Cannes Diary 2007 | 5.16.07

cannes2007Our Film Editor Pete Timmermann takes you to France with his daily updates from the Cannes Film Festival. Read Pete's take on dozens of new films and day's highlights from the film industry's biggest festival. 

 

 

 

 

 

5/16/07, 12:45 p

May 16, 2007

12:45 p.m.

 

Back in 2004, the first time I came to the Cannes Film Festival, my main motivation for even trying to get accreditation was because I had heard a rumor (which wound up being true, luckily) that the new Wong Kar-wai film, 2046, was going to be premiering there. At that festival, 2046 was one of the last films to screen, and I spent the whole festival looking forward to it. This year, Wong’s newest film, My Blueberry Nights, is premiering, but instead of being one of the last ones to screen, it is the opening night film, and so it is actually the first film of the festival that I saw. I can do without dealing with anticipation, but still, it all feels awfully anticlimactic.judelaw

That said, a lot of the time it felt like My Blueberry Nights was made specifically for me. Wong Kar-wai is maybe my favorite modern filmmaker, and it is his first English-language movie. My favorite film of Wong’s is 1994’s Chungking Express, and My Blueberry Nights bears a lot of similarities with that film. First of all, he cast the singer Norah Jones as the lead in Blueberry, who has never acted in a film before, just as he had cast Asian pop star Faye Wong in Chungking. They’re both loose, episodic films about people who are melancholy from having just broken up. Where Chungking Express used The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” over and over on the soundtrack, My Blueberry Nights uses Cat Power’s “The Greatest,” which, with no malice intended toward “California Dreamin’,” is more in line with my taste in music. (Also, Chan Marshall, nee Cat Power, has a small but crucial role in the film, also her first acting job.) He’s still having people leave keys with strangers at bars, and he’s still having the people that the keys get left with factor in heavily in the leavee’s life from there on.

I was suspicious of the film’s quality at first—while I have no problem with Norah Jones, and think that she is an interesting character, I’m not particularly a fan of her music (I find it enjoyably tuneoutable, at best), but she’s awfully wooden here. She seems right for the part and in her element so long as she isn’t given too much dialogue, but if she has to talk much, it can get pretty glaring that she isn’t a trained actress. She and Jude Law (above) share the film’s voiceover, and Jones’ is often very clichéd and banal (perhaps intentionally, though; I’ll need to see the film again to weigh in on that issue). The film begins with Elizabeth (Jones) meeting Jeremy (Law), the owner of a little café that she has been to a time or two. They bond over late-night sessions of eating the day’s leftover pie (as opposed to, say, canned pineapple), and eventually Elizabeth gets tired of the routine and moves to Memphis, where she takes two jobs, as a waitress during the day and a bartender at night, and meets David Strathairn, a cop who can’t get over his ex-wife (Rachel Weisz). After that plays out, Elizabeth (who renamed herself “Lizzie” while in Memphis) moves off onto Las Vegas, starts calling herself “Beth,” and meets a gambler (Natalie Portman—see, I told you that this movie might as well have been made for me) who she winds up taking a road trip with. That’s about the extent of the movie.

I have so much personal stock in Wong Kar-wai and his films that it is hard to see straight when I’m seeing a new one for the first time, which, in turn, makes it sort of hard to competently critique them immediately after seeing them, as I’m trying to do now. Some time to see it again and think about it a lot would be preferable. Time isn’t needed to ascertain that My Blueberry Nights isn’t Wong’s best film (and, despite all of the similarities, is not nearly as good as Chungking Express), though, but it is still very good, and I’m sure that I will watch it an unruly number of times before I get tired of it. Also, being his first English-language film, it will serve as a good introduction to him and his work, and will not be viewed as critically by the newbies who don’t already expect a masterpiece from him every time he comes out with something new.

Does this all sound like I didn’t like the film? If so, I’m doing this wrong. I loved it.

blueberrySo far, My Blueberry Nights is the only film I’ve seen. The first day of the festival is always light, and I will only be seeing one other movie today, which is the competition film Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days, as 7 p.m. tonight at Salle Debussy. Tomorrow morning the 8:30 a.m. screening is Zodiac, which is sort of a bummer—if it came later in the festival, I would be really excited at the opportunity to catch up on some much-needed sleep, but being tomorrow, I’ll be well-rested and bored and wishing that they weren’t screening a movie that I saw months ago. Oh well. In better news, I found out just before taking my flight over here that the new Hou Hsiao-hsien movie, The Flight of the Red Balloon, was a late addition to the festival’s program. I had expected it to be in competition this year and was disappointed when it wasn’t on the list when the festival organizers made it public about a month ago, but it looks like they decided to make it the opening night film in the Un Certain Regard sidebar instead (and announce its presence in the festival late, for some reason), and it screens twice tomorrow. For whatever reason, they aren’t having designated press screenings of UCR films this year, and I’m not yet sure how this is going to affect me—it used to be that either I would barely get into the press screenings for UCR films (which were always held in a small room, Salle Bazin) and be uncomfortable the whole time, or I wouldn’t get in at all. However, press are admitted into public screenings of UCR films, and I would generally be the first one into those, which was better, as I’d get the first pick of seats in a better auditorium (Salle Debussy), and the filmmakers would usually be there, too. It was like my little secret to not waste time with the press screenings, and I’m not sure that a lot of other people even realized that that method was available. But now that that is the only way that press can see UCR films, my free ride through them might be derailed. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure it out without having to martyr Red Balloon to it in the process. │Pete Timmermann

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