Blueberry Movie Review

Moebius, aka Jean Giraud, is best known as the artist who revolutionized Continental comic books in the 1960s and 1970s. His work, highly stylized and fittingly surreal, is synonymous with science fiction illustration and the premier adult fantasy comic magazine, Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal, in the states.) While he began his work as an illustrator for various French magazines and fanzines, it wasn't until the 1970s, when he adopted the pen name Moebius, that his work became internationally recognized. Despite his frequent forays into science fiction and fantasy, his western strip Blueberry (with Jean-Michel Charlier) is perhaps his best-known work. While Mike Blueberry, the cowboy hero of the eponymous strip, has traveled the dusty back roads for over 30 years there has not been a film adaptation of his adventures until now.

Jan Kounen, the Dutch cause celebre responsible for the hyperactive cult film Dobermann, tackles the epic story of Blueberry with a careful, almost blissed out style - much to the dismay of fans of his earlier work. Blueberry is a meditative work, a somnambulist's ramble through western history and psychedelica. The film is slowly paced but crescendos in a special effects blowout, a literal celluloid peyote trip, which would make Alejandro Jodorowsky jump with joy. (That isn't a random aside, Blueberry is as close an homage to Jodorowsky's El Topo as a big budget western can get.)

Mike Blueberry (Vincent Cassel) is a weary lawman raised by Native Americans trying to keep the peace in the wild west of the 1870s. The town he oversees is populated by a motley bunch of scoundrels and caricatures: Rolling Bear (wheelchair bound Ernest Borgnine) and his son Billy the Idiot (Jan Kounen), McClure (a horribly coifed Colm Meaney), Mariah (Juliette Lewis) a regular Calamity Jane (Mariah's father, Sullivan, is played by Juliette Lewis' father Geoffrey Lewis), Prosis (Eddie Izzard) a geologist/con-man, Woodhead (Djimon Hounsou) Prosis' scalped African partner and Blount (Michael Madsen) a cold-hearted killer with a long and sordid history with our hero. Throw in a mysterious manuscript, a treasure, lots of mescaline, a Lovecraftian demon, flying lizards, and numerous journeys into the "spirit world," and Blueberry quickly moves from western to weird.

Upon its theatrical release last year, Blueberry was both lambasted by critics and jeered by audiences - the acting, the cinematography, the plot, the special effects, all ridiculed. And yet the film, viewed outside the world of Moebius' comics, is actually an arresting piece of cinema. Kounen is a provocateur; he enjoys pushing the envelope and pushing audiences. While Blueberry lacks the fireworks and fancy footwork of Dobermann, it is just as jarring and experimental a film. Kounen remakes the western; he sets up and then deconstructs the traditional western tropes of revenge and honor, expansion and settlement. Like Antonia Bird's brilliant Ravenous, Blueberry a western film that really isn't about the west at all - it's about ideas and images, indecipherable and unrefined. During the filming of Blueberry, Kounen had a transformation of sorts; he discovered shamanism and the Shipibo-Conibos culture of Peru. And this oozes into the film, pulsing at its core. Like Jodorowsky and Herzog before him, Kounen has discovered himself in the film he has made.

Blueberry is a film most people will absolutely detest. It's "bad art," they'll say. That's fine, for the rest of us there's always a haven in the appreciation of "bad art."

Aka Renegade.

Comments

newvision7777's picture

newvision7777

As a filmmaker, I found this movie to be beautiful...the cinematography, editing, and scenery show incredible pre-production work...the scene where Mike falls off the horse wipes with Mike´s head and the background hills having the same shape...this is good film, people, and anyone who doesn´t think so has never looked thru a camera professionally...

5 years 3 months ago
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Blueberry Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 2004

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