Sunday, 8 March 2009

Goin' In Blind #6 - Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders




"Goin' In Blind is a series of reviews of movies that I had never heard of in any context before I picked them up off the (physical or virtual) DVD rental shelf. Take a look also at He Shot Cyrus' Never Heard Of It series of posts. We both independently started doing them around the same time, but his are far more interesting...


Though I have some vague memory of hearing about this film before my friend James recommended it to me, I really had no knowledge of it when I popped it up to my top slot in my zip.ca list.

It turns out that the film (directed by Jaromil Jires and released in 1970) was part of the Czech New Wave of cinema. Though a bit later than its more famous predecessors ("Closely Watched Trains", "The Firemen's Ball", etc.), it still somewhat fit the mold of how Wikipedia describes the movement:

Trademarks of the movement contain long unscripted dialogues, dark and absurd humour, and the casting of nonactors. The films touched on themes which earlier directors of communist countries could rarely push through the censors...

The film is really a series of surreal events that occur to young on-the-cusp-of-adulthood Valerie. After having her first period, Valerie seems to be faced with numerous decisions and temptations.











From her virginal white room, Valerie thinks she spies a monstrous looking character in a crowd and then begins to see him everywhere. She also has magical earrings, a boyfriend who may be her brother, a vampiric cousin and all those temptations and distractions. It's that last part that feels like a representation of what it must be like to be a young girl - pulled from many different directions and by different influences. It reminds me somewhat of The Tracey Fragments from that perspective - using visuals to attempt to convey the treacherous waters of becoming mature.















Yes, this is one of the creepier images and moments of the film...He's a priest and he's coming on to young Valerie. Ick. It's just another of the many ups and downs of Valerie's transitional mindset. You think that's bad? Wait till you get to the witch burning...

The film is very clever in using doubling to represent the different aspects of Valerie's psyche - whether it's via mirrors, frames or simply similar poses or actions seen previously. Most of my interest in the film came from these visual signifiers. Not to mention some lovely looking shots...












I'd love to see a restored version of the film to DVD to clean up the transfer and provide some more detail in the images. Though the colours seem washed out, it doesn't hurt the film that much as it adds a dream like quality to the entire length. That just helps reinforce the feeling that you've been privy to this young girl's random inner thoughts for a little over an hour. Your enjoyment of the film may hinge on whether you want to experience that - the mind of a thirteen year old girl sure seems like a messy place to be.


4 comments:

Marc Saint-Cyr said...

Wow, this looks like one interesting flick! I think I may have to add this to MY zip.ca list now. Thanks Bob!

James McNally said...

Glad you liked it Bob. I haven't even watched the whole thing yet, but I knew the images alone would make it interesting.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hey Marc...It's certainly something that sticks out from the crowd, that's for sure. I'd be curious to hear what you think if you see it.

Yep, thanks for the heads up on it James. It's not necessarily a film I would revisit often, but it's a terrific example of how film can do more than just tell a story - it can convey emotions and an entire state of mind.

Anonymous said...

amazing piece of surreality. Ty for bloggong it.