“The Pale Blue Eye” Provides Thoughtful Evening

Offering an intriguing story, Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye, staring Christian Bale, opened with a limited theatrical release on December 23, including at the Bay Theater in Pacific Palisades. It will start streaming on Netflix on January 6.

Unlike Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which can best be described as “fast food,” okay  if you’re hungry, but nothing you’ll remember after a few hours, The Pale Blue Eye, like an interesting dish, provides images and ideas that continue to resurface days later.

Based on Louis Bayard’s 2006 mystery novel about a young Edgar Allen Poe at West Point Academy in 1830, the dark, snowy forests in upstate New York, overlooking the Hudson River set the tone for a somber story.

Oscar winner Christian Bale, as Augustus Landor, is a reclusive investigator who lives near the Academy.

West Point authorities call on the loner – no wife, his daughter gone – for help in solving the gruesome murder of a cadet.

The young man was found dead and after the body arrives at the morgue, it is discovered that the young man’s heart has been removed.

Landor seeks Poe’s help in the investigation. (The author Poe actually attended West Point for a brief time.)

Played by Harry Melling, he is bright, but irritating. But that is probably by design because it gives credence when Poe points out he is considered an outsider and has been bullied by other cadets.

The movie’s pace is leisurely, and the costuming and scenery effortlessly place viewers in the time period.

Bale is measured and feels like a man who has seen too much and could be hiding secrets. A lovely performance.

Robert Duvall, as Jean-Pepe, effortlessly steals the scenes as a scholar of the supernatural arts.

“I have an old friend who might be of use,” Landor tells Poe before they venture to Jean Pepe’s home for a consultation. Just before they enter, however, Landon adds: “‘He might be the most peculiar man I have ever come across.’

“Seated in his book-lined inner sanctum, the aged scholar does indeed seem like an odd and enigmatic fellow — but he is more than willing to share his theories about strange symbols Landor has happened upon during his inquiry. Specifically, Jean Pepe notes the connection to the fabled book of a notorious witchfinder. ‘Rumor has it,’ he says, ‘there are instructions for immortality.’”

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film 66 percent, with an audience score of 74 percent.

This editor prefers stories and characters over special effects and The Pale Blue Eye satisfies on both counts.

The film’s director, Scott Cooper, after reading the book, thought, My god, how clever is this, [to take] the man who bequeathed to us detective fiction and horror fiction and place him at the center of a detective story?” CTN agrees

A pale blue eye, from which the film takes its title, is featured in Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart as “the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it.” Does this mean characters have issues with their inner vision about how they view something? Or does it mean that an eye can see hidden or secret things?

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