Saturday, May 3, 2008

Oh, where did you go, Wong?

It was my sound and serious intention to take a hiatus from blogging for at least 30 days for several reasons. Maybe I'll elaborate on them over at access the process, since that feels like the better forum, but in my nostalgic rereading of my own earlier posts here, I realized that I'd talked in depth about my love for Wong Kar-Wai and yet had not mentioned his most recent film, My Blueberry Nights. For one thing, it's always unpleasant to watch one of yr idols stumble and get jumbled up. Who wants to reflect on that? Still there were some redeemingly interesting features to Blueberry, so I'll try to focus on them.
It seems there comes a time in all great filmmaker's careers when they've taken their current style to the limit, and need to break free. For examples see the Coen's Ladykillers, Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, maybe Tarantino's Kill Bill stuff, whatever. This generalization has it's limits, but there does always feel like there's a film that hits the wall. Blueberry might have been that film, but there are too many other factors (first english language film, Lawrence Block as a writing partner, an actual pre-established script) to really say that Wong hit his wall and now has to film a new direction.
The main critiques out there of the film are that Norah Jones was tepid and Jude Law is way too handsome to've pined so long over some girl he knew for a few days. I think that's bull. To me the problem was the connection/poetic collision wasn't established well at all in those early scenes between the two of them. The writing seemed lacking, and for this I blame Block just because I refuse to believe that Kar-Wai is in any way fallible. Those early scenes felt like they were much too hum-drum for any kind of long term pining to've been set into effect like that first scene from Days of Being Wild sets up. There's no poetic beauty, just chit-chat, and this really does sink the film as a whole.
That doesn't mean there wasn't some seriously good shiite as well. David Strathairn and Rachel Wiesz: see this movie just for the thirty or so minutes that they inhabit the film. It's intense and powerful and gives the glint of what this movie could have been, and Chan Marshall's momentary passing was just fab. Natalie Portman is also fun and wild, but for a card player like myself that stuff does not play. It just annoyed me and took me out of the proceedings. Again, here I blame Block for trying to inject a commercially exploitable element into Wong's usual dense atmospherics. It was too theatrical.
So, having said all that the use of musical jump-cuts is, as far as I know, totally revolutionary and never before tried. It doesn't quite work for this film, but I think that's more a result of the aforementioned problems than the idea itself. It could be used to sound (no pun intended) and powerful effect,'s certainly not clear to me just how. I do hope Wong will try again will try to bring that particular technique to bear in future films, as it's an alluring idea for a new way to use music in film.
I won't say much and certainly nothing specific about the ending, except to say that it felt tacked on and so not in the Kar-Wai vein, mostly because of my first comments moreso than I'm just by nature maudlin. I hope that was elliptical enough not to give anything away.

No comments: