Thursday, June 16, 2005

2046 Screening with Wong Kar-Wai

Yesterday I attended a screeing of 2046 with Wong Kar-Wai in attendance. I'd seen the movie two times before, but it was a completely different experience on the big screen. I'm not someone who usually makes a big deal about seeing a movie on 35mm in the theater, but this movie was a completely different experience in the theater than on DVD. I'd never seen a WKW movie theatrically before, and I'm not sure if all of them are like this, but it was almost too much, getting lost in this world that he built.

I've already written a whole lot about the film here, but it felt like a very different film theatrically. WKW's films always have very heavy atmosphere, and you can definitely catch that on the DVD, but in the theater, you get completely immersed in a different world. Because none of his films take place in the USA, they're all in sort of alien worlds, but 2046, with the future stuff, takes this to the extreme. In the Mood for Love is a move towards more traditional narrative, but 2046 takes this away, and is right up there with Fallen Angels as WKW's most abstract film. Most movies settle into a sort of routine, there may be a strange opening, but eventually, you get the idea of what's going on and the scenes all feel roughly the same. 2046 never does this, it constantly bounces between all sorts of events, musical montages, abstract images and the story within a story. The use of music is absoultely amazing, really enveloping you in this world. The scenes where Tony moves through the club with his entourage tell you everything you need to know in one image, and knowing what we know from ITMFL, we are aware of how unhappy he is.

Despite barely appearing in the movie, Maggie Cheung's Su-Lizhen dominates this film, no matter what he does, Tony can't escape her influence. Every action he takes goes back to his relationship with her in some way. People who say the change in character is inconsistent clearly miss the point of the movie, which is that as a result of losing his one true love, he has given up on love and decided to live a purely hedonistic lifestyle. Only when he sees something of Su-Lizhen in the women he meets does he give any serious thought to commitment, as in the relationship with Faye.

It's this sadness that makes Tony's character here much more sympathetic than Leslie Cheung in Days of Being Wild. Leslie seems to be cruel only because of his confusion about his paternity, but Tony has real deep wounds, and as a result, he is unable to reciprocate Bai-Ling's love for him, and in the process, he continues the cycle, and creates another person who is too scarred to love.

But, watching on the big screen what really gets you is just how beautiful the film is. The production design is phenomenal. Old Hollywood movies generally had a strong focus on being stylish, fantasies of what life could be if you were a star. WKW recaptures this fantasy element by making the coolest looking environments for his characters to move through and putting them all in incredibly stylish clothes. The future stuff is the best example of this, but the club scenes are also just saturated in beautiful design. This was one of the most immersive theatrical experiences I've ever had, the film completely pulled me in and let me get lost in its world.

I loved the film the first two times I saw it, but this viewing took things to another level. I would now place this as WKW's second best film, behind only Fallen Angels, and in a lot of ways, this is even stronger than that one. This is a film with an admittedly narrow audience, but if you've seen his other stuff, this is one of the most rewarding theatrical experiences you can ever have. I'll definitely be taking in a second theatrical viewing when the film is released here in August.

So, after that great screening, WKW came out to take some questions. I've read a whole lot about the film, so there wasn't that much new in the Q&A, but there was still some really good stuff. WKW was wearing his trademark sunglasses and pulled off the leather jacket despite it being pretty warm out. Most of the questions were actually continuity related, like whether this Tony Leung character is the same one from Days of Being Wild and whether Gong Li is the same character from 'The Hand.' Tony Leung is the same, and he went as far as to say that the last scene of 'Days' could actually take place during the scenes with Gong Li in 2046. That's why he made the character a gambler in this movie, to get a chance to do some of the material they would have originally done in the Days of Being Wild sequel. And, Gong Li is not the same character from The Hand, though they are connected in some way.

Strangely, he was pretty upbeat about his working relationship with Chris Doyle, I'd read that Doyle shot very little of 2046, but WKW made it seem like he shot the whole movie. Regardless, he claimed that he chose the framing, lighting and movement of the shots, though at times Doyle would ignore what WKW told him to do. I'm not sure if just went by quickly, but it seemed like he answered very few questions, and after the screening WKW wasn't around for one on one discussion. I guess I've been spoiled by my experience meeting Joss Whedon and Jean Pierre Jeunet, who was just hanging out in the lobby after his Q&A.

But still, it was really interesting to hear him speak. I liked how quick he was with his answers. Someone asked him if he was influenced by French film on 2046 and he just said "No." One word, straight to the point. Part of that may have been the language gap, but generally speaking, he seemed pretty solid conversing in English.

So, overall it was an excellent experience, I would have liked some one on one with WKW, but that was not to be, and he pretty much covered most of what I was wondering anyway. Sadly, no one asked him the obvious question about his next project, with Nicole Kidman. But, I'd assume there's not too much he could reveal that I haven't already read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Every WKW film I've seen on the big screen has been a phenomenal experience. Don't hesitate if you ever get around to a WKW retrospective.

Thanks for the report.