A modern throwback to the famed troubled marriage films of Ingmar Bergman and John Cassavetes, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine depicts a crumbling marriage not only through the exquisite performances of its leads, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams but by the artful camera work by cinematographer, Andrij Parekh.
There’s been a lot of ink about Blue Valentine’s reversed NC-17 Rating (thank you Weinstein Company for appealing to the MPAA Ratings Board) and the honest, realistic portrayals by Golden Globe nominees Gosling and Williams as married couple, Dean and Cindy. However, less has been written about the brilliant look of the film. Director of Photography (D.P.) Andrij Parekh has already received film industry accolades with being named in Variety as one of “10 Cinematographers to Watch” and Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” It’s fitting, then, to give some ink to Parekh and director/co-writer Cianfrance’s visual approach to Blue Valentine.
Cianfrance has noted that Blue Valentine took over 11 years to bring to the screen. He also stated that back in 2002 he created “rules of engagement” for making the film. The rules were that scenes from the past, where Dean and Cindy meet and fall in love, would be shot entirely handheld and on super 16mm film. And to this end, D.P. Parekh visually covers their love story in a spirited documentary fashion – the shots surrounding Dean and Cindy are full of life, movement and geographic space.
The present day scenes, which span just over 24 hours of the couple’s lives in the film, are shot on the RED digital HD Camera. These digital shots are stationary, and long lenses were used to create suffocating close-ups. To show Dean and Cindy’s present-day, deteriorating relationship, Parekh showcases the two repeatedly in claustrophobic close-ups. This visualization also helps entrap the viewers into experiencing Dean and Cindy’s stifling marriage. For instance, the extreme close-ups in the car as Cindy and Dean drive to the tacky theme hotel in hopes of giving their relationship a fresh start are so intense that the audience literally squirms in their seats as Cindy’s words get twisted through Dean’s accusations.
Great films tell their stories on all cinematic levels. Blue Valentine deserves to be seen not only for its honest acting and gritty storytelling, but also for its equally important luminous camera work.
Blue Valentine is 114 minutes and Rated R.