Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Blueberry Nights

Wong Kar-Wai, 2007, in English (8.2*)
Wong is a Hong Kong director, and one of the most visual filmmakers in history, which makes him one of my favorites. He frames shots like still photographers, yet always keeps the camera moving so nothing is static. He also likes to slow the speed down sometimes (such a slow motion kiss), or speed it up a little (street crimes become blurred and fast), creating alterations of time only possible with cinema. His films all involve passage of time and relationships, and some even show the date or time as segment headings. This film shows its "chapters" as date and distance from New York City for the main character played by singer Norah Jones in a subtle, finely nuanced performance.

This is about relationships, close and long distance. The film starts in New York city, where Jude Law runs a diner frequented by Jones, hunting for a missing lover. She later hits the road, and the film moves to Memphis, where she meets David Straithorn, an alcoholic cop, while tending bar, and his estranged wife, Oscar winner Rachel Weisz. She later moves on to Nevada and runs into Natalie Portman as a poker playing babe with a hot Jaguar.

Wong tells simple stories where the art is in the cinematography. He has some of the richest color you'll ever see in modern films, and some of the most striking images of mundane subjects. In this one he shows almost abstract images of pie, elevated trains, cars, landscapes rolling by. His films have won numerous international awards, but this is his first one in English, and will be a nice introduction to his work for westerners not familiar with him. Chungking Express and its sequel Fallen Angels were the inspiration for Tarentino's Pulp Fiction.

This film also features a terrific soundtrack, with original music by Ry Cooder, and some pop songs, with "The Story" sung by Norah Jones at the film's close.


Kogi Kaishakunin December 3, 2009 at 8:51 AM  

I think My Blueberry Nights has to be the worst Wong Kar-Wai movie in my book :-)

José Sinclair December 3, 2009 at 3:47 PM  

Interesting... I like them all so far, so I can't say "worst", but there are a few I haven't seen yet.. like Happy Together.. So far the one I can't really remember is Days of Being Wild, but I do remember like it as well - for me he's just about the most consistently 'very good' filmmaker, just b/c the visuals/cinematography are always mesmerizing..

Maybe it's b/c this one was in English? It's getting me to rewatch Chungking Express, which is my fave along with sequel Fallen Angels..

Kogi Kaishakunin December 3, 2009 at 5:18 PM  

My favorite film of Wong Kar-wai is "In the Mood for Love" followed closely by "Chunking Express".
I found "My Blueberry Nights" to be plain and bereft of that streak of melancholy that usually runs through his films. Plus the acting was staid and Chris Doyle was sorely missed. And where was Ry Cooder's signature music???

José Sinclair December 6, 2009 at 4:20 PM  

one great point you made: Christopher Doyle! an amazing cinematographer! he's also worked on some incredible Zhang Yimou films, so he's definitely one of the best alive.. I'll publish a filmography of his someday soon, I've been intending to..
I DID feel the usual melancholia in Blueberry Nights however, for people you leave behind when you move away - this is the saddest fact of our personal lives, in my opinion, b/c "you can't go home again" as Thomas Wolfe wrote..
I like the music selections, tho most were just songs and not original music..
I suppose if singer Norah Jones can stand out as the best actor here, then we didn't see the best of Portman, Law, Weisz, or Straithorn, tho all were passable.. all have been Oscar nominees, Weisz an oscar winner (Constant Gardener)

Good analysis! -- thanks - Jose

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