||Date: Wednesday, 18-Apr-18, 11:41 PM | Message # 1|
|The film follows Vivienne (Sarah Jessica Parker), a singer in New York City, whose world is shattered after she gets a life-changing |
medical diagnosis. It unfolds over the course of a day as she prepares for an upcoming world tour, navigates various personal and
professional relationships, and reflects on her successes and failures, all while trying to find a private moment to share with others the news
she has received from her doctor.
“Blue Night” is directed by Fabien Constant (“Mademoiselle C”) and written by Laura Eason (“House of Cards”).
The cast also includes Renee Zellweger, Common, Simon Baker, Taylor Kinney, Jacqueline Bisset, Waleed Zuaiter, and Gus Birney.
||Date: Sunday, 22-Apr-18, 6:46 PM | Message # 2|
|From JB Spins blog - Saturday, April 21, 2018|
Tribeca ’18: Blue Night
You should not judge Vivienne Carala too harshly for ignoring her body’s warning signs.
When you are a jazz vocalist, you have to strike while the iron is hot and you can never stop hustling.
However, missing out on her daughter’s childhood is another matter entirely, but that is the price
she paid for kind of-sort of making it. A tumor diagnosis will rudely prompt her to reconsider all
the choices she made throughout the fateful day before she is admitted for an invasive battery of
tests and treatment in Fabien Constant’s Blue Night, which screens during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.
Carala has been gigging at a high level for over two decades. She is preparing for the twenty-fifth
anniversary of her first Birdland gig (presumably, she has one of those weekend spots), which is an
accomplishment, but instead of fulfilling her ambition of playing the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall,
she might have to settle for Zankel Hall (which is also really nice).
Those were all yesterday’s concerns. This morning’s diagnosis has put everything in doubt.
Yet, she still goes through the motions at a rehearsal and in press interviews. She has many people
in her life she should tell, but she has trouble communicating with them (rather ironically, considering
she is a vocalist in the Susannah McCorkle mold, who specializes in dramatically interpreting lyrics,
rather than dazzling audiences with her chops).
Frankly, Blue Night is a lot better than you might expect, because it really looks like New York and
gets a lot of the jazz details right. There is a scene shot on location in Birdland and another looks a lot
like the Cornelia Street Café bar. The way Carala interacts with her musicians also feels very real
(except for the fact that she is sleeping with her drummer, which happens less frequently than you
might suppose). It is therefore frustrating that Constant did not have more confidence in jazz to use it
for the underlying soundtrack. Instead, we hear a great deal of discordant strings.
Regardless, you have to give Sarah Jessica Parker a great deal of credit. First of all, she is willing to
look her (and Carala’s age), often under harsh light and unflattering circumstances. Make no mistake,
there is nothing vain about this film. She also handles Carala’s vocals with surprising taste and sensitivity.
In fact, she really nicely turns a Rufus Wainwright original and a cover of Ritchie Cordell’s
“I Think We’re Alone Now” that plays over the closing credits.
When it comes to the drama, Parker develops some remarkably, ambiguously poignant chemistry with
Common, playing her manager Ben. She also has some honest and effective scenes with Gus Birney
and Simon Baker, as her daughter and ex-husband. However, the melodrama with her
high-maintenance mother Jeanne (portrayed by the scenery-gorging Jacqueline Bisset) always feel
forced and phony.
Sometimes Constant hits us over the head, as in Carala’s scenes with her mother and a chance encounter
with a former friend and colleague, who essentially made the opposite choice, opting to raise her family
instead of pursuing her career. Yet, somehow, he uses a lighter touch for the business with a Lyft driver
who keeps crossing paths with Carala. By not forcing the issue, their final meeting packs a quiet wallop.
It is just too bad there isn’t more music in the film Carala would actually like to hear. Recommended with
all its imperfections, Blue Night screens again this Monday (4/23) and the following Sunday (4/29), as part
of this year’s Tribeca.
||Date: Sunday, 22-Apr-18, 7:00 PM | Message # 3|
|Indie Wire ‘Blue Night’ Review:|
Sarah Jessica Parker Shines In a Dour Homage to Agnès Varda — Tribeca
A terrific Sarah Jessica Parker sings the blues in this sensitive but shallow homage
to Agnès Varda's “Cléo from 5 to 7."
David Ehrlich - Apr 20, 2018
Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Fabien Constant’s “Blue Night,” a sensitive but shallow homage to
1962’s “Cléo from 5 to 7,” is that it convincingly validates the idea of updating the Agnès Varda classic.
The worst thing that can be said about it is that it peaks with a Sarah Jessica Parker cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now”
during the closing credits, but we’ll get to that later.
