This Friday, BLACK SWAN will move from Ritz to Lamar to make room for another beautiful and paralyzing story of emotional depth and psychological exploration with a color in the title. Their shared starkness aside, BLUE VALENTINE is a very different film from BLACK SWAN, a love story with an austere and heavy quality. "It is brutal, compassionate, beautiful in its ugliness and one of the bravest films of the year," writes Rex Reed in the New York Observer. He couldn't be more spot on.
The writer and director of the film, Derek Cianfrance, spent twelve years making this emotional story into a motion picture. In that time, he was able to pack each scene with highly concentrated emotional punches - just as with wine, this film benefitted from the fermentation of time. "Derek Cianfrance directs in a storm of feeling, as if the movie was ripped from his insides....Every scene registers poignantly," says Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. "It’s not an easy film," adds Kyle Smith of the New York Post, "but the force of its compassion is equal to the strain of its sorrows."
A lot has been made of the performances in the film, and the unusual rehearsal methods employed by the cast and crew. Cianfrance had his lead actors Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling live in the Pennsylvania house that the film was shot in for a month before shooting, living the lives of their characters. Rex Reed argues that this works in his exclamation that, "Movie intimacy reaches groundbreaking new heights...thanks to the charisma and range of two of the screen's most appealing new stars." In the USA Today, Claudia Puig notes, "Gosling and Williams have the most palpable chemistry of any screen couple this year." Peter Travers echoes this sentiment, saying that the young stars "give two of the most explosive and emotionally naked performances you will see anywhere."
One of the most startling and wonderful things about BLUE VALENTINE is its story composition. Cianfrance has organized the film with an unorthodox flashback structure, blending the icy ending of Dean and Cindy's relationship with its promising, fecund beginning. The resulting synthesis is powerful. "BLUE VALENTINE'S ingenious temporal structure is one of the best things about it. The nested time frames complement and explicate one another," writes Stevens, "The viewer's sense of slippage between timeframes echoes the couple's experience of being doomed to repeat patterns established long ago." "Those flashbacks, in context, elicit marvelously complex emotions, suggesting that what’s right and liberating at one point in a person’s life can be wrong and constricting down the road," says David Edelstein in New York Magazine.
"Because Blue Valentine announces itself as a breakup movie from the start, the most tender and happy moments between Cindy and Dean tend to be among the most devastating, too...BLUE VALENTINE sets past and present on course for a collision, and measures the full weight of its impact," says Scott Tobias at NPR.
This scene from the film, the earliest released footage, should show you of the power of these flashbacks, and how the intimacy and potential in this young romance is so dynamic:
Finally, let's leave with one last quote, courtesy of Neil Miller from Film School Rejects. "To say that this gripping film is a must see would be an understatement."