Love of the beholder

eye of the beholder

The Eye is a lonely detective. He gets the task of following a young upstart to check if he is stealing from his rich father, and he is witness to the boy’s sudden killing. The killer is a beautiful woman.

Thus begins the journey of two lost souls toward finding themselves and each other. He is captivated by her beauty and fragility, her unexplainable hatred toward men; in her, he sees his lost wife, his lost daughter (of whom we don’t know if she is real or imaginary); for him, she is someone he can watch over, someone who needs him and him alone, because he alone cares enough to look inside her, behind the mask of dejection. That is, until Vincent comes along; Vincent, the blind Van Gogh namesake, who cannot see her with his eyes, but who is willing to let her in his life, trust her, love her, make her wanted. She is happy to let go and allow herself to be cherished- oh, he is a godsend to her. The Eye is jealous and wants to scare Vincent off, but instead, he kills him by mistake. When he realizes how deeply she cared for the blind guy, how bound she felt to him, The Eye is devastated, but keeps following her.

She travels through the Death Valley, where she almost meets her end in the shape of a crazed coke-addict (brilliantly played by ex-Beverly Hills hottie Jason Priestley), but for The Eye, who comes to the rescue, so happily. Unfortunately, he is too late for saving Joanna’s little baby; she wakes up in a hospital, with a ring on her finger. The tomb of her child is the sad reminder of her previous, self-destructive life.

They could start afresh, they really could; in a Hollywood movie, I see it coming, she works as a waitress in a godforsaken place, is trated badly (or nicely, depending on the level of corniness) by all customers, except The Eye, who pops up, and starts a feeble conversation, then earns her trust, makes her fall in love with him. All is well, all is happiness and tears, she relinquishes her past demons, and opens the gates of her heart to him. I can see myself weeping in the theatre. (As a matter of fact, dammit, why didn’t it end like this?!)

But this is not a Hollywood movie. Here, she is hurt so deep by a father walking out on her on Christmas eve, that she is unable to stop running. She is not strong enough to look him in the eye and believe his love. She is mistrustful and keeps running.

Shit, this is the only movie I went to see seven times; I went to see it in the first row in the gorgeous Puskin movie theatre, renovated some time in 2000; the first time I saw it, it was with someone very precious to me. We both liked it very much, but I think I loved it more. The beautiful shots, the vigilant stone angels, forever marking the fragility of life, the scenery as symbolic journey to the ends of American innocence, the mute adoration The Eye bestows upon her (or is it selfishness? the need to feel useful? the wish to redeem himself through caring for someone? making an effort in exchange for a sacrificed family life?), her development from a damaged little girl to femme fatale and then, finally, again to a vulnerable human being- these are only a few reasons why I think Eye of the beholder is terribly underrated. Critics keep saying the plot is weak, the character depiction is flimsy, the symbols are shallow. Half the people who saw it have no idea what it is about (hard to believe), the other half say it is boring and didactic. I regard it as one of the most beautiful love stories ever written, with a hint of afterlife and the angel world some believe in, some don’t. It is centered on two human beings, it has a very clear-cut narrative and smooth story-telling; it tells perhaps a little too much for my taste, but Elliott balances this with minute, tasty details well hid in the different shots, that you will only notice when re-watching.

The soundtrack to it is mesmerising; gloomy, melancholic, sentimental, scary. I wish you love gives the emblematic lines to their fated relationship. They both need to let each other go.

Again, Ashley Judd is working wonders with her beautiful face and body; her voice is that of a seductrice, a lost orphan, a solitary beast and broken woman alternately. I have never heard anyone express sorrow as she does in this movie. For this, and The passion of Darkly Noon, I will always place her among the most charismatic actresses. Ewan McGregor is perhaps shadowed by her powerful presence, but his subtle changes of mood, his expressive eyes, his body language is priceless. I have seen most of his movies, and for me this one is the most cherished, beside Velvet Goldmine, A life less ordinary, Shallow grave and Moulin Rouge!.

Goodbye, no use leading with our chins
This is where our story ends
Never lovers, ever friends
Goodbye, let our hearts call it a day
But before you walk away
I sincerely want to say
I wish you bluebirds in the spring
To give your heart a song to sing
And then a kiss, but more than this
I wish you love
And in July a lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade
I wish you health
But more than wealth
I wish you love
My breaking heart and I agree
That you and I could never be
So with my best
My very best
I set you free
I wish you shelter from the storm
A cozy fire to keep you warm
But most of all when snowflakes fall
I wish you love
But most of all when snowflakes fall
I wish you love
I wish you love
I wish you love, love, love, love, love
I wish you love