Saturday, April 25, 2009

SFIFF52 Day 3: Bluebeard

The 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival has begun and runs through May 7th. Each day during the festival I'll be posting about one film I've seen or am hotly anticipating.

Bluebeard (FRANCE: Catherine Breillat, 2009)

playing: 9:30 PM tonight at the Kabuki, with 1 more showtime later in the festival.
festival premiere: Berlinale 2009
distributor: none yet in the USA, that I am aware of.

There's really not much I can add to the consummate survey of critical opinion on Catherine Breillat's new film Bluebeard provided by Michael Guillén. Except perhaps a link to this more negative take provided by Arya Ponto. For my part, I liked it quite a bit, and was especially sold by the final moments. True to the director's other films, the last five minutes pack more visceral impact than the other seventy-three combined.

One thing I have to take issue with most of the other commentators, however, is the presentation of the film's scenes of two 1950s-era sisters reading Charles Perrault's fairy story as a framing device for the majority of the film's diegesis, which is given over to the unfolding of the Bluebeard tale. Perhaps it's accurate enough to call it a frame, but if so, I think it's worth noting that this is the first time I can recall seeing a framing device that begins after, and ends before, the narrative it's supposedly framing does. It's as if Breillat is guiding us to feel that the truths behind the Bluebeard myth exist and existed before it was ever put into words by Perrault or any of its retellers.

SFIFF52 Day 3
Another option: Adoration (CANADA: Atom Egoyan, 2008). Dennis Harvey makes it sound really worthwhile, as long as you don't read the last sentence of his capsule.
Non-SFIFF-option for today: Conrad in Quest of His Youth (USA: William C. de Mille, 1921) at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, which Jonathan Rosenbaum labeled as "neglected". It screens in 16mm with live piano accompaniment by Bruce Loeb.