Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Blue Movie

I've seen Page Eight something like 5 or 6 times now. It was first broadcast on the BBC and PBS in 2011, although I believe the first time I saw it was on DVD in my Bill Nighy period.  In any case I did catch it on the PBS rebroadcast last year.  Last week we got the DVD from netflix but I didn't send it right back.  I watched it a few more times, at my computer, on the cave TV..  Finally mailed it back this morning.

Why was I obsessed with watching it?  It's an excellent drama, written and directed by one of the contemporary greats of British stage, David Hare, and featuring great actors in excellent performances: the ever watchable Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz, plus important roles played by Michael Gambon, Judy Davis, Alice Krige, Felicity Jones, Ralph Fiennes, Ewen Bremner and Marthe Keller.  It's an absorbing story, about British intelligence in the post-9/11 era.  But I realized all of that didn't add up to the total reason for my obsession.

First I thought it was because it just looked good.  But why?  Then I realized: because it's blue.

  I began to consciously realize this by the images that came into my mind when I thought about it.  Then last night I looked at it with this in mind, and it's absolutely true.  The dominant color by far is blue.

It's blue damp misty streets, blue-gray skies, blue-green structures and the lighting within them. Blue walls, blue cars. For the first part of the movie everyone is wearing blue, so much so that it resembles one of those color episodes of the 1950s Superman series they filmed to work in black and white as well as (later, when TV technology caught up) in color.  Bill Nighy in particular always wore a blue suit with a blue tie (sometimes blue and white) and at least once a blue shirt.

Eventually a few other colors intrude.  A couple of the women--conspicuously, the fascinatingly evil character Judy Davis played--wore red. (Red, white and blue would fit with a main theme--the "special relationship" with the U.S. in the Bush years as corrupting influence on the UK.)  There was a black tie event in the woody brown interiors of Cambridge University.  The Rachel Weisz character gets a earthy brown sweater.

Color palettes are important to some filmmakers.  Woody Allen hates blue--he favors browns and greens.  I saw a movie recently that ruled out almost every color except brown and green.  That I can't remember the movie tells it all.  I don't like brown and green.  I like blue.  More than like--I was ecstatic.

I happen also to like the music of Page Eight---jazz, a little James Bond, some Satie-like piano.  I would place it among my very favorite films (or TV films to be precise) except I'm bothered by the assumption in it that torture yielded real intelligence--I've seen no credible evidence that it did, or does.  There's a nice moment at a meeting when a woman (played by Holly Aird) mentions this, and Bill Nighy's character agrees.  They exchange a glance; later it turns out they've been sleeping together.

But the fact that I can't absolutely defend it as a great film worth watching over and over doesn't keep me from seeing it over and over.  The performances, the music.  But mostly, it's blue.  

P.S. I'm not the only one who liked this movie, by the way.  It was an immediate hit in the UK, and two sequels have been ordered up.