In my last post I told you about my great film challenge--to watch 20 interesting films by May 31st. Why? Because I'm studying the art of storytelling and emotional truth. I also left you hanging and promised to tell you about my favorite movie so far. Well, have no fear because I am about to keep that promise.
But first . . . I got an interesting comment in my comment box from my apostate brother, Stephen, after asking for movie suggestions:
I say be careful of foriegn movies. We have happy endings engrained in us here in American. A large percentage of the foriegn films I have watched often end in tragedy. They may be more realistic to the real world. but I like movies to help me happily escape from the world's realities.
This is exactly why I don't recommend the movie I'm going to tell you about today, even though, ironically, it had the most impact on me. It's not a feel-good movie and it doesn't help you escape reality. It's sad--like bury-your-head-in-a-towel-and-cry sad.
But I loved it. The storytelling was brilliant and the movie-making process was fascinating. And best of all, you could cut the emotional truth with a knife and spread it all over your soul like buttah!
But don't watch it. It's naughty--but not in a titillating way--and the characters drink and smoke. And they don't say heck or darn when they're angry, either. Plus their golden retriever gets hit by a car. How's that for lame-o!?
But still, I LOVED IT.
The movie is called Blue Valentine.
It looks all loverly doesn't it? That's what I thought too, but SURPRISE! It's only somewhat loverly, because you are basically experiencing the very end of a relationship, cut with flashbacks of the very beginning of the same relationship.
When I told my daughter how sad it was, she said, "Well DUH! That's why it's called BLUE Valentine and not RED Valentine!" (Such a sassy pants!)
But fer reals, if you have delicate sensibilities, avoid this movie like that plague. Especially if you don't think you can handle watching Michelle Williams yell at Ryan Gosling that it's OVER and that she doesn't have an ounce of love left for him.
Who could do that to Ryan Gosling? Especially while he's reminding her that she made a VOW to love him for better and for worse, and even though he's at his worst, he's going to get better.
The thing is, it was sad, yes, but they can't fool me by ending the movie with Ryan Gosling walking away as his daughter is being ripped out of his arms screaming, "I want daddy!" I'm seasoned at all this love and marriage stuff. I know that love doesn't just stop like that. Love is like the energizer bunny--it goes on and on and on, long, long after it's over. Love clings to life like a blood-sucking leach.
And anyway, Michelle Williams is just tired right now. And sad about her dog's death. Plus she's still sorting through all her junk--her father's loud voice, her accidental pregnancy by that jerk from college, her near abortion, and her guilt over Ryan raising the baby as his own and never doing anything with his life. She just needs a long nap and a piping hot bath. And maybe a new Mozart CD.
And I just know Ryan is going to quit drinking after he walks away, and then he'll come back better and they'll pick their love up where they dropped it and live semi-happily ever after. Amen.
As fascinating as the movie was to watch, the movie making process was even more fascinating.
(BTW, YOU CAN STOP READING NOW IF YOU HATE HEARING ABOUT FASCINATING PROCESSES.)
The writer/director Derek Cianfrance had two childhood fears--that there would be a nuclear war and that his parents would split up. They ended up divorcing when he was 20, leaving him bewildered and full of questions about where love goes and what happens to it. He started writing Blue Valentine based on these questions, but it took him 12 years to finish the film, and six years after casting Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as the leads.
Because Cianfrance wanted the film to be as authentic as possible, Ryan and Michelle never met during the six years before shooting began. Cianfrance, however, met periodically with each of them individually and had long conversations with each of them about love. The script was rewritten 64 times based on these conversations.
Once the film started shooting, there were no rehearsals and Cianfrance rarely shot a scene twice. In order for the falling in love scenes to feel spontaneous, Ryan and Michelle met for the first time and got to know each other ALL while the camera was rolling.
After the beginning of the relationship was filmed, Cianfrance quit filming for 30 days, and then he asked Ryan and Michelle to move in together for a month so they could create a history together. He also had their on-screen daughter and their dog move in with them too. They spent a whole month living together and making home movies together and arguing together. All so that the emotions of their break up would feel real during filming.
And boy did they feel real.
Here's my favorite part--a line from an interview with Cianfrance:
"Every film has its own crazy, stubborn journey to be made. I'm thankful that it took so long. I've had life experience. I've been able to sit with the ideas and meditate on them."
How cool is that!? I love that Cianfrance took his time to let the story unfold organically. A rare choice in this rat race world of entertainment we feed on, don'tcha think?