Hey folks, Harry here... this is a film that's highly anticipated among those that love the original Giraud comic/magazine work. This sounds absolutely wonderful. Exactly how I had hoped it would turn out. Trippy - bizarre and not for everyone. ZACTLY! Here ya go...
Long time reader, first time contributor…
Monday night I was at the French premiere of Jan Kounen’s “Blueberry” and I thought I’d give you a little review. I don’t know when the movie’ll be out in the States, but in my opinion, this one really deserves to be supported.
First let me apologize in advance for the grammatical mistakes I may make, especially if I get too excited during the review.
Let’s get one thing straight : this is no western. I would even go as far as to say that this is a true UFO in the cinema landscape. You have never seen and probably never will see a movie quite like “Blueberry”. Which doesn’t mean that it’s a masterpiece, far from it, but the vision (no pun intended) of the director is truly unique, and that’s why I really encourage everyone to go and see the movie to support this project.
I haven’t read the comics the movie is “loosely based on”, but I think it’s just as well, because apart from the main characters, the treatment of “Blueberry” has not much to do with Jean Giraud’s work. (He admitted it himself in the masterclass he did with Vincent Cassel and Jan Kounen on Saturday, and that I was fortunate enough to attend).
I don’t want to make a novel out of this review, but basically, Jan Kounen has worked 5 good years on this project. And along the way, he went through a life changing experience meeting shamans in Peru. This made the movie go into a completely different direction.
Because what you’ll notice very soon in the movie, is that Kounen isn’t really interested in the classic western good-guy-against-bad-guy, (in this case : bad-guys-are-after-some-gold-in-the-mountains-and-good-guy-has-to-stop-them) pseudo-plot that he develops at the beginning. The core of the movie is Mike Blueberry’s journey to the truth through shamanism. This is what Jan Kounen experienced in Peru, as well as the lead actor, Vincent Cassel. And this is the reason why in my modest opinion, “Blueberry” probably won’t enjoy the commercial success the producers are hoping for.
Here’s why : the main objective of the director was to show the “visions” experienced by Blueberry as realistically as possible. The term “realistic” is probably not a good one, but I think you’ll get my point. This is done through special effects helmed by Rodolphe Chabrier and his company McGuff. The guy knows what he’s talking about, because he had shamanic experiences as well, and he worked in collaboration with Cassel, Kounen and a real shaman (who plays a small part in the movie) to show as accurately as possible what the visions look like in reality (oops, I used the R. word again). The amazing thing is that everybody sees basically the same things : snakes, hydras, etc. and Chabrier tried to show that in the movie. The effects are amazing, but there’s a small problem, there are some sections of the movie (I have no idea how long they last, but maybe 5-10 minutes each) where the real world as we know it disappears and we’re completely immersed, with the character, in those visions.
It takes a complete leap of faith for the viewers to forget everything you know, or think you know, or imagine visions such as these would be, just trust the filmmaker and get into the experience.
After seeing the movie, one of my friends told me that the directors “lost” her because the visions scenes should have been slower and keep in touch a little bit with reality. I understand her opinion, cause I didn’t get into it completely as well (I thought the visions lasted a little bit too long, and since we don’t really know what’s happening and what, for instance, the hydra represents, it’s hard to stay “in” the movie); but what you have to understand is that it doesn’t matter if we are lost in some scenes, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t seem real, because what Kounen did is that he refused to compromise in order to have a more audience-friendly movie. He decided to show the visions as realistically as possible, and even if we imagine visions to be kind of in slow motion and to make sense; in reality they don’t. They look exactly like that (well, at least as close as possible to what people experience in those cases).
Now that I got that out of the way, let me give you a little summary, and a rundown on the strengths and weaknesses of the movie.
Mike (the great Vincent Cassel) is a marshal in the small town of Palomito. When he was young his great love was killed because of a guy called Wally Blount. After that, he was taken in by an Indian tribe for a while. He discovered this culture, learned their language and even though he now lives in “civilization”, he still keeps a strong connection with this culture. At the beginning of the movie we are introduced to Prosit, a German looking for a gold mine in the region. And then Wally Blount comes back into Mike’s life…
This is basically the plot, not that it really matters…
The movie starts as a typical western, and Kounen directs it beautifully. It’s obvious he loves the country he’s filming and its inhabitants. The images are just amazing. I guess it’s a preview for the documentary (“Other worlds”) Kounen filmed before directed “Blueberry”. But anyway, as a western, “Blueberry” is pretty solid : great landscapes, music, costumes, characters, and actors. Let’s stay on the actors for a while. There’s no casting mistake, everyone is great here. But Vincent Cassel as “Blueberry” steals the show. There is no doubt in my mind that he was born to play this character. It took a lot of guts to put him in the lead, given the fact that Blueberry is an American cowboy and Cassel a French non-cowboy, but he really delivers a great performance. Among the rest of the cast, Jan Kounen is also very good in a very small part and Eddie Izzard does well with a pretty despicable character.
But after one hour or so, Kounen leaves aside the western plot and focuses on the “psychological quest” of the character. That’s one of the weaknesses of the movie, because in my mind some characters were left aside and the movie might have been more balanced if it had focused on this plot rather than on the visions. But then again, it would have been much less special.
I don’t know if this review will make you want to watch the movie, but take my word for it, and go! Jan Kounen really has guts, and a unique voice in cinema. This is a UFO, but a very likeable one, worth 10 pre-processed mainstream movies.
And last but not least, a few words of advice
1. For those of you who speak French, try to get your hands on the special edition that the French version of “Premiere” did on the movie. They explain extensively how the special effects were made, and give a lot of anecdotes. That’s priceless
2. When you see the movie, try to sit close to the screen to really get into the visions scene. That’s not my advice, but Rodolphe Chabrier’s, who did the special effects.
3. See it twice! At least… That’s what I’m gonna do as soon as I get the chance. The first vision (sorry, I couldn’t help making the pun) isn’t enough to really GET the movie.
4. If Jan Kounen’s documentary “Other worlds” is released in your country, I’d advise to go and see it. I think it will explain the movie a lot and make us experience it at another level.
If you publish this call me Mimile. .