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Shown last year at the Cannes and several other Film Festivals before coming here for a general but limited release, My Blueberry Nights is director Wong Kar Wai’s first English language film. Since his legendary Chungking Express (1994), Wong’s films have attracted a cult following. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his previous titles like In the Mood for Love (2000) and its sequel 2046 (2004). Let me just describe his style as “Film Noir in Postmodern Colors”. Wong’s films are atmospheric, flashy, up-close and penetrating. His characteristic use of mirrors and small, enclosed settings juxtaposes the reflective and the surreal. Many find him incomprehensible, frustrated at his sometimes self-absorbed artistry.

Wong’s signature directorial style found some new players here in My Blueberry Nights. In this debut film of popular jazz diva Norah Jones, Wong cast her against some very impressive acting talents including Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, and Natalie Portman. Visually, MBN is a colorful cinematic kaleidoscope. Unfortunately, it remains merely so, for underneath the visual plane, there is not much substance in the script to gratify. It is almost painful to see acting talents uttering cliches and simplistic dialogues, and to even overact to compensate.

Jones is Elizabeth, newly dumped by her boyfriend and finding a confidant in cafe owner Jeremy, played by Jude Law. To escape from the pain of lost love, she leaves on a road trip on her own across America. Working as a waitress along the way, she meets characters who are in worse shape than she is: A police officer (David Strathairn) despair in love, his estranged wife (Rachel Weisz), and a weathered gambler who befriends her and teaches her a life lesson: never trust anyone. This role is played by Natalie Portman…ok, there might be a miscast here, but Portman has delivered some captivating performance. While this is Jones’ first time acting, her unseasoned and naive persona ironically is quite appropriate as the young and impressionable Elizabeth.

All the acting and singing talents however are not sufficient to rescue a deficient script. If you’re not a devoted fan of Wong Kar Wai, or any of the actors and singer here in this film, you might just like to manage your time better. I’ve admired some of Wong’s previous works, but am disappointed at this first piece in a new page of his career. Having said that, I look forward to his future endeavors.

~ ~ Ripples

                                          *****

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