My Blueberry Nights

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My Blueberry Nights
My Blueberry Nights poster.jpg
Original poster
Directed by Wong Kar Wai
Produced by Wong Kar Wai
Stéphane Kooshmanian
Jean-Louis Piel
Jacky Pang Yee Wah
Wang Wei
Written by Wong Kar Wai
Lawrence Block
Starring Norah Jones
Jude Law
David Strathairn
Rachel Weisz
Natalie Portman
Music by Ry Cooder
Cinematography Darius Khondji
Edited by William Chang
Production
company
StudioCanal
Block 2 Pictures
Jet Tone Films
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
Release dates
  • May 16, 2007 (2007-05-16) (Cannes)
  • April 4, 2008 (2008-04-04)
Running time
95 minutes
Country France
China
Hong Kong
Language English
Budget $10,000,000
Box office $21,968,877[1]

My Blueberry Nights is a 2007 romance/drama/road art film directed by Wong Kar Wai, his first feature in English. The screenplay by Wong and Lawrence Block is based on a short Chinese-language film written and directed by Wong. This film was the debut of jazz singer Grammy-winner Norah Jones as an actress, and also starred Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, and Benjamin Kanes.

The cinematographer of this film was Darius Khondji. Christopher Doyle was Wong's cinematographer for his last seven features before My Blueberry Nights, starting from 1990's Days of Being Wild.

Plot[edit]

Jeremy is an émigré from Manchester who owns a small New York City cafe. The cafe becomes a haven for Elizabeth, a young woman, as Jeremy tells her that he saw her boyfriend cheating on her. Devastated, she stays in his cafe the entire night, eating a blueberry pie he made, and also telling stories about each other. Jeremy, having an eidetic memory, explains her the bowl of keys he is keeping, knowing the story of every person who left the key in his cafe and keeping it in the bowl in case someone comes back for them. Elizabeth leaves her key of her apartment and leaves Jeremy's cafe.

Elizabeth, now calling herself Lizzie, eventually drifts to Memphis, Tennessee, where she takes two jobs, waitress by day and barmaid by night, in order to earn enough money to finance the purchase of a car. She regularly sends postcards to Jeremy, taking a liking to him, without revealing where she lives or works and, although he tries to locate her by calling all the restaurants in the area, he fails to find her. Later on, he decides to send out postcards to any restaurants she may be to try to find her.

One of Lizzie's regulars at both jobs is local police officer Arnie Copeland, an alcoholic who cannot accept the fact his wife Sue Lynne has left him and is flaunting her freedom by openly socializing with a younger man named Randy. He confesses to Lizzie his many attempts at achieving sobriety have ended in failure, taking many AA meetings but failing. One night off duty in the bar where Lizzie works, he drunkenly threatens Sue Lynne with his gun if she leaves. Later on, Arnie drives drunk and dies after crashing into a pole. Lizzie comforts Sue Lynne at the crash site, before leaving town, and is given the money towards Arnie's tab at the bar, revealing to Lizzie that she made a mistake and that she misses him. The place where he died is also the place where they met, suggesting that he may have committed suicide.

Heading west, Elizabeth – now calling herself Beth – gets another waitress job at a casino in a small town in Nevada. Here she meets Leslie, an inveterate poker player who has lost all her money. Beth agrees to lend her $2200 she has in exchange for a third of her winnings or her car, a Jaguar XK, if she loses. When she does lose, she fulfills her promise by giving Beth her Jaguar, but asks her to drive her to Las Vegas so she can borrow money from her father, whom she has not seen in a long time.

While en route Leslie receives a call from a Vegas hospital, where her father has been admitted and is dying. She believes the call is simply a ruse to lure her home, but upon arrival in Vegas she discovers her father died the previous night. Leslie announces she wants to keep the car, which she had stolen from her father, who had sent her the title and registration despite their estrangement. She confesses she really won the card game and gives Beth her promised share of the winnings, which she uses to finally purchase the car she always wanted.

Elizabeth returns to Manhattan and, discovering her ex-boyfriend has vacated his apartment and moved on with his life, returns to the cafe, where Jeremy has had a stool at the counter reserved for her ever since she left. As she eats a slice of blueberry pie, Elizabeth realizes her feelings for him are reciprocated. She passes out on the counter after spending the night, and Jeremy kisses her while she is asleep, and she returns the kiss as the film ends.

