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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Six Feet Under: "Dancing for Me"

It's Monday and once again, there's a new episode of Six Feet Under. I know I said this last week, but it's so cool having a new episode to look forward to every week. I was so used to just having the whole series there, I never really considered what it would be like to watch just one episode a week. There are certainly advantages to the binge watch, namely the plots seem to move a lot faster, there's less impatience because you get the episodes so much faster. However, watching one a week makes each episode a bit more special, and it gives me a chance to look a bit deeper at what happens in each one. So, I'm fine with watching this way.

Anyway, onto the episode itself. The season premiere, while great, was largely an overture, setting up some general themes, but mainly playing off of what we already know about the characters. That, plus the novelty of having a new episode, made it a stronger viewing experience than this episode, which is stuck with the burden of having to set up in more detail the plot arcs for the season. That's not a knock on it though, it's still a great episode, and has me really curious about where things are going.

The most interesting storyline for me was Brenda's excursion into the free clinic. She's in a situation where she desperately wants to prove her mother wrong and break out of the image her mother has constructed for her. However, she just can't face what's at the free clinic. That gets to one of her main problems, she's putting herself in danger just to show up her mother, and it must have been very tough for her to get proven wrong, and have to get her mother to pull some strings for another internship. I really liked the way they had Brenda dressed in clearly expensive and stylish clothes, to make her stand out even more in the really grungy clinic.

I found the Nate storyline really interesting too, as we see the major contrast between Nate's life and where his friend ended up. As Nate said, he's been through a lot of shit and particuarly with his near death experience at the end of season two, he understands the transience of life. He's seen all the different ways things could have gone, and that's why he knows it's pointless to look back and try to recapture something that's gone. This is a stark contrast to his friend, who crosses into borderline pedophilia just to try to recapture the feeling of his youth. I really liked the way that scene was handled, because you can understand what the guy is talking about, while at the same time it's clearly crossing a line. He says that their days back in the high school was the best time of his life and that rings hollow to Nate. I think this plot showed just how well adjusted Nate is, and gave us an understanding of how he's been able to reconcile with all the bad stuff that's happened to him over the course of the series. That said, the best Nate moment was him and Brenda having sex and Maya jumping up and down imitating them, a really offbeat funny moment.

The David and Keith plot just sort of moves along. I really liked the awkward discussion with Claire about the eggs and the dream sequence was worth it for just how bizarre it was. That fake headed Claire was rather freaky and the music was great. The sequence goes beyond the sort of fantasy stuff we'd see in the early seasons, but I think it worked, even if only as a funny setpiece.

The Rico plot was solid this week as well, though his trying too hard was a bit tough to watch. I did like him telling Vanessa that Sharon died. It's clearly a bad thing to do, but in that moment you see him getting caught up in the story and he clearly feels this is a major breakthrough in how to deal with her.

The Ruth/George tension is already being brought to a boil, a bit earlier than I would have thought, but I guess that's better than dragging things out for too long. While everyone else on the show is looking to have kids, Ruth is desperately to be single or just happily married, without having to care for someone. She barely even contains her disdain for the situation she's in, and I'm not sure how that's going to make George feel.

The Claire/Billy stuff this week is mainly just a setup for whatever's going to happen next week, when he stops taking his pills, but it's still got good moments. What it comes down to is, to really be himself, Billy can't take the pills, those supress the artistic, unique side of him. Now, it might be better for him to live a normal life, as a teacher, something he's still good at, even though he struggles with everything else. However, the people around him have an image of Billy as this crazy artist, someone he's lost touch with. Billy's reminiscing with his friends is a nice parallel to Nate thinking about his own past. However, Nate is happy with who he's become, and Billy apparently isn't, or at least feels the need to validate his friends by being who he once was. So, the pills are flushed, and we'll see what happens from there.

Lot of stuff this week, and still, I always hate it when I see that final white fade out. That's the sign a series is working when you want the episode to just keep going.