Wednesday 12 September 2012

BABY BLUES - TIFF 2012 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Nobody makes movies quite like Kasia Roslaniec. With her first feature Mall Girls and now her new picture, the extraordinary Baby Blues, she tackles very serious and important issues with respect to the challenges young teenage girls face in the modern world. Her movies rock! Big time!

Baby Blues (2012) ****

Magdalena Berus,
Nikodem Rozbicki

TIFF 2012 - Contemporary World Cinema
Review By Greg Klymkiw

Nobody makes movies quite like Kasia Roslaniec. With her first feature Mall Girls and now her new picture, the extraordinary Baby Blues, she tackles very serious and important issues with respect to the challenges young teenage girls face in the modern world and yet, her touch is never didactic, humourless, rife with a bludgeon of dour political correctness, nor hampered with the ultra-conservative by-the-numbers after-school-special-styled dreariness so prevalent in similarly-themed works from North America (and especially, God Help Our Nation's Cinema, Canada).

Her movies rock! Big time!

Baby Blues tackles the subject of teen pregnancy. Sounds dull, right? Sounds like you've seen it all before and then some, right? Sounds like something you'd not go out of your way to see, right? Well, it's none of those things and to skip it, you'd be skipping one of the most original, heartfelt, humanist and rooted-in-realism pictures to ever deal with this subject matter.

The movie crackles with life, but it's also deliriously romantic, moving and exactly the sort of picture that needs to be seen by tween, teen and adult women. Maybe more importantly, guys need to see it, too. Guys of all ages. We're so inundated with false portraits of female sexuality generated by most male filmmakers, but sadly, by women also, that Baby Blues is pure magic - a movie with no false notes and yet imbued with the highest degree of entertainment value.

One of the things that makes the movie work so well is its director's exquisite, devil-may-care mise-en-scène. Roslaniec breaks every rule in the book, but does so as someone who clearly understands what the rules are or at least has that filmmaking DNA so hardwired into her very being that her instincts are spot-on. She also has a gift for how rules need to be broken in order to deliver a movie that will pulsate with life and resonate far beyond other movies that will be long forgotten.

On one hand, she injects a delightfully wonky verité nuttiness into so much of the picture and yet, none of the whirling, hand-held images have that annoyingly sloppy shaky-cam that bad filmmakers use to try and coverup the fact that they really have no talent (and that, on occasion, audiences and critics make the mistake of thinking positively towards).

Roslaniec uses this technique ONLY when it is emotionally and dramatically necessary to do so. As well, not unlike Paul Greengrass, the technique - while natural in the sense that we do not see her consciously using it - has the strong feeling that it's been planned down the last detail.

On the other hand, when Roslaniec needs (or wants) to deliver more classical approaches to her mise-en-scène it's there in spades, but never do we feel that her varied directorial techniques are a mish-mash. They are so seamless, that one almost doesn't notice them. If anything, this approach is what makes her films, and Baby Blues in particular, so dramatically compelling.

There's even a fabulous cutting style employed throughout the film where cuts to black are inserted, held on, then cut out of to picture - often within the same dramatic sequence.

She's also not afraid to let scenes play out in one shot without cuts - a technique many master filmmakers employ, but one that is seldom utilized in young filmmakers who feel the need to cut constantly - as if this annoying Attention Deficit Disorder approach will pick up the pace. Heavy cutting actually has the effect of slowing the pace down because it interferes with the natural dramatic rhythms of the scenes. Roslaniec never makes this mistake - scenes play out in ways they NEED to play out.

Given that the film is about a teenage girl who has a baby sired by her unwitting boyfriend and that she is bound and determined to keep it, there's one incredible moment of cinema that I feel is as sublime as the smile on Chaplin's face at the end of City Lights or the noble owl presiding over the animal graveyard in Rene Clement's Forbidden Games or John Merrick's responses to the pantomime performance in David Lynch's The Elephant Man.

The scene occurs between the teenage girl Natalia (Magdalena Berus) after a frantic visit to the hospital with her baby boy Antek. Natalia is huddled with her baby on a metro train as it hurtles along. Roslaniec holds on a shot of such dramatic power and beauty you can hardly believe your eyes that it's happening. She holds and holds and holds the shot and then, when you suspect she's going to cut out of it, she holds it even longer.

All I can say is this: If this scene fails to move you to tears (and perhaps sobs), I suspect you might not be human.

The movie is full of moments like this. They're not all imbued with the same emotional wallops. Some of them are very small and delicate. Often, they are found in scenes where Natalia and her well-meaning, amiably clueless dope-smoking boyfriend Kuba (Nikodem Rozbicki) are navigating the unfamiliar waters of domestic life and parenthood.

What's especially phenomenal is that Roslaniec so beautifully and truthfully captures how quickly these two people try to adapt to the responsibilities that come from being parents. What she captures is truthful - not only to young people - but frankly, just as truthful to those who are supposedly far more mature than this couple. For those who have experienced being parents and those who have not, you never feel like Roslaniec's manipulations are cloyingly by-the-book, but are, rather, infused with life itself.

Baby Blues is a movie that will resonate on so many levels for so many people. It will bring them face to face with realities they might have experienced themselves or, at the very least, realities they feel they could someday face. The movie achieves this in ways that are wholly original and a touch that veers from bold to sweetly gossamer.

I'm also thankful that Roslaniec is making the films that she is making. My own little girl has seen them and they're exactly the sort of films I know she will come back to as the years progress. They are films that will both delight and empower her as both a woman and a human being.

This is a great film. It might be unfair to greedily expect this, but filmmaker Kasia Roslaniec has plenty of greatness left in her and I, for one, will be keeping my eyes and heart open for more films from this filmmaker. I will demand and expect continued bravery and artistry of even higher levels.

In the meantime, there is Baby Blues to contend with. Missing it should be a capital offence of artistic neglect.

"Baby Blues" is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2012) Wednesday September 12 Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 4 9:00 PM and Saturday September 15 Cineplex Yonge & Dundas 2 12:15 PM. For ticket information visit the TIFF website HERE.