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“Blue Valentine” director Derek Cianfrance – FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

By Sean O’Connell Instead of penning “Blue Valentine,” Derek Cianfrance almost wrote a nuclear holocaust movie.

“When I was a kid, I had two nightmares,” he said. “One was nuclear war, and the other was that my parents would get a divorce.”

When he sat down to create an end-of-the-world thriller, though, he found that the subject matter was overwhelmingly depressing.

“In the middle of getting ‘Blue Valentine’ done, I tried to write a movie called ‘The Man with Purple Eyes,’ and it was about the end of the world. But it was just too dark. I couldn’t finish it. I spent about a year working on it, and I got into such a deep depression that I had to dig myself out and abandon it,” Cianfrance said.

With one fear impossible to tackle, Cianfrance approached his other childhood terror. Odd, as well, that “dark,” “depressing” and “heavy” are words used – in good ways and bad – to describe the crumbling marriage on display in “Blue Valentine.”

The Sundance hit, which continues to chug along in the ongoing Oscar season, stars Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling at the tail end of their wedded bliss, but also goes back to show how these young lovers came to be. Both actors recently received Golden Globe nominations for their work.

Of course, “Blue Valentine” is receiving most of its press due to a minor scandal. The Motion Picture Association of America initially saddled the passionate relationship drama with a dreaded NC-17 rating. But a recent appeal made by Harvey Weinstein on behalf of “Valentine” changed the MPAA’s tune … and boosted Cianfrance’s opinion of the archaic ratings process.

“I’m relieved. And I think this is a win for artistic integrity and freedom of speech,” Cianfrance told me in a recent interview. “It was never out intention to make an NC-17 film. We were trying to make a film about relationships, and we were trying to look at it very honestly. And I think if you are going to talk about relationships, you are going to have to talk about sex. … And it felt like we were really trying to be responsible, actually, as filmmakers when we did the sex scenes. We didn’t want to put more sensationalized views of fake Hollywood sex scenes on the screen. We wanted to put real stuff that looked like there was a real connection, a real experience between two people. And I felt like because of that responsibility, because of our responsible approach, we were punished for it.”

I asked Cianfrance, then, if the MPAA’s decision to overturn the NC-17 and reward “Blue Valentine” with the more-accessible R rating felt like an apology from the ratings board.

“Yeah, you know what, I actually have so much respect for the MPAA because they humbled themselves and reversed their decision. They admitted their mistake,” he said. “There’s no apology necessary because they did the right thing. And I respect that their process actually worked. And I’m so excited that the film is the film. We didn’t touch a hair on its head. We didn’t touch a frame. The film that we intended people to see is the film they will see. And they’ll be able to see it now.”

And most likely talk about it. Cianfrance admits that because of the film’s tough subject matter, he has become the soundboard for horrific marital fight stories from audience members who approach him after screenings.

“It’s a relationship movie. But one of those relationships is the relationship that the audience has with the movie,” he said. “Afterwards, yes, I’m surrounded by people who are telling me about their lives. But to me, that’s a beautiful thing. The movie was made to try and get people to communicate, to try and instigate some kind of dialogue between people. I know I’m very touched that it has reached people in the way that it has.”

It was the same honest, noncynical approach to love and marriage that has opened up a dialogue and endeared Cianfrance’s audience to this young writer-director.

“I don’t have a message with ‘Blue Valentine.’ I think it’s a movie about questions and trying to be human. I’ve been married for seven years. I have two kids. I work at it every day to keep it going. And I want to be an old person with my wife, you know? Have grandchildren and stuff like that. That’s my focus. I’m trying to do three things in my life. I’m trying to be a good husband, a good father, and a good filmmaker. And I believe that’s possible.”

“Blue Valentine” opens on Dec. 31.

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