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VIOLENT BLUE (2011)
Published by David Carter on 2014/7/27 (862 reads)
Directed by Gregory Hatanaka
Review by David Carter
Released by Cinema Epoch
Running Time: 129 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 5.1 Dolby Digital English, Polish, Czech, & Slovak/English Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Interviews, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, still gallery
Trailer Online: Yes
Short Version: Art, music, and insanity
Gregory Hatanaka’s contribution to the world of cinema is much larger than most people know. Known mostly as the director of the cult hit MAD COWGIRL, Hatanaka is also the founder and driving force behind Cinema Epoch DVD, and therefore responsible for bringing many Asian and cult films to American audiences for the first time. That discerning eye and taste for the unusual was certainly on display in MAD COWGIRL, and his latest directorial effort to hit DVD, VIOLENT BLUE, is another journey into the unexpected.
VIOLENT BLUE features a diverse group of characters and plotlines revolving around music teacher Katarina. Katarina is obsessed with researching the (fictional) Molcik “Shadow Concertos,” a notoriously difficult and potentially maddening piece of music. Katarina’s brother, Ondrej, is an electronics savant who withdraws from society to focus on his increasingly elaborate inventions. Ondrej and Katarina are each other’s only confidants and their relationship seems to exacerbate rather than help their obsessions. Their interactions aren’t limited to each other, however. Katarina works at a private school where she is forced to undergo a Kafka-esque trial to defend her methods. Ondrej finds himself turning to the local crime boss to fund his inventions and in a bizarre relationship with Kylie, the beautiful student living below him.
The two siblings’ lives take sinister turns almost simultaneously. Ondrej’s world is turned upside down when Kylie is found murdered – or is she? Ondrej creates an elaborate fantasy world where he and Kylie live happily together to cope with the pain of losing her. Katarina’s violent ex-husband Pietro is released from prison and immediately resumes tormenting her. Pietro is also obsessed with the Shadow Concertos and locks Katarina in an elaborate cage to force her to work night and day to complete them. Her only possible savior is Ondrej, who is locked in a cage of his own design. Will either sibling escape before their obsession consumes them?
VIOLENT BLUE has a very unique and interesting structure. It was filmed in each character’s native language, so English, Polish, Czech, and Slovak are all spoken in the film. Furthermore, there are periods where the dialogue is muted by the film’s soundtrack and intertitles are used to convey the spoken dialogue. This emphasis on communication and languages is a clever reinforcement of the film’s themes. Two characters’ lack of communication is highlighted by the fact they speak different languages. Additionally, the prominence of the soundtrack reiterates the film’s concept of music and mathematics as universal languages, transcending cultural or language barriers.
Both Katarina and Ondrej find that their obsessions become a prison for them; Katarina’s a literal one and Ondrej’s a metaphoric or imagined prison. Despite this fact, VIOLENT BLUE interestingly doesn’t position their obsessions as necessarily being bad things. Each is forced into their prison by someone else – Katarina by Pietro, and Ondrej by Kylie’s murder – so the film appears to be saying that losing focus on that obsession is perhaps where the trouble lies. Each manages to escape, but only after they are free from the people and things distracting them from their goals.
As you would expect, Hatanaka’s own Cinema Epoch has released his film on a great looking DVD. Special features show some behind the scenes looks and segments that ended up on the cutting room floor. VIOLENT BLUE is an intelligent film that, like its characters, occasionally gets too caught up in its obsessions to progress. Sections of the film are well done but ultimately meaningless and the work as a whole emerges as something more akin to an art piece than a narrative film. VIOLENT BLUE remains engaging throughout, however, and shouldn’t have trouble finding viewers willing to accept the challenge it presents.
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