Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Blueberry Nights: A delicious morsel from Wong Kar-Wai

My Blueberry Nights (drama, romance)
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai
Starring Jude Law, Norah Jones, David Strathairn, Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz

Optimum Home Entertainment | 2008 | 95 min | Rated BBFC: 12 | Released Jun 23, 2008

Video codec: VC-1
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1


Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 4/5

The first thing to mention is that My Blueberry Nights is not yet available on Blu-ray in North America. This review refers to the Region B UK disc.

In the opening scene, we are introduced to Jeremy (Law), who runs a diner in New York. He’s originally from Manchester, England, but seems at home in his surroundings. He knows people by what they eat. Elizabeth (Jones) is a customer who is asking whether her boyfriend has been in the diner. Jeremy confirms that he was there and had dinner with another woman. 

The two begin to talk on a regular basis. Elizabeth leaves her keys at the diner so that Jeremy can give them to her boyfriend. He listens to everything she says and is part friend, part psychiatrist and part restaurant owner. The two share a bond of sorts and he also reveals details of his own previous relationships. He keeps her keys in a jar with countless others and Elizabeth learns that he knows the story behind each set.

Jeremy also talks to her about food, explaining what sells well and what doesn’t. He offers her blueberry pie and ice cream and mentions that the blueberry pie is often untouched at the end of the day. There’s nothing wrong with it, but people just make other choices. I think Wong Kar-Wai is comparing people to food with that observation. There’s nothing wrong with Elizabeth or Jeremy, but both are alone.

The camera on the diner wall serves as Jeremy’s diary. He likes to watch the recordings at the end of the day to see what he’s missed. Wong Kar-Wai’s camera doesn’t miss anything. When Jeremy and Elizabeth are talking, we see them from afar. There’s often a counter or something in the way of the camera so that we feel like voyeurs, spying on an intimate conversation. Other notable techniques include the use of vivid colors and the blurring of motion, as well as slow motion and images which are sped up. Wong Kar-Wai uses the same techniques in other films such as Chungking Express and Fallen Angels.

Without declaring anything, it becomes obvious that Jeremy and Elizabeth care about each other. But Elizabeth seems wary of relationships after her recent experiences and decides to take some time to think about what she really wants. She works in various bars and diners and eventually winds up in Memphis. It’s there that she meets Arnie (Strathairn), who drinks in her bar. She listens to Arnie, talks about her dreams and gives him advice. I like Strathairn’s performance and consider him one of the most interesting characters in the film. Is it a coincidence that Elizabeth becomes someone who will listen to people’s problems, just as Jeremy did with her?

Elizabeth writes to Jeremy regularly, but never reveals her address or phone number. He misses her and tries randomly calling bars and diners to find her. Later, he decides to send postcards, and ends up sending hundreds.

Elizabeth rarely stays in one place for long and has a series of adventures. The most prominent one happens when she encounters Leslie (Portman), who plays poker for high stakes. Elizabeth learns more about herself as the film progresses, especially from Leslie.

Will Elizabeth and Jeremy ever meet again? I won’t reveal that here.

Norah Jones did a great job on her acting debut. The story is stylish, intimate and a little unconventional. If you like other Wong Kar-Wai films, you’ll almost certainly like this. Ry Cooder’s score is incredible and perfectly matches the mood. There are some other well-placed songs, especially the two haunting numbers from Cat Power. If you’re a fan of Cat Power, look out for a cameo appearance by Chan Marshall.

Video Quality 4.5/5
Optimum’s Blu-ray presentation looks great. The stylized color scheme is striking and the detail strong. There are no obvious problems such as dirt or print damage. The film looks clean and almost perfect. Any blurring is purely intentional and a regular occurrence in Wong Kar-Wai's films.

Audio Quality 4.5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivered everything I hoped for. Although the film is primarily a dialogue-heavy story, the use of music enhances the atmosphere. Cooder’s guitar is wonderful and the other songs all come across well. You won’t have to strain to hear any of the dialogue and I couldn’t detect any faults in the mix.

Special Features 3/5

10,279 Miles Since Hong Kong: My Blueberry Nights – A good “making of” feature with cast and crew.

Cannes Press Conference – Director Wong Kar-Wai and actress Norah Jones face the Cannes media.

Character Study – A short piece featuring comments from cast and crew.

Theatrical Trailer

My Blueberry Nights will appeal to lovers of film for its interesting use of color and unusual camera angles. It’s a romance of a sort, but less conventional than most. Some of the discussions will stay with you if you’re the sort of person who analyzes what you have just seen. The Blu-ray presentation is fantastic, but you’ll need a Region B or Region Free player to view it. The Amazon UK price at the time of writing is £4.61, or £1.79 from third party sellers. Fans of Wong Kar-Wai shouldn’t hesitate. If this is your first Wong Kar-Wai film and you liked it, Chungking Express is well worth checking out. I consider it his masterpiece.

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