22 de mai de 2007

Wong Kar-wai's “My Blueberry Nights” at Cannes

The 60th Cannes Film Festival

The official recognition here of Asian cinema continues apace, evidenced by Mr. Wong and by new films from the Korean directors Kim Ki-duk and Lee Chang-dong, both in competition. Four out of 20 films in a parallel program called Un Certain Regard are from Asia, including that program’s opening-night film, from the revered Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien: “The Flight of the Red Balloon,” with Juliette Binoche, a tribute to the classic children’s short “The Red Balloon.” Action enthusiasts are already looking forward to “Triangle,” a collaboration of three Hong Kong legends: Tsui Hark, Johnnie To and Ringo Lam.

Wong Kar-wai's “My Blueberry Nights” reception at Cannes

The 60th Cannes Film Festival opened May 16 with Wong Kar-wai's first English-language project, My Blueberry Nights, which is playing in competition.

"My Blueberry Nights" tells the story of a blueberry-pie-eating girl traveling across the vast expanses of the United States of America, searching, like all of Wong's protagonists, for the meaning of "love".

The film stars British and American big names, such as superstar chanteuse Nora Jones, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, and David Strathairn. Its production team is also a mix of eastern and western talents, with American crime writer Lawrence Block as the screenplay writer, French Darius Khondji as the cinematographers, William Chang from Hong Kong as the production designer and editor, as well as an American camera crew. Wong Kar-Wai says "My Blueberry Nights" is an international film nonetheless embracing the spirit of Hong Kong film”.

Wong Kar-Wai won the Best Director prize in 1997 for the film "Happy Together". His protagonist Tony Leung was the judged Best Actor in 2000 for "In the Mood for Love". In 2006, Wong Kar-Wai headed the jury for the 59th Cannes festival, becoming the first Chinese jury president in its history.(Source: CRIENGLISH.com)

The film represents both a series of changes for the director -- a new language, a new country, a new director of photography and a singer with no acting experience in the lead role in the form of Norah Jones -- but at the same time the director also relies heavily on what makes a film a Wong Kar Wai film, including the signature abundance of neon-lights and that dreamy atmosphere that have become a director’s trademark. Since it is in English ...the film will probably be a bigger international hit than his previous efforts, but artistically speaking My Blueberry Nights is not a step forward but rather a step back. (more at http://european-films.net/)

“My Blueberry Nights” is a romantic confection that begins with a lingering shot of vanilla ice cream melting into the gooey filling of a blueberry pie. The film takes place in a postcard America of diners and red neon signs, a land of heartbreak and second chances where folks play poker and drink whiskey and subsist on cheeseburgers, pork chops and, in at least one case, quite a bit of that pie. The pie eater is Norah Jones, the singer and songwriter, who makes her screen debut as Elizabeth, a New Yorker on the rebound from a long relationship with an unfaithful, unseen and unnamed boyfriend. She takes refuge in a homey restaurant managed by Jeremy (Jude Law), where there is always a lot of blueberry pie left over at closing time. After they strike up a late-night, pastry-fueled friendship, sealed with a lovely, drowsy screen kiss, Elizabeth takes off on a journey that leads her from Memphis to Nevada, through a series of waitress jobs, slightly altered identities (she’s Lizzie in one place, Beth in another) and encounters with other lonely souls. These include an alcoholic policeman (David Strathairn), his estranged wife (Rachel Weisz) and a gambler (Natalie Portman) who seems to talk a better game than she plays.

