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Latin American Cinema, Melodrama, Mexican Cinema, Romance

Blue Eyelids, Mexico 2007

Victor and Marina on a muted picnic date.

Victor and Marina on a muted picnic date.

Nick thought this was one of the worst films he’d ever seen. I’m not sure. I did find some passages excruciating, but then the story involves two socially inept people attempting to create a relationship and their awkwardness is effectively represented. My main difficulty with the film is that I’m not sure exactly what kind of film it is meant to be  – it contains social comedy, romance and drama and has some kind of relationship with melodrama as well as a sense of surrealism and possibly mystery. There is no reason why a classification should be easy to make but here there is an uncomfortable mixture that needs a highly skilled director to keep everything in check. Ernesto Contreras is a first time feature director (of his brother’s script) and I wonder if this is the problem?

The two protagonists are Marina, a 30-something sales assistant in a store selling uniforms for catering staff and Victor, a man of a similar age working as an office assistant in a large insurance company. Their meeting and subsequent conventional dates – a picnic, cinema trip, dancing etc. could have formed the basis for an uneventful courtship drama, but one given an emotional charge by their desperation and the opportunities for a kind of grim comedy. However, the story is framed by another narrative, that of Marina’s elderly employer, a woman who was herself saved from a desperate marriage by her ‘magical’ discovery of sewing skills and an entrepreneurial spirit. The ‘inciting incident’ in the narrative is the employer’s decision to offer a prize draw for all her employees with a two-week beach holiday for two as the prize. Marina wins the draw (made by a pet caged bird) and has to find a partner for the holiday.

As I struggled to read the film, I was troubled by two concerns. The first was the overall filming style. It did look as if director, cinematographer and editor had a specific approach in mind that involved fairly muted colours for the interiors, a play with shallow fields of focus and occasional pull backs to long shots. But quite a lot of the time, this didn’t work. In the picnic scene I waited for some significance to the long shots of traffic, but apart from showing what a poor choice of picnic spot it was, I couldn’t see any reason for the shot selection. In other restaurant scene, I have to agree with Nick that camerawork and editing were simply poorly executed.

My other problem is perhaps tied up with my own perceptions of Mexican cinema – my expectations have been heightened by films that are generally melodramas, political satires or horror/thrillers. The device of bookending the narrative with the employer’s story (heavily dependent on the caged-bird metaphor) meant that I was looking for the slightly surreal/mystery element that you might find in one of Saki’s short stories or in one of Buñuel’s Mexican films. Probably it isn’t there, but I’m still not sure.

Blue Eyelids (Marina wears make-up for the climactic date) won a couple of festival awards and several reviewers have praised the film highly. I’m not sorry I watched it, but I suspect that it wouldn’t stand too much close scrutiny in a second viewing.

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