Sunday, March 02, 2008

My Blueberry Nights

My favorite thing about Wong Kar Wai's films in general is that they're just honest. They're never cynical, or pessimistic, but they also never shy away from the soul-shattering devastation that often accompanies love. Sometimes there isn't a happy ending. Sometimes the girl just leaves to go to California and doesn't come back. Or the man picks the other woman. The end. There is no one else waiting across the street.

But even in the pain, there's always hope. The characters move on. They cry. They suffer. They grow. They clean house. Repeatedly. But his optimism is sincere, and doesn't have the cynical ring to it that so many Hollywood romantic comedies do, where you know that no one involved in the film actually believes in any of it, they're just giving the audience what they think it wants.

My Blueberry Nights
is a strange movie. It's probably Wong Kar Wai's most flawed film, but also it might be one of my favorites already. I watched it twice last week, 2 nights in a row, and I haven't stopped thinking about it all weekend. It almost feels like an imitation Kar Wai film, made by somebody who knows what they're doing and knows how to hit all the right notes, but just falls inexplicably short somewhere along the way.

For one, there's some really weird violence in the middle of it that's never really showed up in his films before, and one scene even veers very uncomfortably close to being frighteningly mysogynistic. Is this intentional? Is he trying to play to American sensibilities (or critquing them), or am I just reading too much into it? Both times I watched the film, though, the scene disturbed me. A lot. Not least because you're called to identify so strongly with the perpetrator, and afterwards, no one in the film seems nearly as disturbed by any of it as I was.

But, like all of his films, there's also such a sweet sadness to it. Chan Marshall (aka, Cat Power) makes an all-too-brief cameo, and for some reason the weight of her scene just killed me both times I watched it. Even though nothing really happens in it. It's just about that lost connection, that fire in your heart that slowly dims, but never really goes out.

Which sort of seems to be what the whole film is about. The pain is never denied. But there's a way through it. Sometimes that journey is physical, sometimes it's solely emotional. But there's always a way. Blueberry Nights is a road movie through the terrain of the broken heart, from one side to the other. It's more than a Band-Aid, but it's never fixed, either. It just is what it is. There's always more for you out there, the film says, if you're willing to be brave and embrace it.

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