Blue Valentine (2010)

“Blue Valentine” (2010)


bitter sex

A film like this is the positive consequence of many things that have happened in cinema for the last decades. You see, cinema is, of course, a baby art. It’s core, as far as i can see it, is visual narrative. Telling stories in itself started a long time ago. The possibilities that moving images opened are just now being found about. One of the major visual revolutions was the possibility of breaking the narrative, something literature has recently been doing. Citizen Kane was not by far Orson Welles’ best film, but it shook things and broke practically every rule that preceded it. Since than, we’ve had multiple experiments with breaking narratives (something usually incorrectly referred to as “non-linear” story-telling). Kurosawa, Wong Kar Wai made priceless developments after Kane. Welles exceeded himself multiple times. Iñarritu, Kaufman have been playing important games with it. Even Haggis made things that mattered. So now, the book is pretty far from being fully written, but it’s opened. It’s possible to do convincing solid work by mere extrapolation. This film is there. It’s a solid piece of modern storytelling, perfectly referenced to its important predecessors, following through known paths, without actually innovating. But it’s a joy to see how well these narrative principles have stuck.

The really superlative thing about this film is elsewhere. The acting is superb, by Williams and Gosling, yes. They exceed, they do something i’d never seen any of them do in their careers, in terms of commitment, cheer passion, delivery. It works, and that’s a relatively rare thing, so we should celebrate this just for that.

*spoilers* But it’s the subtleties of the story, the sensitivity of its dark corners, the ultimate irony of its twists and consequences that will shake you. Start with a relatively normal drama, about a prematurely pregnant woman, forced to resign to some dreams, but ultimately finding a stable happiness with someone (not the child’s father) who loves her. Years after the relation reaches deep conflict, they split, the end. Now this is fragmented and told by bits. The writing is sensitive, this is solid filmmaking in its own right. But what’s truly painful is how sex is inserted into the traditional drama and its symbolic rules inverted. There are 2 moments of sex on-screen:

One is when the child is conceived against the mother’s wish, with the indifference of the father. That sex is from behind, passionless, mechanic and, in the moment when it’s inserted in the story, painful for us, because we know where it will lead, we know the pain it causes in her future husband, we know how important it will be. So this is a great example of how breaking the story enhances its dramatic effect.

The second moment of sex is a unfulfilled, rough and ultimately frustrated act, in the motel, when we sense the loving couple is on the verge of breaking up. This is missionary sex, but delivered in a fragmented tough way, the way a drunk would sense it, the way 2 desperate people would do it. Again, its painfully drawing the story to an end, which we know will not be happy.

This is one of the best uses of sex on-screen i’ve ever seen. That’s the power of this film.

The trailer is remarkable.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb


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