Friday, February 18, 2005


Blueberry is exciting precisely because it is such a strange blend of styles and genres. The Heaven's Gate to the Mind's Eye? With it's glossy and aztecian CGI butting up against some of the most textured hickory and tumbleweed cinematography I've ever seen, the film is schizophrenic to say the least. At times I felt like I was watching Les Pacte Des Loups juxtaposed on top of The Beastmaster while Dancing with Wolves. Blueberry (the american DVD I watched was titled Renegade) features an eccentric cast comprised entierly of international character actors: Colm Meany (Ireland), Geoffrey Lewis (US), Temura Morrison (New Zealand), Djimon Hounsou (West Africa), Eddie Izzard (England), Tchecky Karyo (who i don't even think I spotted anywhere in the movie), Juliette Lewis and Ernest Borgnine. There is one real star, Vincent Cassel. And really, he is only really famous in France if you discount his small role in Oceans 12 as the Night Fox.
Cassel playes Mike Blueberry, who arrives in Cheyenne country from Louisana (he's Cajun, not Francais) to work on his uncles farm. Very quickly he falls in love with a local prostitute who is murdered in the course of a scuffle between Blueberry and a dangerous trigger-happy lunatic, played laconically by Michael Madsen (somewhere between Mr. Blonde and Budd Sidewinder from the Tarantino-verse). Mike is a weird looking protagonist with his skinny bearded face, hawklike nose and francophone-cowpoke accent. Somehow, the look is perfect for this material.
For a movie based on a comic book, typical comic-to-film conventions are very much left behind the euro-art feel. The film is grainy and rich, you can almost feel the old dusty wood, the waterfalls, the rocky buttes and scrubby plains leap out of the screen. A full frontal nude scene of Juliette Lewis under water feels arty. Some of the most gorgeous prostitutes you've ever seen in a beaten western town feels comic book. The western details and set design of the town feels quite authentic, strangely enough, even with all the central europeans walking around. On top of the several french immigrants, there is also a German geologist/cartographer (Izzard) and an African cowboy (Hounsou) who would feel more at home in Sam Raimi's Quick and the Dead, especially an encounter with the injuns on sacred land.
The final showdown is trippy CGI-laden Billy Jack shamanism which was both surprisingly effective and somewhat anticlimatic. It was original in it's own way and absolutely worth a look for off-beat and unpredictiable (to say the least!) western.

Because I spent much of the running time during the film waiting for Crispin Glover, Lance Henrickson and Michael Wincott to walk on screen, I'm going to say that Blueberry would make a great double bill with Jim Jarmush's Dead Man.


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