The Wind Blows Where It Will (2007)
Directed by Kunal Mehra
182 min.; U.S.A.; Color; Stereo
One of the objectives of Film of the Year is to engage with remarkable films across time. I was invited to do so again recently, but across space instead of time, with a film worthy of attention made in my own back yard. The Wind Blows Where It Will (2007) is the first motion picture from Kunal Mehra, a computer expert living in Portland. The film had it's premiere at the historic Hollywood theatre in May, but I just screened the DVD version. There's something inherently cool about watching a movie shot on familiar streets, in coffee shops, train stations, parks and sidewalks that one frequents. I couldn't help but look for myself in the frames (nope, I'm not in it).
The film is a protracted look at how one man struggles with love, loss, and redemption. Philippe (Josh Boyle) and Jeanne (Wendy Harmon) share a loving long distance relationship. Unfortunately, it can't last. Cut adrift and looking despondent after the separation, Philippe divides his time between his job, compulsive behavior in his apartment, and long strolls through the autumn streets of Portland. It's been said that a man cannot live without love, but Phillipe does his best suffering the mixture of sorrow and joy that's called everyday life.
At first glance the film appears to be a purely spiritual/philosophical journey, but as we're drawn deeper into its universe of poetic imagery it takes on a secondary role—the movie is just as much an ode to the colors, tones, and hidden corners of the Rose City. Aron Noll directs some outstanding cinematography that both explores the boundaries of the frame and captures the beauty of our town.
Contemplative cinema is at work here which, according to knowledgable fellow film bloggers, means that it eschews many conventions of the narrative style to develop primarily through a visual language. Such films often demand more input from the audience as active viewers. I felt that kind of responsibility watching The Wind Blows Where It Will because Mehra and co. construct the three hour feature out of long takes, building suspense and giving us time to ponder meaning by stretching the passage of time. Philippe takes few direct actions to alter his lovesick condition perhaps convinced that life will eventually change on its own if he just follows his routine, meticulously doing the same things over and over like a heartbroken Sisyphus. In these long takes we live through this uncomfortable period with Philippe and the film becomes as much about observing as it is about the observed. When the characters are allowed a bit of dialogue we're either rapt with attention (me) or falling asleep (my friend who watched with me). And when Philippe finally makes a meaningful human contact with a voice over the phone (Jaymelese Ryer) it comes as a relief to us and well as to him.
This movie might prove a test of endurance for the casual movie fan, but the experience is ultimately worth the time and sustained attention it requires. If this is Mehra's first picture I eagerly await a follow-up. Portland has a thriving independent filmmaking community and Mehra's next project, like the scene itself, should only improve from here.
For more information about The Wind Blows Where It Will go to http://www.windblowswhereitwill.com