Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wong Kar Wai Finishes Film On Time—But Should He Have?

Well, Wong Kar Wai managed to get his film, "My Blueberry Nights," completed on time not only for its opening night screening at the Cannes Film Festival, but for the morning press screening as well. Commendation is in order. The film, the Hong Kong wizard's first in English, is pretty much everything you expect from a Wong film: an aimless tale of disconnected lovers, brilliant compositions, vibrant color palettes, interplay of light and color. This film won't win any new converts, but will satisfy its directors followers.

A little more time to work on it, however, and it could been more notable. As it is now, it's a little too spelled out at times, especially in its cringe-worthy voiceover narration. Singer-turned star Norah Jones delivers an inconsistent but usually passable and sometimes charming debut, with hints that her innocent, genuine aura could eventually turn into a fine screen presence. But the one thing she can't do is deliver bad lines convincingly. She delivers the already-all-to-obvious narration in the most obvious way possible. By contrast, when Jude Law narrates as her romantic interest, he manages to draw some attention away from theses glaring flaws.

The film is constructed as a road movie, but it's really just three extended vignettes—one in New York, one in Tennessee and one in Nevada. The real wow comes in the middle section, thanks to a remarkable portrayal of alcoholism from the always great David Strathairn.

Since Wong notoriously returns to the cutting room, he might want to consider a few things to adjust to improve the movie. Top among his priorities should be to pick up English well enough to realize how obvious some of the lines are, and change them appropriately. There are so many great elements in the film that it's really frustrating that it isn't as good as it could be.

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