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Blue Bayou: Had Us, Lost Us

Posted by December 18th, 2021 1 Comment »

Blue Bayou (2021)
Directed by Justin Chon
Starring Justin Chon, Alicia Vikander, Mark O’Brien & Introducing Sydney Kowalske

Are there still auteurs in cinema? If Justin Chon and his films are any indication, then the answer is “yes.”

Chon’s first film, Gook (2017), which he wrote, directed and starred in, was recognized with several awards on the indie festival circuit. Next he wrote and directed Ms. Purple (2019) to similar acclaim. He returns as a triple threat with 2021’s Blue Bayou – a story of an American tragically misconstrued as an immigrant even though he’s lived in the U.S. his whole life.

The first two acts flow so smoothly, and are written so well, that most of the film’s interactions seem almost documentary-like. The cinematography, however, is the antithesis with luscious, moody wide-angle “magic hour” shots of New Orleans. This juxtaposition creates a rich and steady flow of consciousness that unfortunately leads us to a dissapointing third act.

Tears streamed down my face as the second act ended. Was it the anticipation of tragedy or the beauty of enduring, familial love? Like being shaken out of an hysteria, the third act bludgeoned me with the coldness of bureaucracy and the hypocrisy of America. So much so that any demonstration of love or goodwill all but dissolved and it felt like another film altogether.

Maybe this abrupt change from loving art to formulaic, trope ridden melodrama is purposeful; maybe it’s there to drive home the plight of immigrants. But I could no longer feel immersed in a believable story once the third act began, and by the end of the film I felt educated but not entertained. This wasn’t due to the performances by Alicia Vikander (her best since Ex Machina in 2014) or the amazing child actor that plays Jessie LeBlanc, Sydney Kowalske. No. The fault lies with the Chon; the Auteur failed to see that he had us, then lost us.

If the third film by auteurs Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing 1989), Terrence Malik (The Thin Red Line 1998), Guillermo Del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone 2001), Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums 2001) and Lars Von Trier (Europa 1991) are all A’s then this the third film by fellow auter Justin Chon is a B.

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