Monday, March 24, 2008

extrawack! contest Wong Kar-Wai's "My Blueberry Nights" with Norah Jones

I've been a huge Wong Kar-Wai fan ever since Quentin Tarantino helped get Wong's Chungking Express released here in the States in the late '90's. Wong has an incredible knack for taking scenes of everyday life and turning them into colorful, emotional spectacles.

Chungking Express was notable for Wong's decision to use Canotonese pop-star Faye Wong in the title role to much success. For Wong's new movie, My Blueberry Nights, he's taken a similar chance by using Norah Jones in her acting debut.

In a review of My Blueberry Nights’ debut as the Opening Night Film of the 60th Cannes Film Festival in May, The Hollywood Reporter praised Jones’ performance, declaring it "an auspicious acting debut...The glue here is Jones, who holds a wispy, wistful film together with a deeply felt, unselfconscious performance that strikes the right notes without ever falling into repetition or banality. She brings her singer's talent of knowing when to go for emotions and when to hold back to her acting. It's a remarkably assured work."

Naturally, I'm psyched to see this one. And the soundtrack sounds pretty excellent as well. From the press release:

On April 1, 2008, Blue Note Records will release My Blueberry Nights, music from the new motion picture by director Wong Kar Wai (2046, In The Mood For Love, Happy Together). The first-ever English film by the internationally acclaimed director, My Blueberry Nights is a romantic drama set as an American road movie starring Norah Jones in her acting debut, along with a stellar cast featuring Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman. The Weinstein Company will release My Blueberry Nights in U.S. theaters on April 4, 2008.

The soundtrack album is an impressive collection that stands on its own apart from the film. It features a wide swath of American music both new and old that touches upon R&B, Soul, Rock, Folk and Jazz, including "The Story," a new song by Norah Jones based on her experience in the film, as well as music by Cat Power, Otis Redding, Ruth Brown, Mavis Staples, Amos Lee, Cassandra Wilson, and instrumental selections from the score by Ry Cooder.

Wong is no stranger to using American music in his films (consider his prominent use of The Mamas and The Papas' "California Dreamin'" in 1994's Chungking Express), typically setting a classic American song against a Hong Kong backdrop, a jarring technique that beautifully expressed his character’s isolation or longing. The opposite is true of My Blueberry Nights, with the music going hand-in-hand with the setting and perfectly capturing the landscapes and emotions. Most of the songs on the soundtrack are rooted in various American musical styles including R&B, Soul, Rock, Folk and Jazz, and they all reflect upon love and loss from different perspectives, whether it be Cassandra Wilson’s spacious, dreamy take on Neil Young's "Harvest Moon," Mavis Staples' driving rendition of the traditional "Eyes on the Prize" (which was produced by Ry Cooder), or Cat Power’s sweet sad updating of Memphis soul on "Living Proof" and "The Greatest" (Chan Marshall also makes a cameo appearance in the film).

Amos Lee’s soulful "Skipping Stone" acknowledges the hurt of heartbreak ("I don’t know if I can do this alone / After all our sweet love has flown"), but almost seems to be reassuring Elizabeth’s character that "Lovers will come / Lovers will go."
Two classics-Otis Redding’s soaring "Try A Little Tenderness" and Ruth Brown’s regretful "Looking Back"-perfectly complement the heart-wrenching story set in Memphis of a lost love between an alcoholic cop who desperately struggles to hold on to his estranged wife despite her cold determination to begin a new life for herself.

The musical glue of the film and soundtrack album, however, are the instrumental selections from the score by Ry Cooder (Paris, Texas, Buena Vista Social Club), roots rock miniatures that convey the spaciousness and moodiness of the film. Three of Cooder’s instrumentals appear on the album-"Ely Nevada," "Long Ride" and "Busride"-as well as a lovely instrumental piece by Oscar-winning Argentinean composer Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) entitled "Pajaros."

extrawack! and the good folks at Filter want to give one reader a copy of the soundtrack to My Blueberry Nights, and a movie poster as well. The tenth email to with "My Blueberry Nights" as the subject will get the swag. Contest good in USA only (sorry, Lesotho!)


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