Movie Review: 'My Blueberry Nights'
Likewise the cinema of Wong Kar-wai, who has managed to become one of the world's most influential directors by being more than a little operatic, and by throwing narrative out the window. David Lynch, probably the Hong Kong-based Wong's closest American counterpart, is another painter posing as a storyteller (to get his movies into theaters), but Lynch is at least representational - you recognize what you're looking at. Wong, as he does with the ice-cream and pie shots that open his latest, can turn dessert into a purple moonscape, organ transplant or volcanic eruption. But both directors appeal to the post-narrative mind. Neither really cares about plot. And both create their own context, which makes them perpetually young, and dangerous.
Wong is about one-on-one confrontations, encounters and farewells ("In the Mood for Love" being the shining example). Where Wong goes awry in this, his first English-language film, is by succumbing to convention - the musical-montage/interludes that punctuate his scattershot road movie, or the far-too actorly moments he allows the better members of his cast (David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law) without providing for them sufficiently in terms of script.
Wong does make them look good, though; after all, the cast was hired for its faces - particularly singer-cum-actress Norah Jones and the beautiful, beautifully irritating Natalie Portman. But Wong apparently needed to give them something to do besides pose. Hence, the "story."
Jones, the Grammy winner of the arresting eyes, is Elizabeth, who, in the midst of a nasty breakup, wanders into the Manhattan cafe of Jeremy (Jude Law). A friendship is born, and why not: Law is charming and energized, and though Elizabeth is going to hit the road, she tries to stay in touch. (So does he: His phone-call scene mid-movie is a terrific example of Law's comedic capabilities.)
Jeremy remains rooted while Elizabeth, working as a bartender and waitress, runs into an alcoholic policeman (Strathairn), his sexy ex (Weisz) and a cardsharp (Portman) who tends to lose the big money. It's all about the one-on-one.
Wong's feature is his first since his debut (1988's "As Tears Go By") without cinematographer Christopher Doyle, but Darius Khondji, a different kind of genius, makes "My Blueberry Nights" enthralling. It may not be what you expect. But with Wong Kar-wai, it seldom is.
See the trailer and find local showtimes for "My Blueberry Nights."