Category Archives: Wong Kar-Wai

Great Moments In Juxtaposition

Just finished watching Wong Kar-Wai‘s Happy Together again and the end reminded me of something I love in film: taking a really happy song and playing it against a really depressing scene.

Two moments immediately came to mind, though I’m sure there are many more (and would love input from others):

First, of course, is the end scene of Happy Together. Without spoiling much, it”s just a very lonely time in the movie and Danny Chung’s cover of “Happy Together” by the Turtles with its happy lyrics and tone makes the loneliness of the film that much stronger.

The first time I encountered this happy vs. sad juxtaposition was Michael Moore‘s Roger and Me. Toward the end there is a scene where Moore shows the economically depressed Flint, MI and plays it against the Beach Boy’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”

Granted, both “Happy Together” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” have a slight sadness to them, the way they work with the scenes in both films takes the tiny bit of melancholy and multiplies it by a thousand.

2046 and the Oscars

If you aren’t aware of my obsession with the film 2046, well, do a search for “2046” on my blog and you should get an idea of how much I love this movie.

That said, I was sad (though not surprised) that 2046 wasn’t mentioned anywhere when it came time for film award season. I understand that it’s a foreign movie and that it was technically released abroad (in Asia, at least) in 2004, but still, this movie deserved something at the Academy Awards or Golden Globes. (See the awards it did win over at IMDB.)

But what is maybe more saddening to me is that I haven’t read any critics really agreeing with me, that is until I read “Pushing the envelope” by Stephanie Zacharek over at

She mentioned that Tony Leung, Gong Li, and Zhang Zihi all deserved recognition for their work in 2046, and I love her for saying that.

I would probably award 2046 something in every category, but that’s just me.

2046 Opening In Seattle

Finally!!! 2046 is opening in Seattle on August 26 and playing at the Harvard Exit Theatre.

I must say, that of all the Landmark Theatres in Seattle, the Harvard Exit is the best for foreign films because the seats are sloped enough so that people’s heads are not in the way and you can actually read the subtitles. We should all be thankful that, although the venue is larger, they aren’t showing it at The Neptune (which is where they showed it for SIFF).

The site doesn’t say how long it will be showing in Seattle, but I would guess that it is one or two weeks, so if you have any interest in seeing it, don’t wait — see it as soon as possible after the opening.

Assembling Pieces of Time

On Sunday afternoon, when it was sunny and in the 80s in Seattle (during a relatively cold and rainy summer), I went to a lecture by Robert Horton, the curator of The Frye Art Gallery‘s The Magic Lantern “talks on film and art” series. I mentioned the talk the other day and gave some excerpts from programs I found online.

Overall, the talk was mediocre. I guess I’m more used to very academic talks at colleges, whereas this one was, I felt, geared more toward a general audience… which makes sense and, if nothing else, just shows how elitist I am. Oh well.

The Frye’s Oliver Herring: Taking and Making exhibit inspired Horton to do a talk about Wong Kar-Wai. In particular, Herring had a series of photographs arranged in the shape of an X (over about 20 feet or so) that told two stories. In the middle the stories intersected.

Horton compared this arrangement of photographs to motion pictures — since a film is, at its most basic level — a series of still photographs arranged horizontally in order to produce the “illusion of movement.” Horton also likened the X pattern to the multiple intersecting storylines often found in WKW’s movies (especially Chungking Express and As Tears Go By).

He also noted that WKW and Herring shared what, I believe, is a fairly common trait among artists: The act of creating the art is more important than the final product. Horton said that for Herring the objects (i.e. the art) was less interesting than the time he spent creating it. Likewise, Horton gave some history about WKW’s reluctance to finish pieces of work (he was shooting and editing parts of In the Mood for Love days before it preimierd at the Cannes Film Festival and actually changed 2046 a bit after it debuted at the Hong Kong Film Festival). Horton concluded that WKW loves the process of making the film, probably more than finishing the film.

The method of emphasizing the creation of the piece rather than the final product is, I would argue, a common theme in postmodern art. I think of things like Warhol’s studio or David Lynch using dead animals and insects to create pieces of art as being other examples of artists who value the process of making art more than the final piece.

Horton also gave some biographical information about WKW (born in Shanghai, moved to Hong Kong at age 5 during the early ’60s — no wonder he keeps returning to the ’60s in films like In the Mood for Love, The Hand (from Eros, and 2046), most importantly noting that WKW almost always collaborates with production designer/editor William Chang and cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Horton believes, as I’m sure many critics would agree, that Chang and Doyle add a great deal to the look and feel of WKW’s movies.

(As a side note, I am guessing that Horton has met Doyle at some point — Doyle was in Seattle for 2004 the Seattle International Film Festival — because he kept talking about how much Doyle partied and was a womanizer and whatnot. It was amusing.)

Horton then showed clips from four of WKW’s movies and discussed how these clips related to time and WKW’s non-straightforward method of producing films and storylines:

Days of Being Wild

Su Lizhen and Yuddy
Scene: Yuddy and Su Lizhen meet for the first time. The scene starts with a clock — Yuddy tells Su Lizhen to watch the clock for a minute. Then he tells that for despite what happens in the future, they will always have this one minute in which they were friends. An unknown amount of time passes. Yuddy and Su Lizhen are in bed. She asks him to marry her, he rejects. She leaves him.

