Cannes. My Blueberry Nights.
So the press has just seen the opening film (also in Competition
) at Cannes
, Wong Kar-wai
's My Blueberry Nights
, starring Norah Jones
and Jude Law
with David Strathairn
, Rachel Weisz
and Natalie Portman
"Co-scripted by Wong with crime writer Lawrence Block
is essentially a road movie, and therein lies the problem," writes Erika Abeel
. "It couldn't, in its way, be more Hollywood.... That said, Blueberry
is, predictably, of a visual mastery and beauty to provokes gasps. The film works best as video-art of the highest order; I wanted to freeze frames, and can't wait to see it again." Also at Filmmaker
: Howard Feinstein
gets an interview with Wong.
'll point you to the trailer.
Updated through 5/22.
's got a big Wong Kar-wai package today. Patrick Frater
runs through the director's history while Derek Elley
focuses on that signature style.
also notes that Wong's got a lot on his plate at the moment, including Lady From Shanghai
with Nicole Kidman
while Vicki Rothrock
reminds us that he's still doing ads as well.
Another reminder, this one from Justin Chang
is the "first film in nearly 20 years (since 1988's As Tears Go By
) on which Wong hasn't collaborated with his regular cinematographer, Christopher Doyle
, with whom he parted ways after 2046
was lensed by Iranian-French DP Darius Khondji
, known for his work with Jean-Pierre Jeunet
and David Fincher
. Khondji - who, like every other Wong first-timer attached to the project, leaped at the opportunity to work with the helmer - had to balance his adoration for the familiar Wong-Doyle style with his determination not to imitate it."
talks with Norah Jones: "[I]t just seemed like a really good time to say yes and try something different with somebody I trusted."
Updates: Anne Thompson
finds it "a delicious mood poem, a visually stunning ode to the lips of Norah Jones and Jude Law, who deliver the film's highlight: a soft, sumptuous, slow kiss.... The scenes between Law and Jones, who are falling in love at the start of the film, are magical, and closely resemble a six-minute short film Wong made at the same time as In the Mood for Love
, which is set in a diner."
Three reviews from the Hollywood Reporter
"Probably only Wong Kar Wai could direct an American road movie that takes place mostly indoors - in cafes and bars, honky-tonks and casinos," writes Gregg Kilday. "Through it all, the visuals are seductive, but the English-language dialog by Wong and Lawrence Block falls flat.... At the first press screening, a few fans tried to generate some applause, but the screening room quickly fell silent."
"Nothing truly profound gets discovered, nor does this film mark a career breakthrough for Wong despite the shift in language and locale," writes Kirk Honeycutt. "This cool and cerebral film could be a hot arthouse item. But..."
Norah Jones doesn't sing in the film, Ray Bennett reminds us at his blog, The Cliff Edge: "The voice everyone will leave the picture thinking about is that of Chan Marshall, the gifted singer and songwriter from Georgia who leads the hot outfit Cat Power and the Memphis Rhythm Band."
"One critic from Istanbul and another from Toronto, both of whom sat next to me at a press conference, complained that there was too much dialogue to explain the obvious emotions between characters," writes Charles Ealy at the Austin Movie Blog. "But the cinematography was luscious and the supporting actors were excellent." Notes from that press conference follow.
"This is Wong watered down and plagued with poor performances and weak writing," sighs Time Out's Dave Calhoun. "The director's fractured imagination has fun toying with the received imagery of America - overhead subways, yellow cabs, diners, bars, the open road - and resists wandering into that hackneyed territory of Americana that plagues, say, Wim Wenders's recent films Million Dollar Hotel and Don't Come Knocking and is the preserve of many the wide-eyed outsider. Here, the photography by Darius Khondji is at times sublime and always strong, stirring and inventive. Yet, emotionally and dramatically, My Blueberry Nights lacks that very same ingredient that it seeks the most: a beating, longing, devastating heart."
