Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lady Blue Shanghai (2010, David Lynch)

Perhaps the greatest thing about David Lynch's Lady Blue Shanghai is that I wouldn't have known it was actually a Christian Dior commercial short had I not been told. The strength of Lady Blue Shanghai lies in its insistence of its own individuality--commercial or not, it is still very much a product of the Lynchian mind and very much a worthy addition to the filmography of one of cinema's most provocative filmmakers.

I saw this for the first time about a year ago. My first reaction was Wonderful! David Lynch has a new film?! My second was's a SHORT? Are you kidding me? It's not that I have anything against shorts--I've reviewed a couple and will continue to review them as they come to me on this site--but Lynch's feature films have always been a sight to behold. And Lynch himself is no stranger to making shorts, or even commercials for that matter. He's done them before. But Lady Blue Shanghai is so distinctly anti-commercial that it demands to be seen more than once.

The film--unsurprisingly--is beautifully shot. The way the shots are framed is nothing short of exquisite. The film is also superbly edited; from the mysterious opening shot to the unfortunate close, we are presented with a stand alone story that fits in just nicely with Lynch's 'Women in Trouble' era, which began so splendidly with 2001's Mulholland Dr. Comprised mainly of flashbacks, the story follows a beautiful woman who, while in Shanghai, found herself in a passionate love affair with a man. But circumstances--we know not what; these circumstances are left entirely ambiguous--drove them apart. He had to leave, leaving only an 'I love you' and a blue rose in his wake. And here she is, alone after waking up in a hotel room in the present, with a bag sitting nearby, a blue rose on top of it. She is afraid of the bag and afraid of its contents...but she doesn't know why, other than feeling that she's been here before.

Thematically, Lady Blue Shanghai is quite similar to the other films Lynch has put out in the last decade. Lynch knows this, and instills the film with his usual masterful atmosphere; he manages to create something that is chilling and surreal, but also quietly meditative and hypnotic. The haunting score also does much to enhance the mood. As beautiful and ethereal as Lady Blue Shanghai is however, it is ultimately unsatisfying, but it is through no fault of the director. It is simply far too short a piece and does not do such a creative mind the proper justice.

Despite being only sixteen minutes in length, it is captivating for every single minute thanks in large part to the performance of Marion Cotillard. Equally beautiful and vulnerable, Cotillard's Lady Blue stands proud and tall against other (in)famously 'troubled' Lynchian women such as Mulholland Dr.'s Rita and Inland Empire's Nikki Grace and imbues the film with her gloriously effective and enigmatic prescence.


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