House Logo
Explore categories +

Derek Cianfrance (#110 of 4)

AFI Fest 2010: Blue Valentine

Comments Comments (...)

AFI Fest 2010: <em>Blue Valentine</em>
AFI Fest 2010: <em>Blue Valentine</em>

True love sweeps into a person’s life like a volatile weather system, bringing with it an exhilarating sense of hope and possibility. A glance might invite the first raindrop of excitement, but devotion leads to the overwhelming monsoon of extreme feelings that follow. Yet sometimes, even the truest love can’t sustain the crippling fissures of doubt, a temporal beast wearing you down one forlorn moment at a time. Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine constructs such an unsettling emotional biosphere, charting the ebbs and flows of the relationship between a blue-collar hunk named Dean (Ryan Gosling) and a fledgling university student named Cindy (Michelle Williams). Life’s joys and agonies, beginnings and ends, constantly overlap for these two, and so does the disjointed narrative timeline of Blue Valentine. Cianfrance calibrates this time shifting structure to reveal the small joys of meeting someone new, but also the horrible verbal weaponry used to permanently kill a relationship on the ropes. Juxtaposing the couple’s first meeting and their final battle, it’s clear that love and hate, hope and defeat are always standing side by side.

Cannes Film Festival 2010: Of Gods and Men, My Joy, & Blue Valentine

Comments Comments (...)

Cannes Film Festival 2010: <em>Of Gods and Men</em>, <em>My Joy</em>, & <em>Blue Valentine</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2010: <em>Of Gods and Men</em>, <em>My Joy</em>, & <em>Blue Valentine</em>

The true story of seven French monks in Northern Africa who in 1996 were kidnapped and murdered by Islamic extremists, Xavier Beauvois’s in-competition Of Gods and Men is, no more and no less, a handsomely mounted French prestige picture. Never less than perfectly competent, it’s still somber and respectful to a fault: the Cannes equivalent of Oscar bait.

Beauvois models his film’s rhythm on the monastic life, and a few moments in the monastery toward the beginning of the film have a similar meditative rhythm as Philip Gröning’s marvelous Into Great Silence. But that comparison soon falls apart, as Beauvois is less interested in humanizing the monks (played by an experienced cast of French actors that includes Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale) than in sanctifying them.

Their sacrifice—despite orders from the military to return to France, the monks stay in Africa, knowing full well they will probably not survive—may indeed have been a noble one, in keeping with their commitments to their community and their faith, but it can’t have been an easy one to make. But with the exception of a few scenes of the monks discussing the decision, we never actually see them struggle with the choice. Beauvois treats them as nobly suffering martyrs rather than as human beings, a fundamentally anti-dramatic choice that renders their decision a foregone conclusion and prevents Of Gods and Men from carrying anything close to the spiritual weight Beauvois intends.