across time

One technique in “layered” or “non-linear” storytelling is to present a dramatic confrontation or situation, and then present the characters in flashbacks, taking them through the physical and emotional changes that took them to this point.

So it is with “Blue Valentine: A Love Story,” directed by Derek Cianfrance, from The Weinstein Company and Hunting Lane Pictures. Dean (Ryan Gossling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) play a married couple, who leave their daughter with an ailing, oxygen-dependent grandfather so they can work on restoring their own relationship. The story of how their relationship came to be is indeed more complicated than we would expect, and involves such elements as eldercare, the hard work of residential moving, and a pregnancy of uncertain origin with a termination attempt that itself is stopped.

Visually, one of the most striking elements of the film is the “aging” of Ryan Gosling of about 10 years, past 40 (the actor is 30), with a pronounced widow’s peak in his hairline that is not particularly becoming. I wonder how this was done with makeup. You could consider Dean as being of all ages at some point in "space-time", a relativistic concept. No one is perfect forever.

In many of the flashbacks, he appears as he actually looks now, however. That reminds us physical perfection is not forever for any of us.

In terms of writing, the challenge is to connect the flashbacks to the “current events” so that the film is not arbitrary (which was a bit of a problem with “Rosenstrasse”, reviewed here Dec. 22. The connecting element seems to be the intense, organic, earthy intimacy of the relationship. That has been a subject of controversy, as for a while it looked as though the film would get an NC-17, which I see nothing wrong with, because here the intimacy carries the story (back and forth in time). In fact, conservatives often call for the “Song of Solomon” and the celebration of marital intimacies in media, where the partners cannot remain “perfect” forever. It points out to some of us that we really prefer to live in fantasy worlds rather than face the long-term process of committed intimacy. I think it helps us understand why we expect so much social support for marriage, including the idea that most adult kids will carry forward the lineage of their parents with the same kind of passion. Yet some of us will not.

The film was shot in Super 16, to give it a low-budget look. The credits did not mention Dolby, but there was robust stereo in most scenes, but strangely not in the guitar scene, which looked deliberately amateurish (it was shown in the previews).

The official site for the film is here.

Here is Backstage Casting’s preview of the film.

The Weinstein Company distributed or helped make three films in this year’s Oscar stakes: this one, “The King’s Speech”, and “Fighter” (which it did jointly with Paramount and Warner Brothers).

The film is set in Carbondale, PA (near Scranton). But I thought I saw the skyline of Pittsburgh in the river scene.

The late Saturday afternoon show at the Arlington VA AMC Shirlington was about three-fourths full (in a large auditorium).

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