My Blueberry Nights (2007, Wong Kar-Wai)

Cowritten by Lawrence Block, longtime mystery writer once adapted by Oliver Stone for a film directed by Hal Ashby! This is his first screenwriting credit. Cinematography by Iranian Darius Khondji, who shot a lot of other visually-distinctive stuff like the Caro/Jeunet films, The Beach and Panic Room.

Norah Jones is dumped by her boyfriend, leaves her keys at the cafe for him in the hands of Jude Law. Talks to JL every night over blueberry pie, starts to like him, one night she takes “the long way” across the street to his cafe and goes on a year-long trip across the country, getting waitressing and bartending jobs, saving up for a car and writing poor Jude Law lots of postcards but never giving a return address.

First major stop is in a Memphis bar where cop David Strathairn (Good Luck and Good Night, Mother Night) pines for his separated wife Rachel Weisz (The Fountain) and drinks and drinks. Violence escalates, he dies in a car crash, Rachel is sad and Norah is outta there. Then somewhere in Nevada, a casino where Norah gives all her money to Natalie Portman with NP’s nice car as collateral. NP tries to teach a convoluted lesson about mistrust by faking that she lost all the money, giving up her car and having Norah drive them both to Vegas to see NP’s dying (oops, dead) father, but the lesson doesn’t come off very well.

With both of her extended stays in foreign cities and attempts to make new friends having ended in death and sadness, Norah comes home to NYC, where Jude has decided to let go of his ex-girlfriend Cat Power (on account of her being an unconvincing actress in her only scene) and the two are free to fall in love in their own distinctive way (bonding over security-cam videos, eating too much pie, Norah falling asleep and Jude kissing her without permission). A sweet ending.

So the story is kinda muddled, though the characters are all pretty strong (if a bit unbelievable and cliched) but the movie flows more or less like a WKW film, with slow-motion and emotional edit/flashbacks, a dreamy pop soundtrack (Ry Cooder, Otis Redding, “The Greatest” played three times, and a touch of Yumeji’s theme when Jude first falls for Norah). Strong colors, close-ups without establishing shots, the camera like a hazy memory lingering behind glass and slowly creeping behind obstructions, but focus always sharp. Glad I was warned not to expect too much, but I ended up liking it a whole lot.

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