Cast[edit]

Main
Support
  • Chan Marshall ... Katya
  • John Malloy ... Diner Manager
  • Demetrius Butler ... Male Customer
  • Frankie Faison ... Travis
  • Adriane Lenox ... Sandy
  • Benjamin Kanes ... Randy
  • Michael Hartnett ... Sunglasses
  • Michael May ... Aloha
  • Chad Davis ... Boyfriend
  • Katya Blumenberg ... Girlfriend

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The idea for My Blueberry Nights originated from an anthology film that Wong planned to make under the title Three Stories About Food; one of the film's chapters was ultimately released as its own film, In the Mood for Love (2000), while My Blueberry Nights originated from another short film titled In the Mood for Love 2001, which had only been screened once, at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. Wong expanded the idea into a road movie that would take place in other locations besides New York, as filming entirely in the state would have been too expensive. Wong chose to make the film in 2005, after the postponement of another film.[2]

Pre-production[edit]

Crew members went on three location scouting trips across the United States. Darius Khondji, the film's cinematographer, accompanied the crew on two trips, while Wong accompanied them for one; both of them took extensive photographs of diners, highways, and motels during their trips. Ely, Nevada was discovered by Wong while traveling along U.S. Route 50, and was chosen as a filming location.[2] Ely's Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall, as well as its Liberty Club bar, were scouted as possible filming locations.[3][4] New Orleans was also considered as a filming location, but ultimately was not chosen because of logistical reasons; Memphis, Tennessee was chosen instead.[2]

In Making My Blueberry Nights, a bonus on the DVD release of the film, Wong reveals his first choice for Elizabeth was singer Norah Jones despite her lack of prior acting experience. Wong called Nora Jones "a natural" and instructed that she not take acting lessons.[2] Prior to filming, poker expert Peter Alson was hired to coach Natalie Portman for scenes that involved her playing poker.[5]

Filming[edit]

Production began in New York on June 21, 2006.[6] By June 27, 2006,[6] production had moved to Ely, Nevada, after filming concluded in New York.[5][7] Wong had Alson come along to Ely for further advice on the film's poker scenes.[5] Filming locations in Ely included the Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall.[3][8] Other scenes in Ely were to be shot at a bar. Wong, known for last-minute decisions, chose a different bar on the day of filming, after concluding with Alson the night before that the bar in Ely was too small.[5]

Filming in Las Vegas was set to begin on June 27, 2006, and was expected to last five days.[9][10][11] Poker scenes set in Ely were instead filmed inside a poker room that had been constructed inside the Art Bar in downtown Las Vegas,[12] as no suitable locations for the poker scenes could be found in Ely.[5] Scenes involving Jones and Portman at the Art Bar were filmed over the course of a week.[12] Other filming locations in Las Vegas included a diner, a car lot, a medical clinic, and the Blue Angel and La Palm motels, all located on East Fremont Street. Scenes were also shot in a hallway at Desert Springs Hospital.[10]

Scenes in Memphis were scheduled to be filmed from July 17 to July 21, at the Blues City Café and at the Arcade Restaurant.[6] Wong said that the film's Memphis segment was a tribute to Tennessee Williams.[2] Wong originally intended to shoot the film in sequence, but when he discovered Rachel Weisz, whom he wanted to cast as Sue Lynne, was pregnant, he agreed to film the Memphis scenes last to allow her time to give birth and recuperate before beginning work.[citation needed] Wong consistently revised existing scenes and added new scenes to the script, usually at the last minute. Jude Law called it "a living story that's still being decided."[2]

In August 2006, filming took place at the Palacinka café on Grand Street in SoHo, Manhattan. Scenes shot at the cafe – the primary filming location in New York – included a kissing scene between Law and Jones that was re-shot 150 times, with different speeds and from various angles, over the course of three days. Law, speaking about Wong, said, "I've never worked with someone who's put so much emphasis on a single moment. It's extraordinary how he'll take a moment and replay it and slice it up."[2]

Filming was completed in seven weeks. Wong returned to Hong Kong in September 2006, with most of the film finished. The Weinstein Company acquired the American distribution rights in November 2006, while the film was being edited by Wong and William Chang. Wong said he would probably return to the United States to conclude filming in the winter, but stated that he would not make a decision about additional filming until he had a first cut. The film's ending had not been decided at that time.[2]

Release[edit]

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2007 and was shown at the Hamburg Film Festival, the Valladolid International Film Festival, and the Munich Asia Filmfest before going into limited theatrical release in Canada on November 16. It opened throughout Europe and Asia before opening on six screens in the US on April 4, 2008, as a limited release. The theatrical US version was edited to be slightly shorter than the version that was premiered in 2007.[13] It earned $74,146 on its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $867,275 in the US and $21,101,602 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $21,968,877.[1]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

