Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Wong Kar-Wai Day

Well, tomorrow finally sees the domestic release of Wong Kar-Wai's brilliant film, 2046. I saw the film back in January, on an import DVD from Hong Kong, and then I saw it again in June, at the Wong Kar-Wai Q&A event at Lincoln Center. Still, despite having seen the film a number of times, I'm going to go back for another viewing on the big screen. I'd never seen a WKW movie in the theater before, and it was an incredible experience, you truly are immersed in another world of glamour and sadness.

Wong Kar-Wai is probably the world's best director right now, his films are incredibly beautiful, and tell stories that are linked more by visual and musical connections than a strict narrative, and in that sense he's taking full use of the storytelling properties of the medium. So, if you haven't seen 2046, or even if you have, go back for another viewing on the big screen, and be dazzled by the images.

I've been reading some of the reviews of the film here in the US press, and most of them like the film, but express the feeling that it's somehow superfluous, that he's not doing anything new. This is a valid complaint, 2046 is largely a summation of everything that WKW has done to date, and on the surface it is. This film is virtually a remake of Days of Being Wild, but while the plot is roughly the same, the emotional state of the characters is totally different. For one, there's the spectre of Chow's relationship with Su Li-Zhen, Maggie Cheung casts such a shadow over this film, that despite only appearing in it for roughly a minute, her presence is felt in every scene, and we view all the women Chow meets in terms of how they compare to Su Li-Zhen. That's the point, this guy is trapped in the past, he constructs a fantasy world in fiction, where he can recapture his lost memories, but when he tries to recapture the same memories with real women, he finds they can't live up to his idealized memory.

So, this film is much more tragic than Days, which despite the main character's death, has a sense of youthful optimism with the other characters, you feel like their lives will go on and get better after the film. In this film, Chow's unfeeling treatment of the women has scarred them and with Zhang Ziyi, he has created a new version of himself, someone who will use men in the same way that Chow uses women. The ending of the film is almost apocalyptic, as Tony Leung lies slumped over in a cab, completely alone, a sad contrast to the scenes in Happy Together and In the Mood where he's riding with someone.

Basically, what I'm saying is this is a film that on the surface seems similar, but beneath is totally innovative and new, with much more scope than any previous WKW flick. It's also a film that demands multiple viewings. On the first viewing, it's confusing, and this can dull the emotional impact, but if you watch it again, and are aware of the chronology, it's much more powerful. That's one of the problems I have with film critic reviews, they've only seen the film once, I don't think you can truly evaluate a film until two viewings. 2046 is going to be a film that'll be much more appreciated in the future, once it no longer has to deal with the expectations created by its five years in production. But, right now, I'd call it WKW's third best film, and a film that takes full use of the possibilities of the medium. Other than Revenge of the Sith, it makes every other movie released this year look like it's not even trying.

So, as I did with Richard Linklater a few weeks ago, here's an index of all the stuff I've written on Wong Kar-Wai here on the blog. There's quite a few articles, and you can see my journey from WKW newbie to WKW expert. But, you could know everything about the man, there's still some mystery in those films.

Days of Being Wild Review (First Viewing): 11/21/2004
Fallen Angels: 12/10/2004
2046 Review (First Viewing): 1/4/2005
In the Mood For Love (Deleted Scenes): 1/9/2005
Chungking Express Review: 1/14/2005
Ashes of Time Review: 4/20/2005
Days of Being Wild (Second Viewing): 4/28/2005
Happy Together: 5/5/2005
2046 Review: Screening with Wong Kar-Wai: 6/16/2005

Those are the core posts, then here's some more articles that mention WKW films.

My Favorite Actresses
My 2004 Oscar Nominations
Top 10 Films of 2004
What makes an action movie work?

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