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Archive for April, 2011

Hey readers! Haven’t been around in a while. MY APOLOGIES. LIFE, COLLEGE, AND FILM MAKING have all got up my business. It’s very difficult to do a blog too. Also, I found a forum to waste time on which has led to some fruitful film discoveries and has inspired me to pursue beloved film makers. Like, for instance, Wong Kar Wai:


FALLEN ANGELS (Wong Kar Wai, 1995)
“I wish it rained forever” “But at this moment, I’m feeling such lovely warmth.” The women in this film want their fleeting passion to go on forever. That’s what’s so beautiful about Wong Kar Wai. He looks for individual moments in his films. It’s these artificially created “moments” that speak wonders about the characters onscreen. He achieved this best with his later work, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. With FALLEN ANGELS, I see him originating the idea of capturing these “moments”, even if they are not refined as they are in his subsequent films. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this quasi-sequel to CHUNGKING EXPRESS mainly because it avoids the pitfalls of it’s predecessor by achieving a near perfect balance in the twee quirkiness and sexy emotional angst that Wong keeps coming back to so often. At first, the mute character was over-the-top annoying and I thought that I was going to be subjected to Express 2.0. However, the emotional arc the mute goes through is rather well defined and generally moving. Everything else is pretty typical Wong (the crime story, the lovely ladies, the romantic drama, etc.). Have to admit, didn’t know what Doyle was doing with the fish eye lens at first. I will never doubt the man again. 4/5


HAPPY TOGETHER (Wong Kar Wai, 1997)
Compared to other Wong films, Happy Together seems to be his most understated work. The film focuses solely on the homosexual relationship between two men: Po Wing (Leslie Cheung, extroverted, yet subtle) and Yiu-faiĀ  (Tony Leung, introverted and heartfelt). The film begins with their trip to Argentina, which unexpectedly becomes their home for the next few years. The story than takes a turn as their relationship begins a on/off again cycle that includes many arguments along with many joys, as in most relationships. The hyper stylization that Wong brings to the table in other films like FALLEN ANGELS and CHUNGKING EXPRESS is brought down to a bare minimum here. I wonder if it’s because Wong knew that the story was stronger than the aformentioned films and felt that he could sit back and let the story dictate the style rather than blending or matching the two. As a result, the film works beautifully. As for the limited stylistic choices black and white is effectively used at first as the time when they are apart. The film colorizes once they are together. It doesn’t feel flashy nor distracting. Thinking about this film reminds me a lot of last year’s BLUE VALENTINE, which also gave us two actors playing off each other, both providing the overall feel of the film by balancing intimate moments of bliss with furious outbursts of anger and frustration foreshadowing possible heartbreak. It doesn’t feel like a strictly sexually orientation centered film – it feels completely universal. I don’t think it’s arguable that Tony Leung gives the better performances and most likely his best ever as Yiu-Fai. As the less expressive but just as equally passionate lover of the couple, Leung gives quiet melancholy to the role. He knows what he’s dealing with and how to deal with in regards to Po Wing, but is slowly becoming tired of his antics even though he strongly loves him. As Po Wing, Cheung does less heavy lifting as the highly expressive out and proud member of the group, never looking before he leaps into a incendiary shouting match with his partner, not realizing he’s pushing him away until much later. When these two are together (or apart, longing for each other) the film dazzles. When Yiu-Fai’s character develops a friendship with a coworker and Wong develops this into a subplot that envelops much of the third act, the film stalls for better or worse. I felt like the impact of the film is significantly lessened by the influence this subplot carries to the film’s final thirty or so minutes and left it wanting more of the central romance. However, what I got for the ending between Yiu Fai and Po Wing does work so I can’t complain too much. 4.5/5


DAYS OF BEING WILD (Wong Kar Wai, 1990)
Oh, it is quite difficult to explain why I love this film so. It’s probably the only film I’ve seen from Wong’s filmography that I openly weeped at the end. It’s such a viscerally heartbreaking piece of cinema and probably the best film the man has done yet. Leslie Cheung (as Yuddy) gives a powerhouse performance as a young, violent man who searches out broken and naive women to sweep off their feet into a wild passionate infatuation that he allows to die before he gets too deep into it. He knows the tracks he makes, but doesn’t care for them. Wong shows us the after effects of these affairs by observing the two women as they drift away after their respective breakups with Yuddy (more on this later though) The only thing Yuddy cares about as madly as the women do for him is to find his real parents, a secret that’s held away from him by his adoptive mother who feels if he finds out, he won’t love her anymore. The scenes between these two are cruel. We observe that her tough love has translated to how Yuddy uses women. His passion attracts them in, his tough exterior pushes them away from ever reaching his lonely and woeful heart. It’s a deeply fascinating performance and makes me yearn to see more from Cheung and begin to really realize how we lost such a remarkable talent so early. The two women are played brilliantly by a young Maggie Cheung (Su) and Carina Lau (Mimi). Both characters are already effectively broken before they meet Yuddy and become moreso after their time with him. And yet, men come and try to connect, but they push them away. We come to the meaning of the title: DAYS OF BEING WILD. When we are young, we look for the passionate love, how little it is or how bad it treats us during or afterward. We don’t seek seriousness (it’s not wild) that must be cultivated early in order for them to grow into long lasting relationships and even marriages. But the men are just as bad as the women: they seek out people who don’t care for them, wander the world, or still try to find themselves amidst of their friend’s expectations of themselves. But is it all bad? Or aren’t we all constantly at loss with ourselves when we are young and foolish? Whatever the case, the film ends with a short scene of a business man getting ready for work (yes, yes, it’s Leung’s Chow that would later appear in IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and 2046…or is it?). Is Wong saying that the ultimate virtue of the film is to focus on your career and ignore the pursuit of passion? This is the exact opposite of what In the Mood for Love illustrates which creates the contradictions that happen once one grows older (see: Spielberg on the ending of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND for a possible similar situation). Christopher Doyle’s cinematography is quite understated here much like Happy Together as well. I do believe that he creates some of his most beautiful compositions here, even though they aren’t as daring as his later work. Anyway, I’m quite aware that this has become ramblings. A film like this reduces me to incoherent gushing. 5/5

Ranking:

  1. Days of Being Wild
  2. Happy Together
  3. In the Mood for Love
  4. Fallen Angels
  5. 2046
  6. Chungking Express

 

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