Thursday, April 15, 2010

Movie Review #10: Bluebeard (2009)

Finally, I have returned to what I love most, reviewing movies. I'd just like to let you know though as of movie reviews, they will happen once a week, but not on a specific day, so just keep an eye out! So let's get this kick started!

In a castle as tall as the mountains, seen from a girl's window, is where today's movie takes place. It's a palace filled with beautiful rooms, except for one. This room contains a secret this girl was not supposed to know, but what does she find out is the question.

So, what is today's film? Bluebeard (2009) directed by Catherine Breillat. It takes the story of Bluebeard from two perspectives, two sisters in the 50's and the main heroine of the actual fairy tale. But what makes this story ever so compelling is the counterpoints in which the two perspectives connect. Similar to that of "A Neverending Story", whatever happens within the real world of the two sisters, a similar event happens within the fairy tale, and vice versa. But does this at all make the film interesting? Generally speaking, yes.

Now, it's important to know this movie is entirely in french, with subtitles. I sadly think the translation is a bit off in sections, and feels like it might have been dumbed down for international audiences. But granted this also could have been advertised to children, since Europe is so different in their ways of showing things to anyone under the age of 10. What am I talking about exactly? There are two clear scenes with heads getting disembodied (including a duck's, which is a reference to future events but just be warned) and of course, the revel of what is in that room (no spoilers, I promise!)

But if you take away some of the profound imagery that is of a more violent nature, you truly have a film that in it's most simple form is what a real fairy tale is. A story that though involves the illusions of fantasy, can actually tell you more about real life then say what is considered "a realistic story".

I've always been one to be afraid of Bluebeard, he's definitely a very intimidating character, as he should be. But this version definitely made me feel otherwise, but why? Brelliat took someone that was considered a monster, and gave him a soul rather then just making him completely menacing. The interaction between him and our heroine was some of the most real acting I've seen in a while. I could actually believe this relationship, which is hard since in these days it would be considered taboo. When Bluebeard gives his new wife "The Key", you could feel the tension cut you right down the middle (sort of the way I feel about Offbrand and Brand, a clear divide.)

But was there ever moments of it becoming bad? Well, not exactly, but this movie does have it's flaws. Unfortunately, again, maybe it's cause I'm from America, but the editing was definitely strange. The beginning was one of the slowest introductions I've seen (Think the speed of the Godfather, but about 10 times more slow) So when it came time for all the events with Bluebeard (which I enjoyed), the editing grew too fast. I think this movie would have been much more enjoyable if they have taken out many of the tiny plot elements that never return in the final conclusion (such as the heroine's sister/mother, which dragged the film extremely) and rather focus on her relationship with Bluebeard. I will give the editor credit though on creating tension in some scenes, which seemed to be the big factor of this film, but didn't save it completely to me.

The ending was the part that got me the most in this dilemma. We were given so much information from the two little girls, and the editing was sort of getting at a good pace, but then it seems the editor gave up. I won't spoil the ending, but just be prepared to sit there and possibly be wanting a remote to rewind.

But the final verdict? Go see this movie. No offense to Alice in Wonderland, but this is the superior fantasy movie to see (so far) this year. French filmmakers, say what you will, do seem to have a great grip on fairy tale adaptations, and this film is no different. Though it's editing and pace may be a bit much at times, in its core it's definitely a must see.

So with that, La Vida Frills gives Bluebeard 4 headbows and a wristcuff (4.5) out of 5. The film is playing in select cities, and judging by it's interest, you should be able to find it eventually somewhere.

Curious what will be reviewed next? You'll just have to wait.

All photos from flickr.


  1. I tried to enjoy this movie, but somehow I couldn't. The pace was strange, the editing was odd and the end was, well, awkward.

    I didn't really like Alice, either. :X

  2. Hi, I just stepped by and saw this post, so I decided to comment :)
    I loved this movie: I am European, and I didn't find this slow at all °___° It made me wonder when you said the Godfather was slow, because if I think slowness I think stuff like Angelopoulos and Antonioni (and in these cases slowness is actually a quality, since they are both genius). Godfather is standard fast Hollywood, to me. I guess standards change quite a lot U_U
    I believe that some of the elements you suggested to cut were actually essential. The girl's mother and sister were important for me, because I feel the core of the movie is the relation between females, and not the relationship between Barbebleu and his wife. I don't know if you saw other movies by Breillat: she is a very controversial director, and one of her earlier movies focuses on two sisters' relationship (Fat girl), dealing with the ambiguous nature of such a bond. I do believe in this movie the core is again sisters: competition, resentment, hate, love, power, complicity are all accurately portrayed in the movie. I don't think this movie was shown to children in Europe, mainly because of the director's fame, but I may be wrong.
    I do believe there is a much deeper meaning that what appears on the surface: it may look like a very literal interpretation of the fairytale, but it's in this literal portayal that you can find a certain degree of irony and detachment. If you read Angela Carter she points out very well that often fairytales show the conflict between younger and older females in a pathriarcal society (in a way, the werewolf is the grandmother). Ok, I wrote too much and I wasn't really able to express myself. Anyway, I will think about it and then maybe I'll be able to truly explain my point :)

  3. Awesome response !!
    Thank you for your views, especially since they are very informative and explain a lot to me.

    Again, this makes a lot more sense reading this then the actual translation of the film we were given in the US. It's poorly put together as seen by the standards of your fabulous description.

    In terms of it being slow, I think it was more that I have ADD, and we come from an ADD driven society were I am from, hence why my opinions of slow vs. fast could be much different, at which I totally respect.

    I hope to see more of your views, and thank you for reading/responding !!