... In “My Blueberry Nights,” shot in CinemaScope by Darius Khondji, the colors are still rich and smoky, but the wider format gives the compositions a looser, more open feeling. And the characters are correspondingly relaxed, even in their moments of distress. Ms. Jones and her co-stars invite and promise easy empathy. While the soundtrack music from “My Blueberry Nights,” which includes American institutions like Otis Redding, Ruth Brown and Ry Cooder, was still echoing in the Palais des Festivals, you could hear dyspeptic grumbling about Mr. Wong’s American venture, along with a certain amount of defensive praise. There will be plenty of time to sort it out. My initial impression is of a sweet, insubstantial movie that might have been more exciting — more meaningful — to make than it is to see.
Full text at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/18/movies/18cann.html

Wong Kar Wai’s visually arresting journey across America is propelled by the stories of loners half-crazed by love and grief. The film charts this haphazard emotional pilgrimage with decidedly mixed results. Wong’s first English language film reveals what a superb artist he is. Visually his film looks stunning on a giant festival screen, but the links between characters and stories require large leaps of faith. ...But it’s so beautifully painted that you can forgive Wong any number of sins. The close-up chemistry between Norah Jones’s feckless heroine and Law’s Mancunian café proprietor is electric. In her first role as an actress, the singer is a genuine find: artless and affecting. The scenes between Jones and Law have all the wonderful hallmarks of Wong’s masterpiece, In the Mood for Love. 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 lettering on the windows of the café and scrawled on Elizabeth’s postcards takes on a sort of mysterious life of its own. The landscape photography is breath-taking, as are the iconic shots of street corners and open roads which you could cut out and hang in galleries. Like all metaphorical journeys, this one comes full circle but there’s a wonderful ambiguity about how it actually ends.
Full text at:

[...]Over the past decade-and-a-half, the Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the most vital and distinctive talents in world cinema. But he loses his way badly on his first English-language outing, an American road movie that relegates him to the role of a passive, swooning tourist amid a blur of neon signs, smoky bars and open freeways. Admittedly My Blueberry Nights doesn't quite go so far as to feature a gum-chewing hitchhiker, or a Native American spouting soulful wisdom. But the rest of the genre tropes are all trotted out with a woozy abandon.

The film marks the acting debut of singer Norah Jones who headlines as Elizabeth, the self-styled "girl with a broken heart". [...]Credit where it's due, Jones copes well with the attention, in that her performance is easy and unobtrusive without ever quite communicating any great depth of feeling or life-changing epiphany. Weirdly, it's her more experienced co-stars who struggle. Natalie Portman toils against miscasting as a brassy gambler, while Jude Law is overly winsome as the good-hearted owner of a Manhattan cafe. Playing the role of a frazzled Memphis belle, Rachel Weisz manages a pitch-perfect accent and certainly looks the part. If only Wong hadn't chosen to introduce her in comical slow motion, sashaying into the bar to the strains of Try a Little Tenderness. It's the sort of humiliating entrance that no actor can hope to rebound from; the equivalent of walking in with her skirt hitched into her knickers.

[...]True to form, Wong's curtain raiser is beautiful to look at and unabashedly romantic. But it is also vapid and ephemeral, trading in a kind of karaoke Americana that bounces us from cafe to bar to truck stop for the simple reason that they are there to be bounced between. Taking off for Vegas, our heroine reflects that "what should have taken hours went on for days and what should have been a short ride became a long one". She might have been talking about the whole of My Blueberry Nights.

My Blueberry Nights,[...] arrived in a finished print, complete with credits, it also seemed strangely formulaic for such a maverick director known for re-editing his movies even after release. [...] For the last ten years Wong has been an established Cannes staple – and for admirers of his dreamy, neon-drenched style, My Blueberry Nights is definitely the work of the auteur behind such wonders as Chungking Express and In The Mood For Love. However, for the first 20 minutes at least, My Blueberry Nights wavers on the borders of self-parody. Filmed on location, it evokes a gorgeous, hallucinatory (and largely twilight) world, but where Wong's dialogue once seemed so cute and rarefied in Cantonese, it now seems a little on the clichéd side.

[...] It's a shame, then, that the film never quite plays up to its players: Wong shoots and directs his cast with an understated sensitivity, but the story itself never quite marshals all the moments he gathers on screen.

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