Blueberry (2004) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Two thumbs way down for this European take on the American West. Scoop merely hated it, but Scoop's review makes it seem like Citizen Fucking Kane compared to Tuna's thoughts

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Without a theatrical release, Blueberry (2004) is being released on DVD in the US under the title "Renegade". Perhaps the marketers are hoping they can escape all of the bad reviews it received under the original title in Europe.

It is a peyote-induced metaphysical romp through the Old West with what seems like about 95 of the 124 minutes taken up with computer generated special effects, and the rest with grainy photography. The approximate plot is that Blueberry, the main character, is sent west from Louisiana to become a man. He gets into a gun fight over the hooker who takes his cherry (Vahina Giocante). She ends up dead, the bad guy (Michael Madsen) seems to be dead, and Blueberry escapes wounded. He rides into the desert, is covered by snakes, is rescued by Indians who cure him and raise him as one of their own.

Then he is suddenly many years older, played by a different actor, and marshal of the town. It seems that the man he fought with is still alive, and is plotting to steal gold from the sacred Indian mountains. Several psychotic breaks later, the bad guy is dead, and Blueberry is underwater staring at Juliette Lewis's naked crotch, as are we all.

All of this is loosely based on a French comic book. This is what the French might call "ennui merde", or "boring shit". There are exactly two reasons to watch this, Juliette Lewis's nudity and Vahina Giocante's nudity. I guess you can add Vincent Cassel's bum, if you are into that. So much for the first and last 5 minutes. The rest of the film is the best cure for insomnia that I have found since I tried to read the foreword to Hegel's Philosophy of History.

Scoop's comments in white:

I had an epiphany during Blueberry.

Like everyone else, I've always wondered how a handful of movie white guys managed to defeat the millions of movie Native Americans who held on to this continent before Columbus arrived with his camera crew.

Then I saw this scene in Blueberry:

Two young Chiricahuas go through a rite of passage. They have to stand on the edge of a cliff and summon a bird of prey to land on their arm. They must hold their position despite the momentum of the gigantic eagle, and then they must not flinch when the bird's powerful talons rip through the flesh on their arms. Needless to say, one of them falls over the edge of the cliff.

That scene got me to thinking about the Aztec rites of passage, annual Olympic games in which the winners got their hearts ripped out and sacrificed to the gods. (Hey, would you piss off a god by sacrificing a loser's heart to him? I think not.)

Then I saw a few more scenes in Blueberry, in which the Chiricahuas who managed to survive the eagle test spent their entire adult life stoned on peyote. Then the whole movie white man's conquest of movie America came into sharp focus for me.

1. The Indians were systematically destroying their DNA resources with reverse genetic engineering. The virile, powerful men who could have lent their sperm toward improving the gene pool were systematically killed off before they could reproduce in significant numbers, all because of barbaric rites of passage.

2. Tribes with limited or no agriculture were killing off their best potential meat providers, thus contributing to the undernourishment, even starvation, of the remaining members.

3. The Native Americans who might have defeated the white men - the young, healthy, strong men - were all rotting at the bottom of those cliffs and on those altars. When the white men attacked, the natives had nobody left to fight except the guys who lost the Olympics and a bunch of women and children. Even those losers might have had a chance if they were sober, but they were all stoned out of their gourds.

I started out this rant by thinking that I was joking about Hollywood's version of America, but there may be some truth to that whole line of reasoning.

You know, I went to a hypnotist once and I discovered through regression therapy that I was an Aztec in an earlier life. I still hold the record for the most consecutive second place finishes in the annual Aztec games. Under hypnosis, I could clearly see myself talking to the sports reporters for the Aztec Times, apologizing for having lost a forty yard lead in the hundred yard dash, and promising the fans who bet on me that I would train much harder next spring so I could be the one lucky enough to get my heart cut out after next year's games. Yet, somehow, like an Aztec version of the Chicago Cubs, I always finished ... um ... a heartbeat away. Oh, some years the priests would change the rules and cut out the hearts of the top three or something instead of just the top guy, but I'd always finish just barely over the heart-cutting line. (A little known fact is that this is the derivation of the golfing expression "to make the cut".) I never could "make the cut".  This is probably the biggest disappointment in any of my past lives.

