The critics were unanimous. This film was crap - a bullshit non-western and an overcooked CG-laden homage to Jodorowsky's El Topo. But funnily enough, whenever these reviews had a comments section the freaks loved it. I'm with them. As ever. Some unhappiness was expressed that it departed too greatly from the comic. Me, I never read Blueberry, but believe it or not, I read every other thing Moebius ever did - just not Blueberry. There's no particular reason why. From this curious position, I'm of the opinion that this flick is very Moebius.
He's an extraordinary fellow, Moebius. He became a Buddhist and decided he didn't want to do stories of conflict that pivoted on good and evil. A tough gig. Sure enough, you end up with stories like this one. Is 'story' even the right word? All the standard elements are arse-about. Nothing follows your expectations. Not the hero, not the villain, not the showdown, not nothing. How unsatisfying! So completely wrong is this movie that one reviewer had a meltdown and insisted that the Raspberry Awards be renamed the Blueberries. Ha ha ha. Suffer in your jocks, mate!
I should say I don't own this movie and have only seen it once. Ordinarily I watch films that are worth it many times. Like I said before, there's a lot to look for. On the inevitable subsequent viewings of this flick I may arrive at a different understanding of it. And quite right too. A man who cannot change his mind is worthless.
What a crap hero. He doesn't wisecrack. He doesn't save the girl. He doesn't rescue the family in the nick of time. And on every occasion he dukes it out with the villain he gets done over. He's not even what you'd call handsome. He's Vincent Cassel and he is exactly that kind of cinematic French ugly, ha ha ha.
After he cops his first hiding from the villain he is brought back to life by Indians. They save him - but don't expect any touching scenes, lingering native glances, or pat five-lines-of-dialogue bonding. Things are not there for Blueberry's understanding. Instead Blueberry wonders at the world. He stares, merely watching. And the cinematographer does likewise. This picture is spectacularly beautiful. But the beauty does not serve the plot. It serves to show the unknowability of the world and Blueberry's personification of this. Blueberry is perpetually the student.
Suddenly it's ten years later and and an older Blueberry is now the sheriff in an unimpressive town. It's exactly as unimpressive as the wilderness is beautiful. It's peopled by a motley bunch, none of whom are quite the thing. There is a perpetual tension to them that the Indians do not possess. They make various plots that neither we nor Blueberry ever figure out exactly. In this film, self-serving and desire come to nothing. And never is Blueberry the master of any scene. He is not shrewd. It seems his chief virtue is his honesty and unwillingness to put up with bullshit-artists. The unknowability of things aside, he acts resolutely. He is a laconic Chihiro from a borderless Spirited Away. A remarkably similar spirit inhabits both these films.
Otherwise, the figure of Blueberry might reasonably be posited as us. Certainly he is me. No anecdote of my life has ever resembled a pat Hollywood scene. The cinematic clues that explain what's what were always absent. I never bested the villain. I never got the girl. I never rode into the sunset. Okay, I have done - for all of ten seconds. Everything then rolled into the next thing and what had gone before became something else. And more crucially, I have never had a complete understanding of what happened in any given 'scene' I was in. Many I could make no clear sense of at all. The action rolled on, completely unconcerned that the audience was befuddled. Welcome to Blueberry, the personification of the certain unknowability of the world.
Interesting villain. I've always liked Michael Madsen. You too? Sure, he's an agreeable presence. In this flick, he is that which inspires fear - but more actual than real. I struggle now to recall his victims. Did we ever see him shoot anyone? Curiously, he is as sinned against as sinning. He possesses certain admirable traits, all unemphasised. He never dissembles. This is left to his grasping German offsider who represents craven selfishness. Our German renders himself as a false victim in an attempt to have the round-eyes kill the Indians so that he may steal their shit. I make no comment. Our Madsen villain is emphatically not that.
When the too-clever German betrays him (a vicious taboo killing of the horse) Madsen holds no grudge and attaches no personal significance to this beyond offering a prayer for the spirit of the horse. On encountering the German for the final time, he says and does nothing. No chest-thumping, no clever self-serving lines, no punishment or revenge. The German, fixated on his false idol, is swallowed by the Earth. Our villain doesn't give him a second thought. He lacks more cinematic 'villain' clues than he possesses. And when his wickedness does resemble cinematic shorthand it's arguably mere coincidence. Perhaps he's villainous because his shedding of the self is incomplete and he has failed to embrace selflessness? He is not fearful and yet is willing to inspire it in others. A false Bodhisattva - Nietzschean and compassionless.
The final truth of him is that, whilst he does not seek material gain, he is possessed of desire. His desire (again, almost admirably) is for insight. But he will not wait for it to be given. He will take it. He imagines insight as something other than what it is. This is his ultimate failure. His ending is not a comeuppance. He merely passes from the movie. Not a single second is spent showing us what happened to him.
The Big Showdown
Ha! The joke's on you. There isn't one. What sort of Western doesn't have a showdown? What sort of joke doesn't have a punchline? An existentialist American Western one born of the mind of a French Buddhist, ha ha.
The circle finally closes as our hero meets the villain in the hidden holy grotto. He doesn't meet him so much as observe his prone comatose body. The villain won the race and has rudely helped himself to the sacred ayahuasca. Happily the ever-great Temuera Morrison is there as Shaman and tells our hero that it is right he be initiated. Blueberry lies down next to the interloper. The Shaman joins the hero as guide. A five minute CG drug-trip ensues. Boy, did the critics hate this! I marvelled. Banish your short attention span. Let the images wash over you. If you want to get off a trip it will do you no good. The same applies here. If you could cope with Kubrick's star-gate you can cope with this. Just go with it. A question - Are these animations here to remind us of chaos-theory fractals and their truth of unknowability? Further viewings required...
Amongst the CG, our hero goes through a series of realisations. It was he that killed the girl. The villain's crime was his. His hitherto troubled spirit was due to his inability to dispel this fixation. Rightly he realises that the girl loved him for his innocence and loves him for it still. The knot in his psyche is dispelled. He awakens to find the Shaman who mirrors his joy at a life-changing experience shared. No one pats their hip to make sure they still have a gun. This world is not a place of fear. The us-and-them paradigm - a thing of smoke, dissipated to nothing.
The final scene is the antithesis of finality. No hero's back and horse's arse sloping towards a dying sun here. Blueberry is refreshed, awake. The ending is a beginning. Blueberry swims naked in the water of life with a laughing Juliet Lewis. No closing, just the joy of being here, now. Those calcified in the Hollywood language of Old Testament fear best look elsewhere.