revisited 2 wong kar wai‘s movies this weekend. first up ‘days of being wild’ and later ‘2046’. for people who do not know, ‘in the mood for love’ completes the trilogy. the first one stars the late leslie cheung who plays a sociopath whose serial affairs hides a desperately lonely and nihilistic individual. his dalliance with a nightclub performer is the common thread that runs through the 2 movies. after leaving her to find his fortunes in the Philippines, she moves restlessly from one relationship to another looking for someone to replace her former lover.
she appears again in ‘2046’ a few years after his departure and eventual demise at the hands of gangsters in the Philippines. she bumps into another man who claims to know her in the past. she drinks herself into a stupor in the night and is murdered by a jealous boyfriend who finds out that she has been cheating on him. the story then shifts to the man from her past who resembles leslie’s character from the first movie albeit more compassionate and humane towards his conquests. he is a columnist who has fallen on hard times and now etches out a living writing erotica for the local newspaper. in between affairs he decides to try his hand at a sci-fi tale of people returning on a futuristic train from a place called ‘2046’. the train is manned by androids who resemble the people he interacts with in real life as well as women he has slept with.
the movie is peppered with references to his past movies and certain scenes even rehashes signature music from his previous outings. for instance there are 3 women sharing the same name in each of the movies in the above mentioned trilogy. the story lines are intentionally non-linear and intersect each other at crucial moments. a character who has died may turn up again at a later part of the movie throwing the audience a curve ball that they may not recover from. it is strictly make or break and some may be forgiven for scoffing at the movie and losing patience.
the only consistency is the breathtakingly beautiful cinematography and mood shots which says much more than what the script can. characters are often reflected on broken and dirtied mirrors. on many occasions half the screen is occupied by a blank wall and the remaining by the protagonists. the detailed settings, furnitures and ornaments are actors in their own right bringing to life a hong kong in the late ’60s. the camera has a tendency to linger on a wordless actor’s face for prolonged periods of time perhaps hoping to squeeze the humanity out of them. lighting is saturated and shadows are used for dramatic effect. believe me when i say that nothing will prepare you for a wong kar wai movie. in a world of big budget production trying to outdo each other with the number of explosions, car chases and mangled bodies, wong is a true maverick. putting list A asian actors and actresses into art house movies is his way of gently sabotaging the movie industry from within. he might not be a box office draw but his movies will stand the test of time and the fickleness of the human mind. he is truly an asian master and the world is richer for it.