Yifan Du possesses a characteristic found in the most memorable and influential of filmmakers, vision untethered to status quo. This director/writer/editor sees filmmaking as a way of creating understanding and rebukes any type of borders that restrict it. Her unorthodox methods do not necessarily negate tried and true methods, they simply do not use them as a mandatory template. The effect of Yifan Du’s approach to filmmaking results in films like Blue which are lauded for their individuality and heart. The international appeal of her work is vetted by the fact that Blue has earned Yifan numerous awards from such prestigious events as the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, the Five Continents International Film Festival, the South Film and Arts Academy Festival, and others. With Blue, Yifan proves once again that a great filmmaker tells a personal story that resonates within people of all walks of life. A story does not need to be “larger than life” to effect the audience emotionally, it needs to communicate a truth that we all recognize.
Perhaps the most surprising tactic that Yifan utilized in the making of Blue was disassociating herself from the concept that the main actors in the film needed to be the most versatile and accomplished professionals. Boldly professing that her approach to casting was one of seeking those who seemed tailor-made for the roles, Yifan Du’s clarity of her artistic vision allowed her to see the potential in those whom others might overlook. This also has the added benefit of attracting other more notable filmmakers to work with her. One such example is Cynthia Chen, known for her work on director Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-Nominated film Richard Jewell and the Oscar-Nominated animation film Missing Link, who was the colorist for Blue. Blue’s Director of Photography Chenlu Zhu confides that Yifan’s script first captured her attention but that, “Yifan’s flexibility in trying new things is indicative of the courage she has as a filmmaker. Her openness to different ways of visualizing her stories is a great strength and asset.”
There is a melancholy tone to Blue that resides in the vicinity of Kenneth Lonegran’s two-time Oscar Winning Manchester by the Sea. From the opening long shot tinted in blue with a lone and resounding ticking clock which accompanies the suicide attempt, the loneliness and inner struggle of the main character permeates all sensory stimulants. Yifan’s classic use of a slow advance of the camera as the boy combs his hair in front of the mirror is disturbing as he settles into a relaxed state before shooting himself. There’s a higher creative requirement for professionals like Yifan who are both writer and director. Rather than streamlining the process, Yifan reveals, “The writer in me may want to roam free and design elaborate and shocking scenes for a suicide but the director in me has to consider the safety of the actors and yes, the budget as well. Similarly, the director’s role has certain constraints that require me to create a logical plot that will not seem unreasonable to the audience.”
Spoiler Alert!!! One of the most intriguing facets of Blue comes into focus (no pun intended) late in the film when it becomes clear that the real heroine of the story is the cat. As the plot blossoms, it is evident that the cat has subtly appeared in a number of scenes including a pivotal stairwell scene. This feline has been the sole source of comfort and respite for the film’s central character. Yifan’s own SPCA rescue cat, whose life was cut short due to cancer, was the impetus for creating Blue. A fitting tribute, Blue is vastly void of dialogue but still immensely emotional. Through the medium, this filmmaker presents both the hopeful and heartbreaking circumstances that make life a daunting and yet fulfilling journey.