Yeah, but then by you saying it it becomes obvious. And that is why you place you attention in that film.
Although strongly opposed to commercial cinema, in a famous exception Tarkovsky praised the blockbuster film The Terminator, saying its “vision of the future and the relation between man and his destiny is pushing the frontier of cinema as an art" . He was critical of the “brutality and low acting skills”, but nevertheless impressed by the film.
I think Wong’s film was exploring a world close to vanishing and there’s a reason the film ends in 1966. KJ mentioned it was set in ‘62 and that s/he learned/saw nothing about Mao taking over China or Hong Kong being a colony. Well, I think you can infer quite a bit about HK/Chinese relations: Wong articulates through his control of the film’s atmosphere something poignant and quite moving about a Hong Kong in the 60s which eventually is finding closure and beginning a new chapter. On the point about the film’s lack of sex or it being a convenience or whatever. The film is less about two people fucking outside of marriage than it is a focus on the quotidian, repetition and variation, the rituals and secrets people conduct themselves with while pondering/carrying out infidelity.
Side note: Did many of you read Liu Li-chang’s intersection, upon which this was partly inspired by?
Yeah, but what does that say about his films beyond the obvious?
This is good to take further: focus on the quotidian, repetition and variation, the rituals and secrets people conduct themselves
To take that outside pondering/carrying out infidelity to a greater concept such as Hong Kong in the 60s which eventually is finding closure and beginning a new chapter would be exactly what one would want to see, but …..
Is anyone paying attention to “Happy Together” – which I find to have the most “substance” than most WKW films. Also, I don’t watch WKW films over and over for “substance” beyond the obvious. A key part of what I find to be missing in film is the sharp ability to take the obvious and make it beautiful again.
WKW isn’t making Bergman flims. I think he’s been consciously focused, esp. in 2046 and In The Mood, on creating film atmosphere.
My Blueberry was a bath of bad impetus and poor casting – and terrible scripting. Could have been killer with Chan Marshall in the lead.
In The Mood isn’t a substance film – is a museum piece, and I love the images, the music, and the casting.
Well i think the couple’s tentative emotional state is directly related to the broader idea of a Hong Kong moving towards the turning point of 1966. How they conduct themselves and their behaviours in that environment of 62 to 66 is meaningful and i think its a very subtle, delicate and very moving way of approaching the issues of that period and how issues of unification and divorce relate to the Hong Kong-China colonial situation.
This is a silly thread…. Why does a director necessarily need to “say” anything? Sure, plenty of great directors are saying important and ponderous things in their films, but so are many bad ones, and its not a requirement for a great film. Wong Kar Wai’s films, especially “In the Mood For Love”, are meant to be felt, not thought-provoking exercises (although there is rich meanings to be found, if you want to look for them). Its one of the most beautiful and heart-breaking films in recent memory, its wonderfully felt. If you do not feel it, that’s fine. He’s a hopeless romantic, that’s what he does well, but that’s not going to be appealing to everybody.
I would argue that many great films state “the obvious”. Even ponderous directors like Bergman, Kubrick, and Tarkovsky sometimes just state the obvious, (like “life sucks”, “war is hell”, “God is unknowable”, etc, etc) but they do it really well.
What Ben gave us is starting to dovetail with what I was trying to get at with the Martel example. She gives us an intimate human dynamic – because it is so tightly done, the feelings force one to thoughts of outside forces; she was thinking socialism (?) I was thinking fascism.
Wong gives us an intimate human dynamic also, but for me at least, I did not get forced into thoughts of finding closure and beginning a new chapter.
Not saying it isn’t there, …..
Edit: Okay, I think Ben made the case for the metaphor.
R T Rolston: Why does a director necessarily need to “say” anything?
They don’t – they great ones usually do though say something beyond the obvious
Sometimes the obvious needs to be re-stated. Sometimes it’s not the message but the journey itself. Sometimes it’s not in how the “obvious” is being stated but rather in how it’s being said. Regardless the two leads, Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, where simply outstanding and sometimes that’s more than enough, and in this case it certainly was.
Robert: That’s fine, look I’m not out to get into a fight with anybody about this because each person will ultimately take away something different and if my interpretation of the work doesn’t work for you, that’s fine, the earth isn’t going to implode. lol.
I do think however that Wong deliberately chose 1966, the year when anti-colonial rioting erupted in Hong Kong, to make some kind of point about the relationship and the period in which it takes place. i think what wong is doing is moving from that intimate human dynamic as you say to making a broader comment about a lost era of hong kong and the future after ’66.
I really love the film, its beautifully made, i think it presents a fascinating look at fidelity/infidelity and routine and also makes a broader point about a lost era. my fave film of his is Days of Being Wild though.
I agree 100% with R T ROLSTON. I have been reading all along and I really don’t understand why on earth are you trying to find substance in WKW films. He loves imagery and pop culture and he portrays both beautifully. End of story.
Yeah, he makes beautiful imagery and has smart references to pop culture but there is more to explore with his work. I agree with RT that filmmakers don’t need to always SAY something but I’m always keen to talk about the thematic and symbolic in Wong’s work too. Maybe another thread, i dunno.
Wong deliberately chose 1966, the year when anti-colonial rioting erupted in Hong Kong, to make some kind of point about the relationship and the period in which it takes place
I can see it now Ben. The next question is whether he did it effectively. Having the metaphor would have been maybe helpful to understanding the nuances of the relationship.
“Why does a director necessarily need to “say” anything? Sure, plenty of great directors are saying important and ponderous things in their films, but so are many bad ones, and its not a requirement for a great film.”
Dang! I want to jump in here, but I don’t have the time right now.
I agree with Chemical Dali. Most of the greatest art is ineffable.
I tend to agree with folks who say that stating the obvious in art isn’t so awful, especially if it’s stated in a new way. That’s what a lot of poetry is about, no?
I see Wong Kar-Wai as the Asian Antonioni, exploring themes of lost love, guilt and desire, melancholy, contemporary culture, and, of course, that old standby, alienation. WKW even made a short, THE HAND, for the anthology film EROS, which was dedicated to Antonioni. That 40-minute film shows the visual and sonic stylistics of Antonioni, while focusing on certain strata of Hong Kong society.
Hey Frank: I enjoyed Wong’s section of eros very much but antonioni’s was pretty lousy or was i the only one who thought that?
“I see Wong Kar-Wai as the Asian Antonioni, exploring themes of lost love, guilt and desire, melancholy, contemporary culture, and, of course, that old standby, alienation”
dude,Edward Yang is more Antonioni-esque and for the record,Antonioni this,Antonioni that,they both have their personal documents to show,none of these 2 got influenced by a European ass….
Soderbergh participated in that Eros film too,is he the “American” Antonioni perhaps?
man,these comparisons with old-school directors are kind of annoying “as time goes by”…
That´s right, as well Edward Yang as Hong Sang-soo are the closest to Antonioni in Asian cinema. Wong Kar-wai´s films are more romantic, vastly different in style and substance, and I don´t see the point of comparision. Antonioni´s understanding of love and alienation is also very different.
If any one is interested read this article I found http://archive.sensesofcinema.com/contents/01/13/mood.html
I’m not sure what you mean by “struggling with a concept.” (I didn’t want to read your examples because I haven’t seen the films you mentioned.)
(Some minor spoilers coming up)
Beyond the visual aspects of the film, which were appealing, initially, I never really “got” or enjoyed WKW’s films. I saw ITMFL first, and I thought: “What’s going on?” There really isn’t much of a plot and nothing seems to really happen at the end. Later I saw Chungking Express and besides the quirkiness, I didn’t really care for this film either.
What finally helped me find a way to understand and approach his work was a short film/long commercial he did for BMW. (Other directors like Ang Lee, John Frankenheimer, etc. did versions all starring Clive Owen). What I concluded is that WKW was interested in depicting a kind of mood or situation—more then tell an intricate story. In many ways, I think of films like L’Atalante, Sunrise or even Nanni Moretti’s A Son’s Room (which didn’t really work for me). The story is very barebones, almost a situation that is universal in nature.
Somehow these directors can present these situations in a powerful and appealing way, and I see WKW’s work in a similar way. For WKW, many of the situations involve unrequited love. If that’s not something that you find interesting or moving, then I think his films won’t be of interest to you. Personally, I think unrequited love is one of the more beautiful and interesting situations of love. There’s a romantic deliciousness to it that I find appealing. (Maybe because I’ve been in that situation a lot!)
There are many things that I find appealing about the treatment of unrequited love in ITMFL. For one thing, both characters are drawn together, but are held back—for a variety a reasons, which are not made obvious. Perhaps, their own sense of morality/integrity holds them back. Not holding back would make them guilty of the very thing that their spouses have done.
I also like the idea that a lot of emotion and passion can be depicted in scenes of restraint (versus episodes of release). The whole film is that way and there is a kind of tension and suspense about the way it will end.
Finally—and this is a minor spoiler—the film is really a part of three films: 2046, which is a sequel (one of the most interesting and creative sequels of all time!) and Days of Being Wild, which is almost like a prequel to both. (Btw, my recommended order of seing the films is as follows: ITMFL, 2046 and Days of Being Wild.) You get to the two main characters develop over the course of three films (well, sort of).
(Slight disclaimer: I haven’t seen ITMFL in a while, so take what I say with a grain of salt.)
Jazz – Which is exactly why I’ve suggested that he might be good at music videos. He creates atmosphere, space, color, mood. I admit that I don’t really watch too many music videos (they seem to wreck the actual music most of the time), but the idea of a music video seems to be to capture the essence or mood of that particular song. I didn’t suggest Norah Jones simply because WKW has cast her before, but because her music has a languorous quality that reminds me of WKW. Which probably relates back to him casting her.
Of course, the fact that I don’t know very much about the history and politics of Hong Kong may have something to do with my reading of his films. On that topic I’m willing to defer to those that do have knowledge.
I don’t really watch music videos much, but I can understand why some would suggest that WKW would be good at it. However, the suggestion often seems to be made as a veiled insult, so I can see some WKW fans not responding positively to the remark.
FWIW, I know little about Chinese/Hong Kong politics, and so I don’t value his films because of the it addresses those issues.
Wong Kar-wai has already made some music videos.
Here’s his video for Six Days by DJ Shadow.
I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is that his strengths are not suited to feature filmmaking. I think he would be great at short films and music videos. Abstract cinema might be great for him to explore. I don’t care for his films because some of them do feel like extended music videos with some narrative thrown in. I don’t mean to imply that he’s a hack. I only mean to suggest that his strengths might work better in a different film format.