Wong Kar Wai: Why Blueberry Nights?

Cannes Film Fest 2007: Wong Kar Wai’s Blueberry Nights

The cult Chinese director talks about his first English-speaking film, which serves as the opening night of the 60th Cannes Film Festival.

Attraction to Story

After spending five years on “2046,” I felt like doing something entirely different. I also wanted to make a film about distance and see how I would work in a new environment. It was a personal challenge and also an excuse to see the real America. The story complements “2046,” as it’s about the emotional distance between people


I set the story in America, because it’s one of the farthest places from Hong Kong. I wanted to examine how differences in culture, language, and film will affect my work.

Meaning of the Title

The meaning of the title is actually quite literal. Nora Jones’ character, a waitress, eats a lot of blueberry pies.

Preparation for the Shoot

In the film, Norah Jones travels America’s legendary Route 666. I took at least three road trips across the country to find specific locations, which helped me shape the story in a more precise manner.

Approach to Actors

I love all my actors. There should be no reason to work with them otherwise. Norah Jones truly defined my expectations. She is a very natural actress with great emotional instincts.

Cannes Festival

Cannes is always an interesting experience for me. Last year, I was the jury president, and two years before that, I was rushing to the festival with the print of “2046.” Fortunately, this year, the opening night spot guarantees that I’ll be there early. Either that or the organizers are taking an incredible leap of faith.

Place of the Film in Career

Personally, I like the film very much. I consider it sort of homage to the American cinema and literature that influenced my decision to become a filmmaker. It’s very different from Hollywood blockbusters like “Spider-Man 3.”

American Literature

Also, “A Streetcar Named Desire” is my favorite Tennessee Williams’s play. I can’t explain it, but I don’t think masterpieces in any medium require and explanation.

Directing in English

It was definitely interesting and a concern at first since I was working with a different language, and in a new landscape. But I fortunately discovered that certain emotions transcend words.

Norah Jones

The first time I listened to Nora’s music, I was struck by the natural spontaneity and expressive power of her voice. I found these qualities to be very cinematic. I arranged to meet with Norah in New York. I showed her the short film, and she said one word, “Cool.” That was it.

Working with Norah in the Future

I’d love to work with Norah again. I’m curious to see what kind of actress she will become.

Future Projects

I have a few projects in development, but it’ll be awhile before I make any final decisions. I am still interested in doing version of Lady from Shanghai, which, like My Blueberry Nights, is also backed by Studio Canal. And there is the long-gestating biopicture of Bruce Lee’s kung-fu master, Yip Man.

New Cinematographer

In this picture, I didn’t work with longtime cinematographer Chris Doyle, but with Darious Khondji. Chris used to be a sailor, so he’s a very rough-and-tumble man. Darius, on the other hand, is more of a European gentleman. We drank a lot of tea during the shoot. It was a nice change of pace. If the right project came along and the timing is right, I would love to do something with Chris Doyle again.


I have decided not to use any of singer Norah Jones’ music, or for that matter, music of her father, sitar legend Ravi Shenkar. But music plays a major part of the story, like in all my other films.

Working with Jude Law

Jude Law is talented and sophisticated. He was always my first choice and I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing his role.

Jude Law’s Kissing Norah

The scene in which Jude Law steals a kiss from Jones took many takes, and there is another surprise related to that scene, but you have to watch the film.

Shooting in Memphis

I could see myself living in Memphis. The summer there is very similar to the one we have in Hong Kong.

Weinstein Company

Harvey Weinstein had released my earlier film, “Chunking Express,” under their Rolling Thunder banner as a Quentin Tarantino presentation, when it was still Miramax. They did a brilliant job marketing it and introducing me to American moviegoers. I’m sure they will do another amazing job with the new movie.

Wong Kar-Wai

Wong Kar-wai was born on July 17, 1958 in Shanghai, but moved with family to Hong Kong at the age of five.

Over the past 20 years, he has made the following:

As Tears Go By (1988)
Days of Being Wild (1990)
Ashes of Time (1994)
Chunking Express (1994)
Fallen Angels (1995)
Happy Together (1997)
In the Mood for Love (2000)
2046 (2005)
“Eros” segment in the Anthology “The Hand” (2005)
Segment: “I Traveled 9000 KM to Give It to You” (2007)
My Blueberry Nights (2007)

Select Awards

Best Director, “Happy Together,” Cannes Film Festival 2000.
“In the Mood for Love,” Best Foreign Film, Cesar, German award, and US National Society of Film Critics