"If anything, it's a little too textbook WKW - such a concise, accessible summation of his methods and themes that it feels lazy at best, opportunistic at worst," writes Mike D'Angelo at ScreenGrab. "For a while, the sheer sensuousness of Wong and Khondji's soft-focus imagery holds all objections at bay; I spent much of the initial half hour ignoring the clunky dialogue and concentrating on the dazzling colors and textures. (Video's getting less and less ugly, but it'll never look like this.) Eventually, though, one can't help but notice that Blueberry Nights amounts to little more than Wong's reheated leftovers."
Xan Brooks, blogging for the Guardian, points to his two-out-of-five star review: "Tradition has it that the Cannes' opening night film is always met with a passionate response, either cheered to the rafters or booed to oblivion or sprayed with a turbulent cocktail of the two. My Blueberry Nights, by contrast, wrapped up with a discreet shuffle towards the exit door. On balance that seemed the most damning verdict of them all."
Variety's Todd McCarthy: "Blueberry echoes the director's biggest hit, In the Mood for Love, in its moody melancholy, claustrophic settings and highly decorative shooting style. But while the actors' dialogue delivery is perfectly natural, the aphoristic philosophical nuggets Wong favors sound banal and clunky in this context, leaving the film thematically in the shallow end of the pool. Additionally, the road movie potential of the film's second half feel significantly under-realized."
Norah Jones "has all the right moves, but something is missing inside," write Richard and Mary Corliss for Time. "She's the hole at the center of the movie. Indeed, Blueberry Nights can be seen as a series of acting lessons, by the other members of the cast, which Jones can apply the next time she's in a movie.... It's not until Portman shows up that you'll find the sort of sizzle and sympathy Wong cooks up with ease in [Wong's] best films. Natalie Portman - Best Actress? Yup."
Eugene Hernandez posts a snapshot of the press conference and comments, "Maybe the story is just not 'complex' enough for me. When I saw 2046 here in Cannes, I was confused and excited. This one is more straightforward, but still solid. And hearing Wong talk about it at the press conference added a bit of the complexity that I was hoping for. Again, its really hard for me to criticize one of my favorite filmmakers. I need to go see it again!" Click "press conference" for quotage and more iW news of the day.
Dave Kehr translates a few notes from Thomas Sotinel's blog for Le Monde, among them, "So I will not interview Jude Law, because I am incapable of asking a question like, 'Why the hell did you get mixed up in this?'"
"Portman gives the film some much-needed acid tang as a confident conniver with a heart of lead," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi. "New York is caught in blue, wintry tones; Memphis in deep, relaxed browns; Nevada's casinos come alive in jittery crimson. It's too bad that we can't quite believe in the characters within those gorgeous visions, though - and the film's on-the-nose dialogue and slack voice-overs don't help."
"It's alternatingly ravishing and awkward," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "The various voiceover ruminations from characters, with reflections of keys and opening doors and a lot of other metaphor-kinda-stuff, is banal enough to lead to a frightening thought - the would-be profoundities of Kar-Wai's characters in his Chinese-language films were likely just as problematic; did we swallow them then because we were reading them instead of hearing them in our own language?"
Jeffrey Wells: "I don't know which is worse - the whole waitressing-in-Memphis section of the film, or the endless soul-searching section with Law in the pastry shop. But put 'em together and wham, you're looking at your watch and going 'holy bejeezus, this is dreadful.'" Glenn Kenny comments: "[B]etween intervals of wanting to say, 'A lot of rage there, Jeff; wanna rap about it?' I see Wells has got points as well as issues."
Updates, 5/17: "Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North American rights for My Blueberry Nights director Wong Kar Wai's reworking of his martial arts-themed Ashes of Time." Tatiana Siegel has more for the Hollywood Reporter.