Given that time was a central component of the lecture, Horton noted that a scene starting with a clock was perfect for the lecture. He noted that we don’t see their relationship progress and that the time between their first encounter and the demise of the relationship is ambiguous.

He explained that many of WKW’s films are “memory films,” and that chronology isn’t always important — the essence of the film and the events is more important than anything else.

Apparently WKW wanted his films to look like the work of Edward Hopper because of the way Hopper’s work captures alienation and loneliness — a look which WKW developed in Days and has carried through in his films sense. The production design (color palette, architecture, etc.) is very deliberate and somewhat nostalgic. Horton kept using the term brick-a-brack (another postmodern artistic technique) to describe it.

Chungking Express

The Cop and Faye
Scene: The cop and Faye meet for the first time. The owner of Chungking Express gives the cop food/dating advice, encouraging the cop to bring two things from the Express back to her and give her a choice. Ultimately giving his girlfriend choices in food causes her to leave the cop. (~35 min. into the film)

“California Dreamin'” by The Mamas & The Papas blasts from Faye’s radio as the cop tries to order food from Faye. All of the characters sort of randomly appear and disappear (not in a bizarre way — they are in one scene, and not in the other — presumably off doing something else) in the scene. The only way we know that time has passed is by the changing of Faye’s outfit — there is no traditional fading in or out. Horton calls this syncopation.

Faye, especially, is a syncopated character. She randomly appears in people’s lives then disappears — especially when least expected. Horton notes that this reflects the nature of her character, as evidenced by her trespassing into the cop’s apartment.

With Chungking Express, Horton also notes that WKW rewards viewers for multiple viewings. The film is basically broken into two pieces: The first half dealing with the woman in the blonde wig and He, the cop; the second half dealing with the other cop and Faye. Bits and pieces from each half appear in the other, though in ways that are not obvious upon first viewing.

Horton also noted that Chungking Express was initially intended to be three parts, rather than two. The last part ultimately became Fallen Angels which, like Chungking Express then became a concatenation of two stories.

Fallen Angels

The Killer and his Partner
Scene: The Killer, one on of his assignments, goes into a restaurant or something to kill a group of people playing mahjong. After fleeing the scene he boards a bus where he runs into an old friend from school who tries to sell him insurance. He shows his “friend” a picture of his “wife” (a black woman he paid money to pose with him) and his “son” (a kid he bought ice cream for). He then contemplates the idea of an assassin having insurance benefits.

While the killer is killing a remix (or a remake??) of Massive Attack‘s “Karmacoma” is playing… I’m not familiar with the version of the song, though it sounds somewhat like the “Bumper Ball Dub” remix). I mention this because I love the song and loved that it was included in the movie and because Horton mentioned the song, as well.

Horton noted that throughout Fallen Angels, especially, WKW used wide angle lenses. They add a sort of distortion to the film, he argues. The wide angle lenses also made the scenes feel less claustrophobic (despite the fact they were since WKW shot on-location) and caused the people on the screen to look distanced, which captured the emotional feelings of many characters in the film.

From a technical standpoint, Horton also pointed out WKW’s use of step printing after the Killer leaves the restaurant and how it, also, distorts the scene. Step printing is a type of slow-motion filming that looks more like stop-animation. It’s hard to explain, unfortunately, but feels very disorienting.

The violence of the Killer’s assassination was nontraditional, Horton suggested, because of the quick cuts from different angles. Rather than helping the audience make sense of the moment, WKW made everything chaotic and appearing as a blur of color and movement. Horton went so far as to say that the frantic editing was like music.

Fallen Angels also makes use of narration (which becomes a WKW trademark in subsequent WKW movies — I don’t recall it in Chungking Express as much). Horton described the narration as “taking us out of the scene while we are still in it.” The narration also gave the main characters a chance to be more whimsical and ironic than the normal events of the film would let them be.

Finally, in regard to genre, Horton noted that WKW started off as a screenwriter mostly doing Hong Kong kung-fu and action-type movies. Fallen Angels, Horton explained, may have had the motif of a gangster movie, but that the film was really about other things (WKW favorites like loneliness, relationships, etc.) though it was “hung on the hanger of a gangster movie.”

Audience Questions & Comments 1

This part killed me. The thing I hate the most about lectures are the audience questions and comments. It seems people ask two types of questions: either they ask an inane question they could find the answer to (“what year did xxx come out?”) or a question that shows off their knowledge. I hate both types. Sometimes there is a good question, but mostly Q&As are lame.

