Cinema Epoch // 2011 // 129 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // February 9th, 2011
His obsession became her music.
Mad Cowgirl is a bizarre little film about a woman going slowly insane from a degenerative brain disease, and is perhaps most notable for an appearance by Star Trek: The Original Series alum Walter Koenig (as the televangelist who seems to obsess the heroine). Now, Violent Blue is being sold as "a new study in obsession and madness" by "the director of Mad Cowgirl." It's an appropriate way to push Violent Blue, as the film takes everything from Mad Cowgirl and turns the knob up to 11. Whether that's a good thing or not is going to depend entirely on viewer expectations.
Violent Blue follows Katrina (Silvia Suvadova, Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys), a music scholar obsessed with a uncompleted symphony. She gets tangled up with her borderline-autistic electronics genius brother (Jesse Hlubik, CSI), and things get weirder from there. Everything reaches a head when Katrina's ex-husband (Nick Mancuso, Wild Palms) shows up to lock Katrina in a cage.
Violent Blue deserves some credit for attempting to be a challenging, experimental work of narrative cinema. Utilizing some interest juxtapositions of music and visuals, as well as focusing on characters well outside the mainstream, the film gets some kudos for knowing it's outside the mainstream and acting accordingly. However, the film doesn't quite work, for a number of reasons:
* Length. With few exceptions, most experimental films are fairly short. Part of that is certainly artistic intent and vision, but it's equally a product of the fact that attention spans are short. Violent Blue is over two hours long; to ask that much attention of an audience is a brave move. In the case of Violent Blue, little is offered to fill up those two hours that might win an audience over.
* Coherence. Part of the reason that the two-hour running time seems so painful is because the film makes no concessions to absorbing the viewer in a narrative or story. With the use of random nudity, odd characters, and overwhelming music, the film reminds the viewer at every turn that they are watching a movie. Not just any movie, but a weird one. However, what separates Violent Blue from someone like David Lynch is the fact that directors like Lynch do a really effective job balancing their weirdness with a certain sense of order or coherence. For all the strange happenings in Mulholland Dr. for instance, there's always the feeling of a comforting hand guiding the bizarre logic of the film. Not so with Violent Blue. All the elements of the film (like the compositions, the music, the story) are interesting on their own, but there is never a feeling that they're going to mesh and communicate something to the audience.
* Beauty. Some weirder films (again David Lynch comes to mind) try to offset their oddity by being beautiful to look at. Violent Blue almost succeeds in this regard, offering up some very striking compositions, but these moments are too few and too far between to make the film worth recommending on aesthetic grounds.
Despite all this, it's hard to knock Violent Blue. This is a film that achieves what it sets out to do: give viewers a visual insight into madness and obsession. That's not a pretty picture, and maybe Violent Blue isn't meant to be enjoyed so much as suffered through. Fans of gonzo low-budget cinema might find something appealing during the more bizarre moments of the film, but a heavy fast-forward finger will probably be necessary.
Fair warning: Violent Blue opens with footage of a pig being killed (presumably for food). I don't think I'll ever be able to erase the sound the pig made as it was slaughtered from my brain.
Violent Blue comes to DVD from Cinema Epoch. The film's low budget origins are evident in the anamorphic transfer. Detail isn't terribly impressive, colors don't pop much, and black are not very deep. However, this probably has more to do with the source than the transfer to DVD. The audio is presented in a 5.1 mix that keeps the dialogue clearly audible and pushes the music to the fore in pleasing ways. The dialogue is a mix of English and Polish/Czech/Slovak, which only adds to the film's weirdness.
Extras are surprisingly strong for such an odd little film. We get some interviews with people involved in the production, and the style continues some of the weirdness of the film. There are also some deleted scenes that add extra moments to the character arcs, as well as a two behind-the-scenes featurettes that are primarily composed of production footage. The film's trailer and a still gallery are also included.
The general viewing public will find little to appreciate in Violent Blue. However, fans of the director's other work (like Mad Cowgirl) may enjoy seeing the theme of obsession is elaborated here.
For sheer cinematic daring, Violent Blue is not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2011 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, Polish, Czech, Slovak)
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes