Some movies feel like they were written just for me. The Life Aquatic was all my childhood drawings of submarines, scuba divers and deep sea fish reborn as concept design; the accompanying choose your own adventure pages spun into an ingenious approximation of a screenplay for adults. I wasn’t fooled at all. No adult would pour over the details of a cross section of a boat like that.
As info on Wong Kar-Wai’s latest movie, then still in production, began to trickle in on the internet I was convinced it was going to one of those films. At first, all I knew about it was the title My Blueberry Nights, suggesting very little. Then the indication that this would be his first English language film. I read in one article that during filming he played Cat Power tunes to convey to the cast the feel he wanted the film to have. I read that he had decided to actually cast her in a brief cameo in the film.
My heart demands royalty payments.
Chungking Express is one of my all-time favorite films (the second half only please. Yes, I know it’s Brigette Lin). In the Mood for Love is about as close to perfect as any movie has a right to be. I was even amused by the incomprehensible ending to Days of Living Wild (the set-up for a trilogy that never happened it turns out, although references seem to surface in parts of 2046, a look at a future that is itself always looking back). He seems to have a great love of the person stuck behind the counter, the one swirling the mop in the dirty bucket, the one who has to lift the heavy black rubber mat from in front of the fryers to sweep underneath. He manages to make the little deli in the covered market in Express seems like an amazing place because it’s just a deli, not in spite of it. He even gives new life to a tired old song like “Hotel California;” Faye Wong’s siren song drawing her across the Pacific.
If there was a San Francisco premiere I somehow missed it. The Netflix envelope arrives promptly on the DVD release date. As I watch (cue up “Wonder Wall” covered by Cat Power here) associations immediately begin to fire in my mind:
I feel a jolt when Jude Law pronounces the name of his Cafe something like “clutch.” My college Russian now long grown rusty insists that it should be “klyootch.” An online Russian-English dictionary helpfully explains that klyootch is Russian for “key.” Cafe Klyootch, run by Jeremy (Law) is a repository for lost keys, each with a story of their own.
The recurring sampling from “The Greatest” brings back a truly uncomfortable performance by Cat Power (back in the “Moon Pix” era) at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. “Katyia” herself appears in due time and is wonderful in her brief cameo. She shakes the hair out of her eyes seemingly after years of using it as a shield between herself and her audience.
In my mind I’m racing along endless miles of Arizona desert again listening to the radio for the inevitable highway closure due to missle testing.
I’m remembering how cigarettes taste huddled in a chilly doorway in the winter, a sensation I’d forgotten since moving to the West Coast.
And the image of the film’s namesake, the Gourmet magazine worthy shots of the blueberry pie with drizzles of melted ice cream, served up by Jeremy who stocks his case with one each day contrary to any sensible understanding of supply and demand… Once I came home with a whole blueberry pie bought for a fundraiser for a friend’s daughter. Both of my roommates explained that they didn’t like blueberries. It had never occurred to me that anyone could not like blueberries. Over the course of several days I ate it all by myself. It was a snack, it was dessert, sometimes it was the meal. I realized then that as satisfying as the taste is the knowledge that you can’t eat a slice of blueberry pie and not make a mess. It stains your plate, your teeth, your tongue. Your empty plate will always look like the scribblings of a child. Other food disappears down your gullet. Anyone looking at your plate will know immediately that you’ve had a slice of blueberry pie; it’s the culinary equivalent of a murder site. As the lynchpin of the film it is a wonderfully evocative dessert – perfectly and supremely sweet and there are those of us who would never in a million years believe it is not universally adored.
I had weird restless dreams about the movie the night I watched it. Always a good sign.