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VALENTINE in close-up

Close to Valentine’s Day, my honey and I went to see BLUE VALENTINE. Not on Valentine’s Day, mind you, that would be called … a bad omen. We walked out of the theatre repeating the phrase, “If you have a choice, take Cupid’s Cove and not the Future Room, for Chrissake sweet Jesus!” But the other phrase we walked out repeating was, “Wow, a whole movie in close-up!”

It’s not the first time, of course. There’s Dreyer’s JOAN OF ARC, perhaps the most famous example of keeping it real, keeping it intense with a steadied closeness on one face.

Cassavetes was also a fan, and certainly parts of FACES, aptly named, feel like a close-fest.  (See poster below where the reviewer calls it “mercilessly intimate.”

How is VALENTINE the same or different? The close-ups certainly work to keep the tension high, which is true of the examples above as well. Here, we have a pair of people – Michelle Williams’ Cindy and Ryan Gosling’s Dean, kept so close so that certain details prevail – Dean’s cigarette, Cindy’s tiny double chin. The effect? They are kept firmly in the realm of human and cease to exist as reminders that they are really movie stars. It also makes the reveal of their full selves more shocking … because bodies here are used like weapons, It’s a nice reveal – to sort of gasp at the surprise of  Cindy’s slight frame, of Dean’s wiry but muscular shape. The wide shot that should have gone in their photo album would have made them look like a beautiful couple. Instead, their faces, severed into close-ups, do nothing more than reveal a whole lot of pain. See it with someone you love … and cling!

–AH