Arturo Ripstein's Bleak Street is certainly a film that lives up to its name, a stark exploration of the harsher aspects of life, the suffering which exists all over the world, focusing on characters who have been hardened by the unforgiving environment around them. Many viewers will have a hard time showing empathy towards any of the characters in this film, but I believe that the film makes a convincing argument that they are merely products of their harsh environment. Bleak Street is a film where the narrative becomes engrossing more as the film progresses, with Ripstein understanding the importance early on in defining these characters and the world in which they inhabit. Every character in this film lives a lowly, poverty existence, with the narrative focusing on two aging prostitutes who each have a difficult time finding work. One of the prostitutes has major problems at home, with her teenage daughter and a cross dressing, homosexual husband. The other struggles with loneliness having to be the caregiver, and not a particularly good one, to her incapacitated, elderly mother. These characters aren't what one would consider good people, but as the film's narrative progresses it becomes clear that they have been shaped by the harshness of their reality. Without going into details, these two prostitutes have an encounter with two twin midget wrestlers, which sends their lives spiraling into a even deeper hole. These twin brothers are followed through the film as well, low income wrestlers, one of them being an abusive husband to his wife, while they share an alcoholic mother. One of my favorite aspects of the film is its ability to show how such grating conditions breeds animosity and anger, with these characters developing an underlying brutality, with once again the film arguing that this is, at least in part, a bi-product of the conditions in which they live. The characters of Bleak Street do become sympathetic over time due to this constant struggle, as they are simply characters doing what is necessary to survive. Shot in stark black and white cinematography which certainly evokes the bleakness of its story, Bleak Street's camera artfully wanders around its environment with slow pans and tracking shots, a film with a powerful aesthetic which matches its grim story. Bleak Street is a tragedy, revealing how in this type of situation life becomes more of a burden than a blessing, slowing wearing down these characters til they have nothing left to give. Bleak Street is the type of film that is grim to the degree that I felt like I needed a shower after watching it, very offbeat and strangely effective. Towards the end of the film when things have really taken a turn for the worse, one of the prostitutes exclaims "All Things Pass", as she has essentially excepted that she will only find some sense of solace in death, whenever that day comes.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.