"Steamy glass, inky-blue Manhattan skies daubed with sunflower-yellow shocks of neon, a Ferris wheel reflected on a window: the film is absolutely gorgeous without ever descending into the overly mannered, perfume-advertisement territory of 2046," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu. "I'm not sure that the film achieves the right balance between the saloon-bar-style anecdotes that Block supplies and Wong's own devotion to gauzy atmospherics. But the one consistently false note in My Blueberry Nights is the extensive use of voiceover."
European-films.net editor Boyd van Hoeij agrees: "Could it be that the director feels less certain he gets his message across in a language that is not his? Voice overs from several characters are used to make explicit what should ideally have been inferred from what transpires on screen."
But for London Times critic James Christopher, Blueberry Nights is "so beautifully painted that you can forgive Wong any number of sins... Where the director scores heavily is the way he handles atmosphere and themes. He experiments quite brilliantly with shutter speeds, angles, filters, and textures."
The Lumière Reader runs a dispatch from Gautaman Bhaskaran, who calls Blueberry Nights "most powerful work to date, though there were some moments when I felt that the movie let go my attention."
"It is far from his highest achievement, but it evidences no betrayal of his special gifts," writes Patrick Z McGavin at Stop Smiling. "Wong transposes his elliptical, enigmatic style to an American idiom.... By playing off his typical preoccupations, Wong is never subjected to the loss of identity or absence of a strong point of view that afflicts so many foreign-born directors working in America for the first time. Like pretty much all of his work, it floats and whirls in the imagination."
"It's a late-night, lovelorn mood piece in a minor key, not complicated or convoluted, finally more confection than substance," writes Salon's Andrew O'Hehir. "I'm not the first person to observe that it bears a startling, if presumably accidental, resemblance to Alan Rudolph's 1984 indie hit Choose Me. Still, the longer this slice of fanciful blueberry-pie Americana sits with me, the better I like it."
"Retaining the languor but stripped of the exoticism that helped to attract an art-house audience to In The Mood For Love or Happy Together, it winds up feeling much less special and even veers towards the mundane," writes Allan Hunter for Screen Daily.
Update, 5/18: Wong "is still interested in the mysterious nature of desire and the effects of time and distance upon it," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "But the setting, the language and the conventions of English-language screen acting give this movie, for better or worse, a decided air of novelty.... My initial impression is of a sweet, insubstantial movie that might have been more exciting - more meaningful - to make than it is to see."
"Wong's first English-language film is - to repeat the consensus - slight to the point of frivolity," writes Dennis Lim for IFC News. That said: "Even off his peak, there are things Wong does better than almost any filmmaker on earth: shooting physical intimacy, for instance. The first Jones-Law kiss is simplicity itself - a few extreme close-ups, a lingering overhead shot, total silence - but it's a real time stopper, up there in the swoon pantheon with the taxicab snuggle in Happy Together or the back-alley last goodbyes of In the Mood for Love."
Update, 5/20: "[W]ho knew that Wong would have any desire to make a Zalman King film, only without the sex?" wonders Robert Koehler at filmjourney.org. "Wong's densely textured images, drenched in neon, glassy reflections and nocturnal desire - set in New York, Memphis, the open highway, Reno and Vegas - are the reliable decoration to material that alternately borrowed devices from American plays (Lanford Wilson's Balm in Gilead came to mind all too often), American road movies (Wenders's pathetic recent ventures kept coming up) and bad American straight-to-video romances."
Update, 5/22: "[A]kin to seeing Wong without his trademark shades, watching the movie unavoidably inspires two mental exercises," proposes J Hoberman in the Voice. "The first: imagining it in subtitled Chinese, recast with Chinese actors (Tony Leung in place of the too-eager-to-please Jude Law). The second: replaying Wong's greatest hits sans Orientalism - were the performances in 2046 as mediocre and the dialogue as trite as in My Blueberry Nights?"
Cannes @ 60. Index.
Posted by dwhudson at May 16, 2007 8:28 AM