Thursday, April 26, 2012

The 1994 Project: Blink

1994 turns 18 this year and we're celebrating! I’ve routinely cited this as my favourite year of film – it’s my 1999 if you’re a fan of that other particularly vintage year of the 1990s – and, just to stretch the birthday analogy as far as it can possibly go, I thought I’d investigate the year even further. Invite back old favourites as well as hopefully discover a lot of new ones. Being comprehensive is sexy, isn't it?

I'm not gonna lie - I only watched Michael Apted's Blink because I'm currently loving Madeleine Stowe on Revenge and I haven't seen enough of the work she did in her heyday. I have always liked her - her work in The Last of Mohicans trumps that of Daniel Day-Lewis if I remember correctly - and I look forward to watching another 1994 offering of hers, the much more notorious Bad Girls. In retrospect, the name Michael Apted is certainly enough to pique my interesting somewhat, and I always enjoy watching Laurie Metcalfe in anything she does (hi Debbie Salt!) The film's unspectacular box office but modest critical reception played far less into my reasoning than remembering being hypnotised by the cover on the shelf at the local video store, as Stowe's blank expression is bathed in red.

The film is little more than a typical 1990s thriller with a female heroine who becomes directly involved in the case of a serial killer after hearing her upstairs neighbour get murdered. One can easily see Ashley Judd starring in this several years later, although I can't quite imagine the original intended star, Julia Roberts, being anything other than horribly miscast. Roberts may have stumbled across some nicely done thrillers in her early career, most notably The Pelican Brief and Sleeping with the Enemy (although the latter title is apparently much worse than I remember so perhaps I'm off base), but Blink would have to be completely different to accommodate Roberts' star persona. Blink is too boutique to justify Roberts' presence so I'm glad she passed on the role. Stowe, as it happens, is actually rather excellent in the role as a blind woman who receives cornea (or maybe retina?) transplants, but whose perception of image and reality begin to falter once she becomes entangled with a local detective and the crime he's investigating. Her wild locks frame her spectacular face so vividly, and when Stowe smiles it is as if her lips disappear behind her enviable cheekbones. With her deep, throaty voice, honking laugh and striking face, Stowe is an impressive presence on screen. It's a shame she more or less retired from larger productions to be with her family before finally returning with the prime time soap that garnered her a Golden Globe nominations earlier this year. She reminds me a lot of European actresses likes Isabelle Adjani and Monica Bellucci. Is that odd?

Where the film succeeds - it's certainly not in the damp romantic subplot involving Aiden Quinn, that's for sure - is in the representation of Stowe's Emma Brody and the way her vision is integrated into the story. Her blindness, and recovery from it, aren't just character traits to elicit compassion from the audience, nor is it simply used as a cheap, shorthand way of getting a reaction from views (like, say, a child or an animal in a threatening situation), but it actually comes across as a deeply engrained part of this woman's being and the story that's playing out. Apted has visually representation Emma's POV impressively as a mix of magic mirror bodily distortions and fragmented kaleidoscope swirls. She sits more or less in the dark because artificial light hurts her eyes and she keeps her seeing eye dog; it's as if she's trying to remain blind so as to not see what it happening around her. The detailing of delayed sight is sadly not used far enough as I found it very effective and gave several nice jumps. The idea that the audience can't trust what they're seeing just as much as Emma is a rewarding device, but one that isn't given its due by film's end.

A lovely sax and synth filled score by Brad Fiedel and chilly cinematography by Dante Spinotti give Blink a polished surface, but Apted and screenwriter Dana Stevens don't push the central idea hard enough. The final act more or less becomes a standard thriller with our heroine being fooled into visiting an abandoned house where she must confront the villain. With a nod or two to the final hunting sequence of The Silence of the Lambs, Blink doesn't utilise it's lead character's striking disability to full effect. What starts out as a surprisingly intense and imaginative thriller unfortunately peters out, but not before doing enough to leave a solid impression. B-

Previously on The 1994 Project
Reality Bites (B)

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