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  • Rich

FrightFest Review: THE BLUE ROSE

Updated: Feb 4

Something very strange is happening in Hollyweird…

Detectives Lilly and Dalton, played by Olivia Scott Welch and writer/director George Baron

Midnight seems an apt time to pour the wine and drop the needle on Lana Del Rey... the perfect accompaniment while reflecting on George Baron’s debut feature The Blue Rose — a waking dream and new nightmare of LA LA land that feels as though “those young folk actually have some talent.” You see, Baron is only 18 years old and not only has something to say but — as with any artist and their art — clearly has something to feel as he embraces a delirium of alternate realities and dual identities. The result is a perfect gender-fluid fable that dusts off its “quasi-’50s” veneer to reveal (and reflect on) an increasingly divisive 21st-century world. As Baron goes on to state: “It is my intent for this film in its absurdist, off-beat way to help people who are targeted for being different — a time that was ripe with repressed fears and desires — to enhance themes of gender fluidity and facing fears in a universe that doesn’t allow them to be expressed.”

Therefore, as an LGBTQ writer, actor and director, Baron is as important a voice as any right now. Having been making films since he was eight, after working as a child actor he went on to helm a production of Spring Awakening at the Stella Adler Theatre in 2019. Inspired by an Immersive Theater Art Show he directed in February of 2020 — just before the first lockdown — The Blue Rose builds on the same characters, inspired by the artwork of his friend Sophia Victoria Frizzell; several pieces of which can be seen throughout the film.

Unravelling the threads of the plot would take multiple viewings as, in true neo-noir form, everything becomes subverted… to a point. Rookie detectives Lilly and Dalton (Olivia Scott Welch and Baron) are assigned to work on a murder case in which they find several blue roses at the scene of the crime. Here they meet Hollywood socialite Norma Steele (Danielle Bisutti) and discover her keen eye for surrealism... and (inviting) taste for tea ‘n’ biscuits, “Well, Norma, I’ve never denied the opportunity to feast on cookies, so I’ll take it.” As Lily and Dalton navigate their assignment — believing Norma and her sister Sophie (Nikko Austen Smith) are suspects — they don’t so much pick away at the clues as the clues pick away at them.

Throughout the film, a neo-noir tone is subdued by what Baron dubs “pastel-noir”. From the offset the titles revert to deco-inspired typography and floral backdrops of the golden age in which you can’t help but want to peel away the wallpaper and reveal the mysteries that lie beneath. Of course, most of the influences are completely on the nose (Baron's own style still to blossom) as the imagery and language of Blue Velvet becomes the film’s footing. Baron goes as far to credit David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalementi as a huge influence, along with the sweeping symphonies of Bernard Herrmann paired with contemporary singer-songwriter Melanie Martinez. Composer Alexander Burke captures the entire vibe perfectly, right up to the final melodic track. It's here, after the slasher-style ending — bathed in Suspiria blood-lit corridors — where the film literally cuts, reaching a crescendo of Baron’s identities... before we are all lulled to sleep through a looking glass.

A genuine talent to look out for, with The Blue Rose George Baron will remind you as much of Dennis Potter than of David Lynch; a young filmmaker primed on absurdist studies... yet, still managing to retain a poetry... where ‘they’, ultimately, dream of each ‘Other’.

Book your tickets for the world premiere at FrightFest Sunday, August 27th.


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