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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD Review: My Blueberry Nights



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#1 of 2 PatWahlquist

PatWahlquist

    Supporting Actor

  • 735 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 13 2002

Posted June 21 2008 - 07:19 AM


My Blueberry Nights

Studio: Genius Products and The Weinstein Company.
Rated: PG-13 (Mature thematic material including violence, drinking and smoking.)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 enhanced for 16x9 displays
Audio: English DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Time: 95 minutes
Disc Format: 1 DVD-9
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2007
DVD Release Date: July 1, 2008


Norah Jones plays Elizabeth, a young girl, heart broken, who finds out her boyfriend has cheated on her. She storms into a diner to ask the waiter/ owner behind the counter, Jeremy (Jude Law), if he remembered her man coming in. Jeremy does, spilling the beans to Elizabeth, who in turn give him a set of keys, saying someone will be in to pick them up. Jeremy has kept a jar of keys that people have left, and when Elizabeth returns, he tells her the stories associated with the keys as they eat pie, specifically Elizabeth’s consumption of blueberry pie, which no one ever seems to want. Over the next few weeks, she strikes up a casual relationship with Jeremy, but finally, she leaves NYC.

Elizabeth turns up in Memphis waitressing by day and bartending at night. She writes postcards to Jeremy while he searches the yellow pages looking for her. While bartending, she meets Arnie, a broken hearted drunk by night and cop by day. Arnie’s estranged wife Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz), full of femme fatale and southern bell swagger, pleads her case to him to just let her go. As this period in Elizabeth’s life plays out, she moves again, this time to a small Nevada casino where she meets Leslie (Natalie Portman), a poker playing casualty with daddy issues. Through her interactions with these people, Elizabeth’s need to run shows her the destination she has been searching for may be closer than she thought.

This is Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai’s first English language film, coming off a string of well received and award winning films in his home country, most notably, In The Mood For Love and 2046. Wong has a very good vision of what he wants out of his movies, often writing the screenplays as more of an outline than a finished draft. This allows him to have the actors and situations dictate the path the overall story takes. This method of working can cause extreme delays in getting a picture out (as was the case with 2046), but the results can often be tremendous, as was the case with In the Mood for Love. For My Blueberry Nights, Wong enlisted noted novelist Lawrence Block as a co-writer, which is a very wise choice since hardly anyone writes NYC and fractured characters better than Block (check out his Matt Scudder series). Wong’s use of music to enhance the mood and tone of the story is on full display here allowing us to be on the same emotional level as the characters. The placement of Cassandra Wilson’s cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is the stuff of love in the face of tragedy.

Yet it doesn’t add up to a satisfying enough whole as a movie. Each of the three segments and locations Elizabeth goes through (New York, Memphis and Nevada) come off better as individual stories, perhaps as part of an anthology (similar to Wong’s contribution to Eros). The Memphis segment is the darkest of the three and it offers the strongest performances in the movie, with Weisz looking and acting like she came out of some lurid noir tale of lost love in a 1940’s dime novel and David Strathairn as the poor sap who fell for her. The other performances are fine but there is nothing revolutionary about them or the characters. For her first acting role, Jones is good but inconsistent, appearing more confident at the beginning of the movie than at the end, while Elizabeth tells us just the opposite. I do not believe the picture is bad by any means, but it may simply be a case of Wong working out how to translate his Chinese aesthetic into English, and he makes mention of that in the interview elsewhere on the disc. However, his use of colors, music and shot composition completely lull you by their beauty. The appearance of holdover symbols from 2046 and In the Mood for Love make you believe this may simply a warm-up for his next picture, or at least the one after that as he’s supposedly doing an update of The Lady from Shanghai. Wong’s talent is undeniable, but just not on full display in this story.



Video:
The picture is in its correct aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is an anamorphic transfer. Black levels are good and show a good amount of detail. Detail is excellent allowing us to see many of the smaller background items in the café’s, bars and casinos. The picture exhibits some edge enhancement. Colors are exceptional in the image with every scene being an exercise in how to make a beautiful shot. All colors show some over saturation with slightly boosted contrast levels, but this adds to the romantic and emotional themes in the movie. Wong used a new DP in this picture, Darius Khondji, leaving behind one he had used on many of his previous pictures, Christopher Doyle. Khondji has no issue on getting exactly what Wong wants in a shot. Many of these scenes need to be paused as you watch just to drink in the beauty on the screen. My favorite one is just as Sue Lynne is leaving Memphis to get in her car as it shows us so much about her character in the shot and also highlights how pretty Weisz is. Pure eye candy for the entire length of the movie.


Audio:
I watched the feature with the Dolby Digital 5.1 track engaged, which is the only option. Most of the action is in the fronts since the scenes are dialogue driven. When the surrounds are utilized, primarily for atmospheric effects, they provide a fair surround stage. The liberal use of music in the movie gives us some exceptional stereo imaging, along with a crisp dynamic range. LFE’s are barely used and show some life in the songs. Voices are clear and natural, and ADR is only minimally noticed.


Bonus Material:

Making My Blueberry Nights (15:30): the usual EPK type material here, but you will notice numerous unused shots and takes that didn’t make it into the final picture. Cast members and Wong are interviewed.

Q&A with Director Wong Kar-Wai (18:31): this piece is wholly more satisfying than the “Making of” doc above. It was shot at the Museum of Moving Images and featured Wong being interviewed curator David Schwartz as well as answering questions about the movie. Wong is a very informative director who is very thorough and thoughtful in his answers. While I would have liked a full length director’s commentary, this comes close.

Still Gallery: both production and publicity photos.

Theatrical Trailer


Conclusions:
I’ll quickly gobble up the pieces of pie presented here only after a main course of one of Wong’s previous pictures. The DVD is a visual treat, which makes up for a mediocre set of extras and a basic audio track.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 2 WadeM

WadeM

    Supporting Actor

  • 894 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 11 2006

Posted June 25 2008 - 12:28 PM

Thanks for the review. I was on the fence about this one... sounds like maybe a rental first.