Anyway, I'm supposed to be talking about Blueberry.

It's about two hours long, and it seems that about half of the running time is 60s-style psychedelic stuff, except with 21st century CGI techniques. This psychedelic footage, the director's attempt to duplicate the peyote experience, is basically like looking through a kaleidoscope for an hour, except without the vivid colors. It's mostly in black, grey, dark and russet brown, white, and muted golds. I don't know about you, but I do enjoy looking through a kaleidoscope - for maybe thirty seconds. I've never tried looking through a 'scope after burnin' one. I suppose I might be able to amuse myself a few minutes in that case, unless I smelled some good food in the vicinity. I guess I'd really have to smoke a shitload of peyote to be able to endure 60 minutes of regular, colorful kaleidoscope activity, but if we're talkin' a kaleidoscope with just browns and golds, an hour's worth of kaleidoscopy would require me to smoke an amount about equal to Tommy Chong's lifetime consumption.

So that should give you some idea whether you want to watch this movie. If you're willing to make the commitment to smoke the entire annual hemp output of India, you might find this footage fascinating.

What about the other hour?

Does it matter?

Let's assume the other hour includes roughly the sixty best and most entertaining moments in screen history. Would it be worth sitting through sixty minutes of color-free kaleidoscopy for that? Even if those shifting brown images are spiked with some crazy Chiricahuas ranting on with some pseudo-mystical bullshit about magic mountains and the interconnectedness of the universe? Even if it's in their native language, with sub-titles?

Even if you know that Juliette Lewis sings in the movie?

If your answer is still yes, then I guess I have some decent news for you. The cinematography includes some very fancy camera work, highlighted by some eagle-eye POV shots. There are some starkly beautiful desert and canyon locations. The pseudo-mythology of the Chiricahua includes some haunting and imaginative imagery. The recreated Western town is comically grungy and is photographed with some techniques that make it look like it belongs in your great-great-grandmother's sepia-toned scrapbook. Michael Madsen is a creepy villain. Juliette Lewis takes off her clothing and spreads her legs for an underwater camera. Ernest Borgnine (he's still alive?) is on board to provide bathos with a grotesque portrayal of a paraplegic sheriff who is wheeled around town by his presumably retarded son. The great British comic Eddie Izzard plays a cowardly Prussian mercenary for a dark touch of comic relief, although in this movie he is neither funny nor relieving.


Juliette Lewis is completely naked underwater, and the camera takes a lingering gynecological shot of her with her legs spread invitingly open.

Vahina Giocante shows breasts and buns in the sex/shootout scene.

Vincent Cassel shows his buns in the skinny-dipping scene.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic transfer

  • no meaningful features

Frankly, I don't recommend this movie, despite those ... um ... positives. It does have some kind of demented and violent appeal, but even if you fast forward through the mysticism and kaleidoscope images, you will probably still find it to be a languorous and tedious hour, punctuated by a few (too few) pleasant surprises. As the BBC put it so accurately, its "one part bonkers and two parts boring"

The Critics Vote ...

  • The British consensus was just as harsh as the Europeans. The average, on a four star scale, was one star! (Mail 1/10, Telegraph 3/10, Independent 4/10, Guardian 2/10, Times 4/10, Sun 2/10, Express 1/10, BBC 2/5)


The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a D-. It is not likely to please Western fans. Frankly, I don't know who it would please. I don't think it is for the art film crowd. Although it is technically sound, sometimes even inspired, the most pretentious European reviewers found it too pretentious, and it was too gratuitously violent for them. Tuna says, "If we call this a Western, it is a low D-. No genre lover will want to get near it. As a pretentious, overly long French art film, it fares a little better at C-." (Some IMDb reviewers defended its artistic merits.)

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