Thursday, 6 March 2008

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (Wong Kar-Wai, 2008)

Opening here today (and already available on bootleg DVD) is Wong Kar-Wai's first English language feature, My Blueberry Nights. The film does not really work on any level and is Wong's least interesting film I've seen since his 1988 As Tears Go By. It is, however, definitely a curiosity and Wong's fans may want to check it out.

What is surprising is how talky the film is. I expected the film to have less dialogue given the film is not in Wong's first language, but this is not the case. Also surprising is how much the film does still feel like a Wong film, even though it also feels like the work of a fan mimicking his approach. Normally, Wong likes to reinvent himself slightly with each film even while maintaining many of his themes. Here it feels simply like recycling.

My Blueberry Nights comes off like an American variation on Wong's 1994 cult item Chungking Express (favorite of Quentin Tarantino, who first made Wong more widely known to the West by releasing this film under his banner), especially in terms of narrative. Stylistically, the film is closer to the later In the Mood for Love (2000), although My Blueberry Nights lacks that film's intensity of visual beauty, partly because the emotions of the story here do not support it. The overall mood of the piece is the lightest of all Wong's work since Chungking Express, and the energy and spontaneity of that film is absent here. The covering of the usual Wong themes of time, memory and romantic longing also seem tired and overly simplified.

In many ways, this is "Wong for Dummies". It is puzzling who this film is going to appeal to. It will most likely disappoint Wong's fans, while at the same time being too much of a Wong project to really generate box office, despite the presence of pop star Norah Jones in the lead. Then again, it may be just the right mixture to please Jones's fans. File under the new "Adult Contemporary Viewing" genre.

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