The intimate relationship drama “Blue Valentine,” from director Derek Cianfrance, doesn’t appear to have anything in common with anything out of Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre. But as revealed at the last session of Live at the Lounge with indieWIRE in Toronto this year, the two come from a breed of directors that continue to stake their claim on the independent film landscape. They are part of the VHS generation.
Cianfrance recalled growing up in the suburbs of Colorado as a kid and wanting to become a filmmaker after venturing off to his local video store and picking up George A. Romero’s “Creepshow,” and “Airplane II: The Sequel.”
“Our generation – we’ve had such a great opportunity to study movies,” Cianfrance said in talk moderated by Eugene Hernandez. “I think I learned how to make movies just in watching them. When I was 13, I remember borrowing a video camera from a librarian and making my first films. From 17 to 18, I would make a film every three months. So by the time I got to film school in my late teens, I already had 25 shorts film under my belt.”
“Blue Valentine” marks Cianfrance’s first TIFF accepted entry, and comes to Toronto following successful bows at both Sundance and Cannes. The film charts the relationship between Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), from their first encounter, through to the unraveling of their destructive marriage.
“I just like to say it’s a love story,” Cianfrance said of the film. “It’s about dualities – men and women; loving and hating; being young and being an adult married with children; the mysteries of love, falling in and out.”
Cianfrance said he first began to contemplate the “mysteries” his film explores, following the divorce of his own parents. He recalled feeling bewildered when first confronted with the news. In order to deal, Cianfrance looked to art.
“There was this mystery of time that crept into my parents relationship, and into relationships I myself have had,” he said. “I wanted to make a movie about that mystery, about what happened.”
The project was in gestation for 12 years before Cianfrance got around to directing it. He said he considers the time it took to get to screen a blessing of sorts. A whopping 66 drafts were made of the script during the first five years of developing the script. When not prepping for “Blue Valentine,” Cianfrance made a number of documentaries.
“I learned to listen,” he said. “This process lent itself to ‘Blue Valentine.’ I really made an effort to listen in each and every moment and give the actors time. With ‘Blue Valentine’ I really wanted to humble myself in terms of virtuosic technique. I wanted it to be about the story, the characters.”