When you look back over the past 100+ years of movie making... you have to admit that there have been some really great Westerns.
BLUEBERRY is one of them, but not for the reasons you might think.
I love westerns! But the problem that I've always had with the WESTERN.... is that for the most part, the stories are all the same.
Oh sure, there are enough subtleties and differences to make each film different from the others, but there are also far too many clichés and similarities as well.
Everybody rides a horse.... the main character carries a 6-shooter or shotgun and is quite handy with it... there's always some dispute over a gold mine or a railway and the main hero always has to save the town from some evil sheriff, group of bandits, unscrupulous land baron or pack of Apaches...
Oh yeah... let's not forget the town drunk, the cowardly townspeople and the local hooker with the heart of gold scenarios so common in these films as well, to say nothing of the all-consuming driving force behind almost all of these movies: REVENGE! It's ALWAYS about REVENGE! These are common elements that are seen in 97% of every western out there and because we're all kind of tired of seeing the same movies over and over again... Hollywood has sort of stopped making the western altogether. I mean really... name me a western in which these elements are NOT involved! When I was a kid.... I remember watching a movie called THE VALLEY OF GWANGI. I was young, so of course, the RAY HARRYHAUSEN effects were top-notch and I absolutely loved the movie. I also loved the fact that Hollywood had gone and produced a "mixed-media" film and we had what was probably the first (and only....) COWBOY/DINOSAUR movie to ever be made.
Ridiculous? Sure it was! But even back then in the VALLEY OF GWANGI, Hollywood realized that they were going to have to do something about the traditional "WESTERN" to keep it alive.
Recently, I watched a film called DEAD BIRDS. It was a WESTERN/HORROR movie and I was intrigued because I had never seen this combination before... and I thought it had a lot of potential (it does.... but DEAD BIRDS fails to deliver).
For a genre that helped popularize the term "GHOST TOWN" you'd think there'd be a few more HORROR/WESTERNS out there.... so when the makers of DEAD BIRDS decided to mix the media for what should have been a fantastic movie (like RAVENOUS was....) you'd think they'd have better results.
I'm not the kind of movie-goer that insists on WESTERNS being WESTERNS or WAR films being WAR films. I have no issue at all with movie-makers "mixing" the elements and genres as long as the story is plausible, well thought out and well acted.
BLUEBERRY is a thoroughly enjoyable film. It deserves to be watched with an open mind and the understanding that it is not a straight-forward, standard, run of the mill, shoot-em-up western. The answers are not all "easy" or "cut and dry" and the good guys don't always wear white and win in the end.
Many people probably looked at the DVD case for this film and took it home expecting an "UNFORGIVEN" or an episode of "DEADWOOD" but the truth is that the makers of BLUEBERRY have found a way to meld science/fiction/fantasy with the traditional western without making it goofy or silly like GWANGI or DEAD BIRDS.
They're trying to keep the traditional western alive by bringing a little bit of originality and creativity to the genre.
It's not your typical western and if you go in expecting it to be, you will be disappointed. Visually, the film is excellent and the performances are quite good too. My only problem with this film is the inclusion of Michael Madsen and even then, only because he plays the same character he's played in every movie he's ever been in.
Madsen has become a self parody and should take some acting lessons so he might have greater success in convincing me that he isn't always either sad, angry or indifferent in every scene he's in. As an actor, Madsen makes Keannu Reeves look like the Laurence Olivier of our times.
Give BLUEBERRY (RENEGADE) a try...
P.S. For those of you who have read the BLUEBERRY comic strips and expect an exact adaptation.... you'll also be disappointed! Leave all expectations at the door and just enjoy the film for what it is, even if it takes you 2 or 3 viewings to "get" what it is in the first place.
My summary is not meant to imply that the film has fantastic production values or that it's visually stunning... it isn't. I mean that in order to fully appreciate the film... you might have to understand the "world" in which it exists.
The "ART" world.
