Directed by Wong Kar-wai
My Blueberry Nights is both a step forward for Wong Kar-wai and revisitation of the past. A step forward because it is his first feature in the English language and a step into the past because in spirit this film resembles his early work such as Chungking Express. This is definitely not In The Mood for Love. When critics praised In the Mood for Love they made it sound like an Ang Lee film with different clothes. But Wong Kar-wai has always been a postmodern filmmaker whereas Ang Lee has always been more of a social-realist. Wong Kar-wai’s films have always existed in a dream world which only exists in the imagination of popular culture.
What he’s managed to make with My Blueberry Nights is a pure piece of Americana infused with his trademark style of sensuous lighting, slow shutterspeeds, and repetition of songs. This isn’t the real America. It’s America filtered through Edward Hopper, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams and Neil Young. Wong Kar-wai obviously has a fondness for American culture and it has always been apparent in his cinema.
The plot itself is slight. We open in New York and Norah Jones plays Elizabeth an wide-eyed, innocent, heartbroken woman. She befriends Jeremy (played by Jude Law) who owns a tiny restaurant. As soon as Jeremy falls for her she disappears on a journey across America to find herself. Along the way she meets David Strathairn and Rachel Weisz as a broken couple in Memphis and Natalie Portman as a sassy but cynical gambler. The plot is so slight that if you’re looking for a traditional love story you’re probably going to come away disappointed. Watching this movie is like listening to a great pop song. One well observed lyrics can have a huge emotional impact without hearing a whole story. It’s the same with this film. You have to fill in the gaps a little.
Actors across the board are great. Jude Law is really clever in how he hides his receding hairline. David Strathairn proves himself in a role that allows him to be a lot more unhinged and emotional than in Goodnight, and Good Luck. Rachel Weisz is stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking. Norah Jones is often the observer in this film but she is pretty good in this film. She has a naturally vulnerable look about her and a certain quality that no amount of method acting can achieve. I won’t be running out to see the next Norah ones movie but Wong Kar-wai uses her very well. The person who is surprisingly good is Cat Power who appears in a short cameo and looks completely sober.
Speaking of Cat Power, she appears on the soundtrack very prominently. Despite what a certain bearded critic on the ABC has said, the soundtrack is great across the board especially Otis Redding’s ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ and Cassandra Wilson’s cover of ‘Harvest Moon’.
SEE THIS WITH:
Chungking Express, Wong Kar-wai, 1994
‘Big Sur’, from So Much for the City, The Thrills, 2003
It’s a videoclip, but it’s a great example of overseas artists filtering Americana.