"My Blueberry Nights" DVD Review
June 24, 2008 by Zach Demeter
While laden with star power, Kar Wai Wong’s first feature length English film was a relative disappointment to both regular movie goers and also to his many fans worldwide. While the film opened in limited release to begin with, grossing less than a million domestically, there was never much buzz surrounding it and it was relatively even-handedly panned by the critics. It’s not that the film wasn’t without plenty of talent, both the director and the copious amount of stars in the film more than knocked their areas out of the park; unfortunately for writers Wong and Lawrence Block, it was the story that dragged the film down.
After a particularly rough break out, Elizabeth (Norah Jones) seeks refuge in a local diner where she spent many nights with its owner, Jeremy (Jude Law), and his blueberry pie. Although she found herself drawn to the restaurant, she eventually moved on, suddenly, one night and ended up spending nearly a year away from the restaurant where she (may have) fallen in love with not only the blueberry pie but also its maker. Throughout her travels from Tennessee to Arizona, Elizabeth meets up with a mix of culture along the way, from a bitterly married couple (David Strathairn and Rachel Weisz) to a vicious poker player (Natalie Portman).
I wasn’t sure what to expect when going into My Blueberry Nights, perhaps nothing more than a jilted romantic comedy. The realization that that wouldn’t be what I was settling in for quickly became apparent with the films quick transition through time and setting up of the relationship between Jones and Law was over within the first ten minutes of the film. Even though it moved fast, this wasn’t the films major flaw; instead its weaknesses stemmed from our main characters of the film, who never really quite stand out enough to be considered the focus of it all.
I realized by the time Strathairn and Weisz’s characters began filling the screen that I honestly didn’t care what Jones’ character was doing. The newly introduced characters got me more interested in the film than anything else and I found a similar situation when Portman’s character showed up. We learned so little about Jones’ characters life in the first moments of the film that any kind of real romance between Law and Jones is never truly felt; instead it all just feels like an afterthought, with Weisz, Strathairn and Portman’s characters taking center stage.
This isn’t to say Norah Jones can’t act; quite the contrary, I found her to be quite pleasant in the film. The flaws of the film simply lie in its writing, as the directing (which is incredibly artsy and lavishly done and is quite honestly almost worth seeing the film alone for) and acting are really all top notch. It’s just the characters and story of Elizabeth that don’t really grab ones attention enough to make you truly care about what you’re seeing on the screen. I will, however, say that Weisz’s Tennessee accent really wasn’t the best around…she seemed to slip in and out of her natural accent and into the southern one a little too frequently.
Stepping back from the film and looking at it as a mere piece of art helps you to appreciate the film more; the way Wong uses the camera angles color filters is basically a visual representation of the things that you can do with a camera if you have the right setups. It’s really fascinating to see how he moves the camera, although the repeated use of slow motion segments really began to get on my nerves after awhile; slow motion really seems suited for films that are on a much more epic scale than what this film was ultimately about. Still, it’s certainly a visual feast, not to mention the use of sound, especially when it comes to the trains of New York whizzing past, is also utilized quite remarkably here as well.
Music in the film is minimal, as Wong likes to use the same pieces of music for certain characters in the film, so as odd as it may seem to hear a bar playing the same song in it night after night, it was something that help set the film up in various ways and kept it interesting. For every one of these “interesting” elements of the film, however, I can see how it could easily irk someone; it’s a very artistic piece and isn’t your typical romantic film in the least.
Overall My Blueberry Nights could be described by the phrase “artsy fartsy” (to put it eloquently) quite well. If you’re the right type of viewer you might see more than just an abstract work of art and instead deduce the artist’s original intent. For the majority, however, you’ll pass by this film without a second glance and just wonder why you wasted your time seeing it. Play it safe and keep this one to a Rental.
My Blueberry Nights arrives on DVD thanks to Genius Productions and is number five in the Miriam Collection of DVDs, a label designated for “The best in classic, independent and international cinema.” While I don’t know where this title fits in exactly in any of those categories the silver banner helps it stick out at least. An insert for the Miriam Collection is included, but not much else is happening with this set; menus are basic and easy to navigate and the video and audio transfer is quite satisfactory. I was really impressed by Wong’s direction in the film and at every moment I said “wow” due to a camera angle or lighting set up, the DVD transfer only furthered the beauty along. There’s one shot in particular with Portman in the car with Jones that is really quite beautiful to look at. Audio is mostly front focused, although the trains of New York get a fair amount of surround sound use as well.
Moving onto the extras we have a simple "Making My Blueberry Nights" (15:53) which has plenty of cast and crew interviews about their segments of the film. It’s split up in the same order as the film itself, so it’s pretty simple to follow this making-of in terms of chronology. The only other extra here is “Q&A with Director Wong Kar Wai” (18:30), which is a simple sit-down with an audience to take in all of his thoughts and comments on the film, as well as some of his past works. It’s a very interesting extra and while I didn’t necessarily enjoy the film in every way that I had hoped, his visions for what he wanted the film to be are presented thoroughly throughout these two extras.
A theatrical trailer and gallery wrap up the extras on this set (as well as a host of trailers before the film itself, of course). There isn’t much to see here, but like the film this one’s worth a Rental at least.
My Blueberry Nights arrives on DVD on July 1st.