I like Terry Zwigoff and really, really want to enjoy every movie he puts out. I thought CRUMB was astounding and GHOSTWORLD is also one of my favorite dramas ever. I even think that BAD SANTA was a good film and showed that Zwigoff wasn't going to be tied down to source material from one, certain, particular genre.... comics.
Having said that, I think ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL is made for a really, quirky and specific audience.
Anyone can see it... and SOME will appreciate it because it "speaks" to them on a personal level, but I think most people won't sympathise with the characters unless they've personally delved a little bit, into THAT particular world themselves.
In other words.... while I liked "GLENNGARRY GLENROSS" as a movie when I first saw it (as a GRAPHIC DESIGNER)...... I didn't really, REALLY understand "GLENNGARRY GLENROSS" as a movie until years later when I got into SALES and watched it again.
I suppose the screenwriter or director of ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL can be blamed for not "homogenizing" the characters a bit more. Perhaps the characters could have been a bit more developed for a greater, broader appeal that would endear them to artists and non-artists in the audience alike....
But to an artist in the audience.... I found that for me, the characters are actually only too "fully-fleshed". Not because of character development, but because I went to school with these people and have actually gone on to deal with them day after day since I graduated.
The first half of the film is actually quite a revealing example of human nature and how we interact with one another as individuals trying to find that one thing that differentiates us from one another.
The second half... falls apart (even for an "artist") Clowes, (who wrote the source material...) is an artist writing about an artist for an audience of artists (let's face it... readers of "GRAPHIC NOVELS" tend to be "artistic") I don't think Daniel Clowes was too concerned with ACCOUNTANTS or DOCTORS "getting" his graphic novel.
I also don't think that ZWIGOFF strayed too far from the story that CLOWES has told and the end result is a film that caters largely to people who have attended art school or work in an "arts" industry.
I went to art school.... so a lot of this stuff rang true to me and while I have to admit the film started to fall apart for me in the second half... I can honestly say that it's nowhere NEAR the worst film I've ever seen.
ZWIGOFF has done better... but ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL is still worth a look as the performances are quite solid by all parties involved.
I give it a 7 out of 10, but I can't recommend the film to those who haven't experience ART SCHOOL in real life. You MIGHT like the movie, but the characters will be enigmas to you. They will seem superficial and 2-dimensional at best. I think you'll find the characters are not as fleshed out as they need to be in order for this film to work for you.
What can I say? Not as bad as many here have made it out to be. The only reason I even watched this film that I had previously never heard of before, was strictly for IAN McSHANE.
I was not disappointed in the least. IAN McSHANE was absolutely brilliant and brings an amazing subtlety to his role. He's always great to watch and for my money... an extremely underused actor.
As for the rest of the film.... Every other actor in the movie delivered strong, solid performances. These people certainly weren't being paid huge amounts of cash for their participation (as this was a fairly low budget film) but this did not mean that any of them "mailed" their appearances in. Everyone was convincing and compelling with the parts given to them.
I was even pleasantly surprised at ADRIAN PAUL's performance though I must admit I have only ever seen him in the HIGHLANDER Television series before this movie.
The plot was well paced and the storyline intriguing and much like real life, not everything ends up tied in a nice neat little package for you at the end of the film. Anybody who expected a clear-cut, by-the-numbers, connect the dots "conclusion" or "answer" at the end of the movie... CLEARLY wasn't watching the film closely enough! This film is not going to tell you what the "meaning of life" is! The idea is that after seeing the film, you might go and discuss the unanswered questions with your friends over a coffee. I certainly did.
No car chases... No explosions... No bar room brawls.... (sounds pretty dull, huh?) But the reality is that I was completely absorbed by the film and it's just a well written little piece with an interesting hook and solid character performances by all parties involved.
****** WARNING...****** If you're the kind of person who dislikes movies that dangle an enormous "question" as the central engine of the story and then end the movie without answering that particular question directly...