Blue Eyelids (Párpados azules, Mexico, 2007)

Trying to connect

Trying to connect

It’s good to see films about the marginalised in cinema. In this case the characters are, I suspect, hardly at the margins in society though they are in cinema: the lonely. If lonely people are to be portrayed then we should be able to sympathise with them, however the protagonists of this film are so vacuous that it’s no wonder they have no close relationships. So empty, in fact, that they take their cue from a film, the titular Blue Eyelids, on what to say and what music to listen to. They don’t even talk about the weather and there is a lot of rain.

Then there’s the old woman, a sort of fairy godmother, who dispatches birds to keep the lovebirds together. If that sounds magical you would be mistaken as it comes across as absurd. I may be missing something: is it an anti-romance, creating expectations before emptying them out of the film? Certainly the scene with Marina’s sister appeared to come from a telenuevola, and the meeting of the protagonists is as inevitable as a film ending (this one didn’t end quickly enough), but there was no satisfaction when the characters did get together: was that the point? It included a brilliant ‘excruciatingly bad sex’ scene but that was the ‘high’ point.

Maybe the mangled genre conventions and clunking narrative would not have mattered if it’d been directed with any competence. During Marina’s and Victor’s first meal together, in a restaurant, the camera dollies back as if leaving them; then dollies back for the non-conversation, that the characters habitually have, to continue. At a bar, the dancing is shown by two right-to-left pans and a right-to-left tracking shot, interspersed by ‘mangled’ montage (by that I mean the shots appeared random in seeming to isolate people, who would be significant later in the scene, but who in fact weren’t). A scene in a park is interspersed by ‘establishing’ shots outside the park; extreme close ups, with shallow depth of fields, were the norm but I don’t know why.

This was bad narratively and stylistically or was I missing something? Comments below.

PS Roy Stafford found more to like than me.

Appaloosa (US, 2008)

Men together

Men together

It’s good to see Westerns still being made as it’s probably the most mythic of Hollywood genres; that is, the ideological machinations are so near the surface that the subtext is barely submerged. What does Ed Harris (director, star, co-scriptwriter and co-producer) make of it?

Its rather meandering narrative switches between a variety of generic tropes: the rancher vs townspeople (assuming ranching is what Jeremy Irons’ villain – Randall Bragg – does); the good sheriff against the bad guys; the chase with Indians thrown in; the eventual dismissal of the the good men of violence as corporate corruption takes hold of the town (Bragg is cosying up with the towns’ aldermen). None of these really takes hold as it’s the buddy movie (Harris and Viggo Mortensen) that dominates and the narrative disruption is created by Renee Zellweger’s floosy. Actually Zellweger’s character is more well-drawn than the term suggests; her attraction to the ‘top man’ is shown to be driven by fear.

If the film sounds a bit of a mish-mash then that’s what it is. Shoot-outs are included but the parts are greater than the whole: Dean Semler’s cinematography captures the bright blue sky, and browns of the land, beautifully; Harris’ direction uses the widescreen well; the leads’ performances are appropriately taciturn.

SPOILER: What is it speaking ideologically? Like many examples of the genre, it is misogynist; Harris’ Virgil Cole’s attraction to Zellweger’s Allison French threatens to demasculate him (he has to choose material for curtains) and his relationship with Mortensen’s Everett Hitch (as usual, the characters’ names in Westerns are great) cannot continue with her around. In its mangling of tropes Appaloosa is a very (post?)modern Western but its sexual politics are similar to those of the classics.