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Mimile gives us our first review of Cassel's BLUEBERRY!!!

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.  

That’s it!

If you publish this call me Mimile. .

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 12, 2004, 6:48 a.m. CST

    Comme on le dirait en Francais...

    by PacinoHatersGoHo

    C'est une plante! Sinon, le film a l'aire vachement interessant.

  • Feb. 12, 2004, 6:49 a.m. CST


    by phanboi

    Actually, your grammar was pretty decent ... in the end it was better than most of the so-called-reviewers on this site.

  • Feb. 12, 2004, 8:04 a.m. CST

    an incredible movie

    by jimibrigns

    I saw blueberry yesterday and I think its the most incredible french movie I ever seen. It's masterpiece and I'm happy that a french director as the balls to do a movie so respectfull to the indian culture and so unique. To me it's like 2001 (a space odissey) made by sergio Leone. Ps:excuse my english.

  • I was quite excited about the making of this having enjoyed the comics...until I saw the trailer: WTF?!? No matter how good it might be as a film, if you sell it as something it's not (in this case an adaptation) then you're bound to disappoint people. And frankly the trailer looks boring anyway.

  • Feb. 12, 2004, 11:40 a.m. CST

    The changes to the comic book...

    by The UnGod

    actually bring this closer to Moebieus' science fiction works. I'm willing to give it a chance. Could it really be more Moebius than Moebius?

  • Feb. 12, 2004, 2:38 p.m. CST

    Altered States: The Western

    by Christopher3

    Sounds like.

  • Feb. 12, 2004, 6:02 p.m. CST

    Still haven't recovered from the "experiment"

    by Lynx77

    I'm French, I love movies and I'm a fan of both westerns and Blueberry comic books. And I must say this movie has been a major disappointment in all those topics. Here in France, the movie was called "Blueberry : the secret experiment" and that should have given me some warnings about what was going to happen. The script was inspired (in the beginning, a long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away) by maybe the best episodes in the whole series of books, the 2 parts "the Mine of the lost German" and "the ghost with golden bullets". Even when I heard rumors about the damn chamanic experience Kounen went through, there was still PLENTY of room for that if you are a skilled storyteller. You could get your message across to the viewers, and still deliver the goods. I have seen Kounen's first work in motion picture (a movie called DOBERMANN) and my opinion at the time was : "skillfull director, but the story lacks direction". I was waiting for Blueberry to really make my mind about the guy, and I'll say this, the trouble with Blueberry lies with Jan Kounen. He took that movie, that script, and rewrote it to accomodate his vision, his message. I don't feel bad about that, that's what every director should do in my opinion. I'm just mad because he didn't have the guts to use a virgin canvas to do it. Using chamanic experience on a character who has so much background as Blueberry, it's like writing a novelization about Han Solo and saying he was an accountant working for the Empire. Jan Kounen negated 30 years (the 1st book came out in 1973) of storytelling, just for pushing forward a message that only 2% of movie-goers will understand. And if he had at least delivered an OK movie, there could be room for forgiveness, but no! Apart from the beautiful landscapes and the expert filming sequences, most of the movie (outside of the "experiment") is incredibly boring. Characters running around like headless chickens, with no idea whatsoever of they're doing here. Michael Madsen in a downward spiral, Juliette Lewis adlibing her part (what about that full-frontal, totally gratuitious shot in the end? What the fuck was that?). The catch? If this had been sold as a movie about chamanic visions, there would have been 637 viewers in all of France. But since they're selling a Blueberry movie, with a light possibility of a faint and remote telling of chamanic experiences, tens of thousands will go, and never come back. This just kills any possibility of one day, having a movie doing justice to this character. And when I read those reviews saying "I didn't quite get it, but that was something" I'm like "I'll tell you what it is, 2hrs and 10 mns of wasted time in my life". The pseudo-art reviews is what I hate most in a French movie. People think that if they don't get it, "oh, it must be art". No, it's just some dumb-ass who doesn't know how to tell a story in an interesting way, and tries to drown it in pseudo-philosophical babble so that you won't notice. Vincent Cassel is the major disappointment in all, because strangely enough, after a while, I could just picture him as the character, he has that kind of talent. Unfortunatly, his talent is drowned in the overdose of special effects representing "the experiment". And there you were, saying "Enough with this abuse of CGI in modern movie-making". Well, it seems somebody didn't the message. There are some movies that are so bad they actually feel good watching : this one doesn't even make the cut. My worst nightmare : being forced to watch a 4hrs Director's Cut Enhanced DVD Edition (unless you provide the mushroom to go along, of course).

  • Feb. 12, 2004, 6:08 p.m. CST

    Shamanic experiences vs. acid trips

    by godoffireinhell

    I'm an idiot so could someone explain the difference?

  • Feb. 12, 2004, 6:32 p.m. CST


    by Danger Mouse

    I can't wait! I LOVED the comic (I'm a big fan of a lot of Euro comics).

  • Feb. 12, 2004, 8:04 p.m. CST

    sounds interesting

    by jackburtonlives

    a mixing of genres can often be productive and give interesting results. jean reno has had his BIG BLUE, but i think kassel is still looking for the film that will take him off the B list and put him on the A list. et sans monica... bof... c'est peut-etre pas la peine de regarder :)

  • Feb. 14, 2004, 1:32 a.m. CST

    For some reason, I hate Vincent Cassel.

    by Mosquito March

    I don't even know why. I can just tell he's one movie star I would never, ever want to meet in a million years. Something about that guy just rubs me the wrong way.

  • Feb. 14, 2004, 7:20 a.m. CST


    by Marsellus

    I usually write my rare talkbacks in English, even if I'm French. But sorry, today we're talking about Blueberry,and though it's a "western" whose action takes place in the US, it's a bloody French movie, and I'm proud of that so from now on I'll speak French. Nom de Dieu quel film! Ou plut

  • Feb. 14, 2004, 8:34 a.m. CST

    Doberman rules!

    by chien_sale

    That was the first flick I saw of Kounen and you have never seen a crime movie until you`ve seen a really gritty french one like this thing, Doberman. Badass, action, iconic. And it`s not to be "cool", everytime it connect it`s because it has to. Kounen is the only guy I would trust giving a progect called "Batman" to.

  • Feb. 16, 2004, 4:55 a.m. CST

    Newspapers said "It sucked"

    by Jugulator

    This movie had the worst reviews ever in local newspapers. It is badly edited, badly dubbed in French and just sucks ! I did not go to see it because they only show the French dubbed version (which I cannot stand).

  • Feb. 19, 2004, 10:52 a.m. CST

    why it's called "blueberry"

    by mimilemp

    Hi! for those who wonder why the movie is called blueberry even if it's quite different from the comics : 1. the main characters exist in the comics (blueberry, prosit) 2.even if the movie is "loosely based" on the comics, both the shamanic story and the "mountains of gold" story are featured in the comics. 3.jan didn't want to call his movie "blueberry" actually. it's working title was "muraya l'exp