In its opening weekend, the film grossed $74,146 in 6 theaters in the United States, ranking #43 at the box office. By the end of its run, My Blueberry Nights grossed $867,275 domestically and $21,101,602 internationally, totaling $21,968,877 worldwide.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle observed, "The movie's overall story is modest, and if it were any longer the film might start to drag. But at 90 minutes, it's short enough to be carried along on the drama of its individual scenes and the strength of its performances . . . The nice thing about Wong is that, like a good gambler, he knows when to bet the farm and when to hold back. Most of the time, he plays it straight, and other times he will speed up the action into a kind of blur, to indicate time passing; or he'll fade out and back into the same shot, as though to indicate renewed focus. Everything he does re-creates a state of mind. It's such a relief to realize he's doing everything for a reason and not to show off."[15]

Meghan Keane of the New York Sun said the film "keenly displays Wong Kar Wai's aptitude for relationship drama and showcasing the female form, but the Chinese director's American debut often makes the earnest miscalculation of a dubbed foreign film . . . [I]n translating his fascination with the distances between two people into American vernacular, Mr. Wong betrays an unfamiliarity with his subject matter that often undermines his story . . . Sadly, [his] interpretation of American lives and landscapes has an alien quality to it. He fetishizes the American countryside, drowns his characters' sorrows in whiskey, and makes plot-oriented decisions based on aesthetics rather than continuity or logic. The image of beautiful women in oversize sunglasses leaning against convertibles is not an accurate depiction of Americana – but it doesn't make for a bad visual."[16]

In Hong Kong, critical reception was generally mixed. Perry Lam of Muse Magazine compared the film to Wong's earlier work, Chungking Express, and found My Blueberry Nights "a much lesser, more ordinary affair."[17]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Wong Kar Wai was nominated for the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and for Best Foreign Film at the Cinema Writers Circle Awards in Spain.

Cannes Film Festival
Year Nominee/work Award Result
2007 Kar Wai Wong Palme d'Or Nominated
Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain
Year Nominee/work Award Result
2009 My Blueberry Nights Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera) Nominated

Soundtrack[edit]

My Blueberry Nights
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released April 1, 2008
Genre Film soundtrack
Label Blue Note Records

The soundtrack, released on the Blue Note Records label, features tracks by the star of the film Norah Jones, Cat Power, Ry Cooder, Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, Otis Redding, Cassandra Wilson, and Amos Lee.

  1. The Story – Norah Jones – 4:10
  2. Living Proof – Cat Power – 3:10
  3. Ely Nevada – Ry Cooder – 2:31
  4. Try a Little TendernessOtis Redding – 3:19
  5. Looking Back – Ruth Brown – 4:16
  6. Long Ride – Ry Cooder – 3:13
  7. Eyes on the Prize – Mavis Staples – 4:06
  8. Yumeji's Theme – Chikara Tsuzuki – 2:22
  9. Skipping Stone – Amos Lee – 2:21
  10. Bus Ride – Ry Cooder – 2:58
  11. Harvest Moon (Neil Young) – Cassandra Wilson – 4:44
  12. Devil's Highway – Hello Stranger – 5:34
  13. Pajaros – Gustavo Santaolalla – 2:22
  14. The Greatest – Cat Power – 3:24

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BoxOfficeMojo.com Retrieved 2011.07.22
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Lim, Dennis (November 19, 2006). "The Master of Time: Wong Kar-wai in America". The New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Hutchins, Sam (March 23, 2010). "Hotel Nevada". Thirteen.org. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  4. ^ Hutchins, Sam (March 18, 2010). "Marlboro Man at the Liberty Club". Thirteen.org. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Alson, Peter (June 24, 2008). "My Blueberry Bluff". Stop Smiling. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c Beifuss, John (June 27, 2006). "'My Blueberry Nights' will film here for week in July". Archived from the original on July 9, 2006. 
  7. ^ "Jennifer Lai interview". Filmmaker.com. April 18, 2008. Archived from the original on April 22, 2008. 
  8. ^ Ivers, Patrick (2009). "Laramie Movie Scope: My Blueberry Nights". Lariat.org. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  9. ^ Cling, Carol (June 19, 2006). "Sean Penn to start production". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved December 9, 2016. (subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ a b Cling, Carol (June 26, 2006). "Penn, Wai bring films to Vegas". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on July 2, 2006. 
  11. ^ Cling, Carol (July 3, 2006). "'Grand' set to start production". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved December 9, 2016. (subscription required (help)). 
  12. ^ a b Clarke, Norm (July 19, 2006). "Pamela, Kid Rock finally to marry". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on July 20, 2006. 
  13. ^ O'Hehir, Andrew (April 3, 2008). "Wong Kar-wai's blueberry-pie America". Salon. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  14. ^ "My Blueberry Nights (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  15. ^ San Francisco Chronicle review
  16. ^ New York Sun review
  17. ^ Lam, Perry (January 2008). "The banality of romance and the lie of patriotism". Muse Magazine (13): 107. 

External links[edit]