Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (2010)

Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl fully embraces the simplicity of film. It’s a film almost purely sustained on nothing more than the image. Yes, there is sound, dialogue and even exposition. Characters develop, plot progresses but through the images first and foremost. The film strips away technique after technique, leaving in its stead the barest and simplest film possible. And it is here that it strikes upon something beautiful.

Macário (Ricardo Trêpa) finds his own beauty in the view outside his office. Her name is Luísa (Catarina Wallenstein). She comes to the window across the street every day, twirls about her fan and Macário watches from the shadows of his office, entranced by the grace and elegance on display. Needless to say, he falls in love instantly and endeavors to insert himself into her life through some means.

This story is directly told by Macário himself to a fellow passenger during a train ride. While this narrative construct initially seems to clutter the film, it actually proves essential to making the simple storyline work. By having him relate passages of time and explain certain situations directly by addressing the passenger, it allows the film to convey information too complex or too boring to express in the core narrative.

This device is also essential because the short length of the film. Barely reaching over the hour mark, this is a narrowly focused film that has little to no excess. And this is absolutely essential because the element that suffocates film after film after film is a runtime that the material cannot sustain. This film knows how to get the most out of its material in the briefest amount of time, creating one of the tightest and compact narrative arcs that can still attribute enough time to flesh out the various elements.

However, the film lingers upon each image, allowing the audience to reflect upon the simplest of shots. Director Manoel de Oliveira and cinematographer Sabine Lancelin create simple, uncluttered images. Most of the shots do not involve camera movement and almost all of them are medium shots. Therefore, outside the aesthetics of the set, all that is manipulated are the lighting and composition, filmmaking at its simplest.

This does not make for a barren and bland series of images, but instead a rich, warm plethora of shots, a radiance and warmth abounds throughout many of the images. And since the film often lings upon the still shot where very little action happens within the frame, a lot of the enjoyment of the film is derived from absorbing and taking in the images. And somehow, the film finds a balance between the simplicity and enough complexity to make every shot as enticing as the last.

However, at this point it must be said that while the film does embrace the simplicity of filmmaking, it would be more adequate to say that it embraces film theorist Andre Bazin’s notions of film realism. For all the power it has in realism, it completely shuts off the entire spectrum to be had by employing editing techniques developed by such director/theorists as Vsevolod Pudovkin and Sergi Eisenstein.

This is to say that most people find Bazin’s ideas about what films should be as boring. It involves lingering images and few edits, creating a more persistent view into an image. The modern era is more about the didactic use of editing, even the simplest of Hollywood scenes has a handful of cuts, all use to ramp up the action and keep the audience constantly engaged in processing a new image. It’s a shame, because there is something refreshing, even soothing, about simply absorbing an image, a sensibility Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl embraces.

© 2011 James Blake Ewing