The story of a beautiful young woman’s brush with mortality, Varda’s film used the timelessness of its premise as
an opportunity to contextualize the topical despairs of the day, which ranged from the ongoing Algerian War to
Édith Piaf’s recent stomach ulcer surgeries. Seen through the eyes of a potentially dying chanteuse — the film’s title
refers to the anxious hours that its heroine spends waiting for the results of a biopsy — everything became equally small,
and the narcissistic Cléo was liberated from the limits of her own self-image. In 2018, when the promise of interconnectivity
has prioritized self-image above all else, and communication has become so diffuse that we can no longer tell who’s even
listening, Varda’s New Wave fable is ripe for reinterpretation.
And “Blue Night” is definitely a reinterpretation, not a remake. Screenwriter Laura Eason (“House of Cards”) borrows
Varda’s basic structure, but flips it sideways with a deceptively major twist in the very first scene: Whereas Cléo Victoire
was afraid that she might be terminal, Vivienne Carala (Parker) is shell-shocked by the news that she is. Sitting alone
in a Manhattan doctor’s office, the famous jazz singer is told that she has an aggressive brain tumor, and that the
average life expectancy for someone with her diagnosis is 14 months.
At first, this might seem like a radical change to the story, but it turns out there’s only a tiny sliver of light between
the fear of a diagnosis and the reality of a death sentence. Everybody dies, and everybody knows it. What separates
Cléo and Vivienne from the rest of the people rushing around their respective cities — what detaches them from their
own lives, and connects them to each other — is their newfound inability to ignore that. It’s like they’ve been shown
the sailboat hiding in a Magic-Eye illusion, and may never be able to unsee it.
Nevertheless, there’s real danger in immediately answering the dramatic question that drives the original. If we know
Vivienne’s fate from the start, where do we go from there? Eason’s gentle script finds another source of suspense:
Vivienne is scheduled to return to the doctor for tests the following morning, and she’s required to bring someone
for support. Who’s she going to pick?
At 25, Cléo saw every passing stranger as a possible soul mate. At 53, Vivienne only has so many options (that has
more to do with the narrowing of her life than it does the aging of her body — dressed in a Parisian blue that brings
out her eyes, Parker radiates the crisp appeal of a snow princess, her character highly visible to all of the various
men she encounters). Most of the movie is spent running through the roster of possible plus-ones, as a long summer
afternoon stretches into an open-ended downtown night.
Does Vivienne feel closest to the hot drummer she makes out with after a rehearsal session for her upcoming tour?
How about her manager (Common)? There seems to be some history there. Her teen daughter (Gus Birney) probably
isn’t at the top of the list, but maybe her loaded ex-fiancée (Simon Baker) has a better shot. At the very least,
it seems obvious that she won’t pick her overbearing mother (a very French Jacqueline Bisset); even the agitated
Lyft driver she keeps running into (Waleed Zuaiter) seems like a more solid choice.
Shifting the focus towards Vivienne’s personal relationships is a clever decision, though a limp and drifting mood-piece
like this would have been wise to present the stakes in more explicit terms. Constant opts for a hazier approach,
allowing Vivienne to sink into an understandably catatonic state. Parker commits to the part with a profound sense
of feeling, hinting at Vivienne’s numb inner life as she runs the full gamut of emotions and even warbles through
an original Rufus Wainwright song in close-up. She hasn’t been this soft or sympathetic in years.
And yet, “Blue Night” is strangely disinterested in Vivienne’s specifics. More often than not, the movie uses her
grim situation as a prompt to illustrate some more general sensations, like the obliviousness of a big city, and how
— even on the hottest day of the year — it can still be cold to your personal concerns. In its unsubtle way, the film
is sharply observant of the modern dynamic between private lives and public living, the terse scenes between
Vivienne and her Lyft driver making hay of the old saying that “everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know
nothing about.” Constant, here making his first non-documentary feature, calms his erratic camera down in these
moments, as though he’s finally found the heart of the story.
Elsewhere, he seems as unmoored as his protagonist, as though he shares our growing confusion as to why Vivienne
is shouldering her burden alone. It’s a valid question, and it can be interesting to watch her suss out the support
(or lack thereof) that she’s earned from the people around her, but it isn’t long before the most urgent day of
Vivienne’s life begins to lose its shape. None of her relationships reveal very much about her, and her random
encounters reveal even less.
A chance run-in with an estranged friend (Renée Zellweger, in a very welcome cameo) leaves all sorts of meat
on the table, minutes of screen time wasted on the vague understanding that growing older requires people to
tighten their emotional bandwidth. Given the value this story places on time, these wasted moments are almost
as distressing for us as they must be for Vivienne. We don’t get to the root of her loneliness — we don’t even know
how deep it runs until she covers Tommy James & the Shondells over the credits (for what it’s worth, Parker’s
breathy style is a beautiful fit for the song).
For an homage boasting a far more fatal outlook than Varda’s original, it’s frustrating and kind of perverse that
“Blue Night” should be so gentle. “I’m not done yet,” Vivienne declares. But we never even see her get started.
“Blue Night” premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently seeking U.S. distribution.