(ed. note: This post was accidentally published at 1AM, instead of 1PM, so we're re-publishing it at the correct time.)
I've been thinking about the largely negative response to Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights (6 screens), a film I quite liked. As of today it's at 43% on Rotten Tomatoes, though it opens wider this weekend (including here in the Bay Area) and more reviews are surely coming in. Most critics I've spoken with around here likewise didn't think much of it. What are the reasons for all this disappointment? The main reason has to do with its weight. It's a lightweight movie, a trifle, flimsy, vapid, thin, etc. Wong is considered one of the world's greatest filmmakers, a maker of "weighty" works of art, and so this "lighter" film is beneath him. It's a letdown, a step backward.
Well, I say that's nonsense. Many great filmmakers dallied in lightweight, lesser trifles during their careers, and it didn't make them any less great. Martin Scorsese has made lots of them. After Hours (1985) and The Color of Money (1986) may not pack the punch of Raging Bull, but they are quite enjoyable, and pure Scorsese. (His current Shine a Light, 277 screens, feels like a trifle.) Fritz Lang came to the United States from a position of great power and unlimited resources in Germany and found himself assigned cheap crime pictures. Yet few critics today would complain about the "lightness" of The Big Heat or Scarlet Street. Max Ophuls also made crime films in Hollywood (Caught and The Reckless Moment), and his reputation remains intact. Some consider John Ford the greatest American director of all time, and even though his goofball Donovan's Reef (1963) isn't counted among his classics, I love it just as much. It has moments of great beauty that reflect its maker's personality. My Blueberry Nights may not stand up to In the Mood for Love, but it's unquestionably a Wong Kar-wai film.