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Video Blues (1992)
Beautiful and ambiguous
Video Blues tells the story of a woman, Judit, torn between two brothers. She is married to the stolid and rather dull Janos, with whom she has a young son, Adam. Gabor, Janos's brother, is a reckless playboy who has been traveling the world. One day he sends them a video letter, with snippets of his travels - it is the first his family has heard from him for seven years. On closer inspection of the tape, Janos notices a momentary glitch - a shot of his own backyard in the intervening years. What ensues is a thriller of rising tensions: what has Judit been up to? has she secretly been seeing Gabor behind Janos's back? whose child is Adam really? Sopsits masterfully ratchets up the mood in this sadly overlooked film. At the philosophical heart of Video Blues lies the nature of memory, as each brother attempts to rewrite (or is that rerecord?) both the past and present of their relationships with Judit, their family, and each other.
The complaints that many viewers have about European or art-house film do not apply to Video Blues. This film has plenty of deep ideas, but it frames them within an emotionally haunting thriller. The acting is great, the story engaging, and it will leave the viewer, as voyeur, feeling strangely disturbed by the power of the camera.
I should also mention that Judit Danyi is radiantly beautiful in this film - it is not hard to see why both brothers pursue her.
people don't get the irony
I'm amazed that people don't get the irony underlying this film. If you've seen other, earlier Almodovar films, you'll know that he explores sexual situations that come emanate from all sorts of crazy situations (think of Law of Desire (1987), for example, in which Banderas plays a man exploring his homosexuality). But what makes this film so great is that, unlike Almodovar's other films, it attempts to explore the nature of the "conventional," heterosexual matrix which, through Almodovar's eyes, becomes completely nonsensical. Indeed, the relationship between Marina and Ricky is meant, ultimately, to be a parody of how such relationships work, as if heterosexuality (and its consequence, marriage) are almost inevitably equivalent in character to the infamous Stockholm syndrome. The final twist of the film, mistakenly hated for its apparently patriarchal overtones, is in fact a humorous subversion of conventional sexual politics. `You're crazy! Love a man who kidnaps you and ties you up? Is that normal?' exclaims Marina's sister. Well, actually, yes, according to Almodovar, it's completely normal. When viewed with irony (most viewers seem to have a bad case of literal disease when it comes to this film), this movie is a devastating critique of modern heterosexuality. Note that the trio sing the Spanish version of "I will survive" at the very end, when everything has supposedly worked out, in Candide fashion, for the best...