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Monday, July 9, 2018

BLUE DESERT -- DVD Review by Porfle

I watched the Brazilian New Age sci-fi flick BLUE DESERT, aka "Deserto Azul" (Indiepix Films, 2013), twice, which is fitting since it's partly about repetition and deja vu. I didn't understand very much of it, which is also fitting since its young protagonist, Ele (Odilon Esteves), doesn't understand much about his own life or life in general.

Also, since the story is partly based on the works of Yoko Ono, not understanding it would seem to be deliberately, intentionally built in.

Ele goes through his life in a terminally detached, impersonal future world that seems to discourage meaningful human contact or an individual's active involvement in any kind of physical or spiritual pursuits.

He frequents the gym and smoke bar with a buddy who seems to be his only link to the human race until he meets a man in the desert whose goal in life, with the help of a spray gun and a large tank of blue paint, is to paint the desert blue.

The film is beautiful in its exquisitely-shot outdoor locations and eyepleasing futuristic cityscapes.  Ele's life, however, is shown as simply a more advanced form of daily grind that finds him on a commuter airship with a robotic hostess who spouts the same fake-smile spiel every day.

It's during these daily jaunts, however, that he meets fellow passenger Alma (which means "soul"), a kindred spirit who will bring out Ele's humanity while deepening his endless desire to achieve some kind of spiritual transcendence.

Toward this end, BLUE DESERT is endlessly talky and bafflingly philosophical.  I don't even think the screenplay knows what it's talking about most of the time, but this movie does love to hear itself talk while indulging in crisply-directed and attractively shot images (many of them inside a sort of renegade nightclub where society's fringe element comes to seek some kind of mental stimulation) that help to redeem some of the story's frustratingly opaque rambling.

Ele's scenes with Alma achieve a modiucum of warmth but this is dissipated by their difficulty to decipher in any meaningful way.  The same goes for our views of Ele going about his daily life showering, mirror-gazing, tinkering with a machine that receives strange images from the ether which he can't figure out, and spending hours floating in a large swimming pool that's like a vast sensory deprivation tank, or perhaps a womb from which to be reborn.

He believes the cessation of thought will bring transcendence, hence the pool and the desert where he seeks solitude. Finding the blue painter, he's entranced by the man's endless philosophizing and learns that the journey toward one's goal can mean more than actually reaching it (in other words, the guy knows he's never going to paint that whole desert blue, but he loves the process).

Later, Ele will find himself in sort of a hospital bed with what looks like a large shrubbery suspended over him (don't look at me) next to a man who claims to share his soul.  This sets them off on a prolonged exchange of shaggy dog profundities and switched-around flashbacks that kept me properly confused until the deliberately anticlimactic ending that not only didn't answer anything but didn't really ask anything, either.

I really liked BLUE DESERT visually--there's a sort of everyday wonder to its futuristic wonders--but found its endless wallowing in dogged existential nonsense ultimately tiresome.  On the other hand, people who actually appreciate the writings of Yoko Ono may want to dig a hole in their garden to put this movie in.

Buy it from Indiepix


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