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March 06, 2008

My Blueberry Nights


Wong Kar-Wai - 2007
CM Entertainment Region 3 DVD

If I may be allowed a pun, seeing Wong Kar-Wai's first English language film was a bit disorienting. The casting and language of Wong's previous films give them an exotic layer that is missing from My Blueberry Nights. It did not take too long to recognize the new work as being a continuation of the themes explored previously, love and memory, but in new settings. Even with respected mystery writer Lawrence Block sharing the screenplay credit, My Blueberry Nights, is still very much the work of the man who made In the Mood for Love and 2046.

Norah Jones plays a woman, Elizabeth, who seeking out the lover who dumped her, keeps showing up at the small restaurant of his last rendezvous. The restaurant is run by Jeremy (Jude Law), who may not remember names of his customers, but what they have eaten. The restaurant is called "Klyuch", Russian for keys. Jeremy, the keeper of keys left by his customers, develops a friendship with Elizabeth over late night blueberry pie and coffee. The pie serves as a metaphor for choices one makes. Pie, served whole or in slices also acts as a metaphor for divided identities.

Elizabeth works her way across the U.S., from New York City to Memphis, and eventually across Nevada, as a waitress. At various points, she is known as Lizzie, Betty and Beth. The theme of the divided self is made most clear in the Memphis sequence. Lizzie works during the day at a restaurant, and at night as a barmaid. Her regular customer at both places is Arnie, the upstanding law officer during the day, and the forgetful drunk at night. The bar where Elizabeth works, and where Arnie repeatedly "celebrates" his last night of drinking is also where Arnie and his ex-wife, Sue Lynne, confront each other. As in his other films, Wong examines relationships that remain stubbornly difficult for both people, and the impossibility of being free of emotional bonds, set against a soundtrack featuring Otis Redding singing "Try a Little Tenderness".

Just as My Blueberry Nights remains Wong's film in theme and subject, as well as choice of characters, so it remains a Wong film visually. Even though Wong's films are said to be improvised, random pausing of the DVD seems to indicate a precision to the visuals. Darius Khondji has become Wong's cinematographer, bathing shots in blue or red lights, opening the film with extreme close-ups of what is eventually understood to be pie a la mode. Several of the elements of My Blueberry Nights seem to be reworked from Chunking Express. One major difference is that at one point Wong breaks from the claustrophobic settings of his previous films to enjoy the wide open spaces of Nevada. The shots of the empty Nevada sky contrast with Wong's Hong Kong settings of tenements and skyscrapers. Just as Elizabeth travels around the U.S., only to return to New York City, Wong Kar-Wai has travelled to new environments, as in here and in Happy Together. The landscapes and languages may be different, but as a meditation on love, memory and food, My Blueberry Nights has everything one has learned to expect from Wong Kar-Wai's cinematic kitchen. The cherry on top is one of the best screen kisses on film.

Posted by peter at March 6, 2008 12:00 AM


Thanks for this review. Wong is a favorite of mine; I wonder when "My Blueberry Nights" will be out on DVD?

Posted by: Rick at March 6, 2008 11:24 PM

What did you think of Jones' performance? I have read quite a few negative reviews that hinge on the fact that she's not actually that good of an actress. Otherwise, I can't wait to see this one.

Posted by: dana at March 8, 2008 04:47 PM

Jones is pretty, but for acting chops you gotta give to Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at March 12, 2008 12:46 AM

The story is very good and the story very support me and myboy.thank you for MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS.thank you?

Posted by: Nisa at March 5, 2009 11:16 PM