my blueberry blogging

Rachel Weisz waits breathlessly for Dex's latest reviews.

My Blueberry Nights (2007) - I hear two questions frontloaded onto any discussion of Wong Kar-Wai's American debut: one typically goes, "Is Norah Jones as bad as I've heard?" and the other is, "How does it look?" referring to Kar-Wai's divorce from longtime cinematographer, Christopher Doyle; answering these questions, and these two questions only, ostensibly lead the questioner to some kind of final judgment on the long-awaited film. Misplaced, and not so fair, but understandable nonetheless: Wong Kar-Wai - the beatnik auteur who directed the Hong Kong New Wave cult faves Chungking Express (1994), In the Mood For Love (2000), and 2046 (2004) - is held in pretty high regard by movie buffs. But Jones - whose character for all intents and purposes could just be called "The Ingenue" - does just fine, and cinematographer Darius Khondji's (Delicatessen (1991), The Beach (2001), The Ninth Gate (1999), Panic Room (2002) camera nuzzles up to the cast just like the lens should in a Wong Kar-Wai movie.

Instead, the flaws come by way of the script. Not the story - much like Jack Kerouac did, lovingly writing and rewriting the same book-length story a number of times, Wong Kar-Wai has carefully directed the same movie two, even three times (indeed, there's a lot here that one can see was lifted right out of Chungking Express), and the same lonely, longing archetypes pop up again and again in nearly all of his pics, even the martial arts one - but the script. The little moments and spaces of humanity and gentle revelation that adorn Wong Kar-Wai's HK films and make them such unique viewing experiences are hardly found at all in My Blueberry Nights. Kar-Wai's America seems fabricated, a little artificial, and with the exception of Jude Law's scenes, we get Method 101.

This is not to say My Blueberry Nights is a bad film - indeed, it was exactly what I needed when I saw it. But it's average, at best, and with this kind of cast and coming from this director, it's a disappointment.

Youth Without Youth (2007) - Francis Ford Coppola is not a director anymore, but the guy who directed The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. He's also a guy who takes interesting ideas and fucks them up - Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), and now Youth Without Youth: a scintillating movie to look at that is about absolutely nothing and somehow feels like it was made 75 years ago. It made me sort of sad, frankly. Coppola was probably the first director I fell in love with, but it looks as though movies have passed him by. The only thing I got out of this was wondering what someone like Takashi Miike or Danny Boyle would have done with the material.

Lust, Caution (Se, jie) (2007) - Ang Lee's latest film is the often-brilliant story of a student and budding actress (Wei Tang) who, in a fit of patriotic fervor and blind, youthful exuberance, joins a start-up cell of resisters to the Japanese occupation of China during World War II. Tang's group plans to start small and prove their worth to the larger resistance movement, so they go about befriending the shallow, sad wife (Joan Chen) of a local collaborator (the always-marvelous Tony Leung), whom they hope to trap and assassinate; plans change, though, when the tightly-wound Leung begins to plot an affair with Tang.

Wei Tang and Tony Leung are absolutely fantastic, and the love scenes between the two leads have a delirious, uncomfortable intimacy - indeed, the story is a reflection on the roles people gladly throw themselves into, even in the midst of wartime, as well as the complexity hiding beneath those outward performances. Lee shows again that in many ways, he's become the kind of director the aforementioned Francis Ford Coppola was always supposed to be: a master storyteller who can move skillfully from genre to genre.


Joaquin said...

I was surprised by My Blueberry Nights. Honestly, I expected much less. And to hear "Yumeji's Theme" from In the Mood for Love all done up in spurs and boots with a harmonica? Beautiful.

It's funny how quick people are to fault Wong Kar-Wai's "script" with his American picture. Have any of his previous films had a strong script? Ultimately, does he even follow a script? I don't think so. He's much more of an editor-director than a screenwriter-director.

Dex said...

good point, but 'my blueberry' is different in that the material that make up the scenes he strings together in this has a recycled feel, like the sketch of a sketch of a first draft, so the cast ends up having to act through the scenes, instead of inhabiting them.

i like the movie, don't get me wrong. it's just so minor, all things considered.

1minutefilmreview said...

Albeit his usual material, we thought Blueberry Nights's great for its theme.