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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

It’s not what I wanted it to be…

Last night I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about Blue Valentine.  She wasn’t a fan of the film because she wanted it to be more than it was.  She was disappointed by the fact that the storyline isn’t particularly original or mining new material.  Basically, she wanted to experience something new in the pantheon of dramas about the dissolution of a relationship.

I both agreed and disagreed.  Part of me wishes that it wasn’t just a film about a typical, uneducated, blue-collar couple that are – from the get-go – not destined to be in a happy relationship.  What I’ve longed to see for years and years – and which fiction, film, theater, etc. have never been able to pull off – is a realistic portrait of how a happy relationship comes apart.  In stories of this nature depicted in fiction, like Blue Valentine or Revolutionary Road or Carnal Knowledge, it’s pretty clear that because of the characters involved and their different personality traits that these couplings are not going to last.  I think it’s fairly easy to take disparate characters and jam them together just because they’re attractive or because one of them is pregnant and then show the ramifications later on.  I suppose this is the reality for a lot of people that wind up with partners they don’t stay with, but I think a large portion of relationships die for more complex reasons than that.  And those deaths aren’t usually the result of one big thing or several big things, but rather a slow disintegration of passion and love.  Blue Valentine, as much as I really enjoyed it, does the typical move: it shows us the beginning and the end.  But as anyone who has ever been in a relationship, the real meat is in the middle.

However, that’s not what Blue Valentine purports to be about.  It sets out to do something specific and does it, so does that mean I should critique it for what I wanted it to be and wasn’t?  However, that’s a slippery slope as a film critic because then I could just apply that same logic to a film like Transformers and say that it’s a good film because it does exactly what it sets out to do.

So I think ultimately, we have to take into account what we want a film to be.  A film like Blue Valentine hits us hardest when we find ourselves relating to the characters.  The scene in the Future Room is a masterpiece because practically everyone I know can relate to one or both of those characters in that scene at one point in their life.  But, as a whole, I find it hard to relate to either character because they make decisions that I wouldn’t make and do a lot of stupid things, which is excused by the fact that they’re not particularly well-educated.  For once, I would like to see a film about well-educated people who make the right decisions in their lives and it still doesn’t work out.

So, who’s gonna be the filmmaker to volunteer for that job?

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas