Friday, September 2, 2011
The other day, I was riding the subway home from work, when I suddenly thought about In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar Wai's gorgeous 2000 film about forbidden love in 1960s Hong Kong. I don't know what made me think of it, but all of a sudden I felt that I was in a crowded, narrow street, the smell of body sweat and hot noodles assaulting my nostrils, and I marveled at how WKW could make someone who had never stepped foot in Hong Kong experience it so viscerally.
WKW's films -- we'll pretend My Blueberry Nights doesn't exist -- are not just movies; they are experiences. I remember watching Days of Being Wild and feeling the humidity and heat in those lush outdoor shots in the Philippines. I remember feeling the grime in some dark, obscure stairway (or was it hallway) in Fallen Angels. His films can be overwhelming -- an assault of the senses, and on the emotions too -- but I wouldn't have them any other way.
Nowadays, filmmakers rely on 3-D to make audiences believe they are experiencing something. But we don't need things flying at us to make us engaged. I can watch In the Mood for Love and touch the silk of Maggie Cheung's dresses, I can smell the dimly lit hotel room where the two romantic leads meet to write their comic book and end up falling in love, I can taste the noodles they eat -- all without special effects (though Christopher Doyle's rich cinematography is kind of its own special effect it's so amazing).
On a related note, I went back and read my original review of WKW's 2046 (his sequel to In the Mood for Love), and wow, I can't remember feeling so passionately about a movie in such a long time. (The one recent thing I've seen that comes close is the first 1.5 seasons of Twin Peaks.) Either I am thoroughly jaded or WKW really is magical.