Sample questions:

  • Was the murder while people were playing mahjong related to an “identical” murder that occurred in Seattle? — Are you joking me!! People are murdered all the time and the whole gangster stuff is pretty big in Asian cinema. I doubt WKW cares about crime in Seattle. Ugh.
  • WKW has an expectation of his audience — Duh.
  • First you fall in love with a WKW movie, then you get to know it. When the film finishes you have a sense of longing and you miss the characters. — Okay, I agree.
  • The films are physically gorgeous even if you don’t understand what is going on. — Okay, I agree with this comment, too.
  • Places are important to WKW. The backgrounds are a character. The frame is important. Everything is selected. — Horton had been saying the exact same thing all night… At least the person was listening.

Christopher Doyle

Doyle once told a story about Happy Together that Horton feels captures the chaotic style of WKW’s filmmaking process: Some of the supporting actors arrived in Argentina but WKW had no idea exactly who their characters were or how they were going to fit into the movie or anything. WKW starts without a script and then lets the characters find themselves (much to the annoyance of many actors). Doyle’s remark on this was something like: “The actors were waiting for their characters to come and WKW was hoping for the same thing at a coffee shop down the street.”

In the Mood For Love

Su Lizhen and Chow
Scene: Chow and Su Lizhen are in the alley acting out how they think their cheating significant others first met and started messing around. Some indefinite time passes and they are eating at a restaurant.

Some background Horton gave about In the Mood For Love: the shoot took 15 months (which is long), WKW was shooting the epilogue days before the Cannes premier, the actors didn’t have much direction and were told to “search for the material,” WKW wanted to shoot the entire thing on location — not on sets or soundstages, and the original title was Summer in Beijing.

The style of In the Mood is more like that of Days of Being Wild (not as jittery or random as Chungking or Fallen Angels), though with a more grown-up feel.

Originally, apparently, WKW wanted to do a 3-part film about food (?!?). Horton suggests that that is why there are so many scenes of people eating or at restaurants and why the food is almost fetishized.

Horton’s main discussion about In the Mood, however, focused on the deleted scenes and the Criterion Collection edition of In the Mood For Love.

Some of the most important deleted scenes make the relationship between Chow and Su Lizhen much more explicit. They make love (which is only vaguely alluded to — and never confirmed — in the “theatrical” version of the film), the cook together, they dance together, etc.

Horton argues that the existence and relative accessibility of these scenes (i.e. they aren’t locked away in a vault or anything — the Criterion Collection is, as far as I know, the only U.S. release of the film) alters the film in a sort of metaphysical way. The overall story is drastically changed in our heads forever now. Even though the scenes were “deleted,” they live in our head and change our understanding of the events in the movie.

DVDs can change the way films are understood and turn them into a constant work of art. The DVD is a new form of art with a new film on it. In order to really understand In the Mood For Love are we better off watching the DVD and seeing the “true” story, or should we ignore the deleted scenes and take the “theatrical” version as the definitive version.

What is interesting about this whole idea is that other directors, most notably George Lucas and Peter Jackson, have also embraced the DVD and/or re-releases of films in order to constantly work on their previous projects. Whereas Jackson has been commended for his DVDs, Lucas has mostly been criticized.

It’s a fine line, and I’m not sure where I fall when it comes to In the Mood — the unspoken and unseen love between Chow and Su Lizhen is one of the most beautiful aspects of the movie… but at the same time, I love existing in their world and seeing as much as possible. It’s hard.

And then, of course, how does 2046 fit into everything. It’s been described as a “loose sequel.” It definitely stands alone, but should it? Is 2046 just another permutation of the same project that In the Mood For Love is? And is In the Mood For Love just a sequel to Days of Being Wild anyway?

Horton then moved the conversation toward WKW’s fetishization of objects. He mentioned the food in the restaurant scene that started the In the Mood discussion and also remarked that WKW also fetishized music, people’s faces through extreme close-ups. intense colors and textures, jukeboxes, hair, and costumes (especially Su Lizhen’s in In the Mood). Again, he referred to this as brick-a-brack and theorized that it made everything more precious and important.

Audience Questions & Comments 2

Only the good ones:

  • WKW creates stories with the potential for viewers to explore. Everything is done through inclination and suggestion.
  • WKW has nostalgia for disappearing things… (which the audience member said was a theme in Asian film, which I thought was a rather dubious claim… it’s a theme everywhere).
  • WKW is not into conventional beauty. He likes things that are run-down and lived in.
  • The best comment: WKW is somewhat like Proust. They both constantly revise and rework their projects. They like to explore all the possibilities of their characters and situations. They both also focus on solitary characters who never “connect with their one true love.”
  • Film lends itself to memory.


Horton made two comments about 2046: First, Chow’s character is more like Yuddy from Days than Chow from In the Mood; second, if 2046 is just an extension/exploration continuing In the Mood For Love and In the Mood For Love is an “adult” version of Days of Being Wild… so that basically all of WKW’s movies are different perspectives on the same theme, he doesn’t need to choose a “favorite,” per say — he loves them all.

Annoying Audience Members

Finally, I have to comment on how annoying some of the audience members were.

First, there were some old women toward the back of the auditorium who were talking throughout the lecture. Because they were old, I am guessing, they had to speak louder because they had lost their hearing or something. It was totally rude and they were ignorant about what they were doing.

Second, in a similar vein, there was another old woman who had a plastic bag that she sat and ruffled for quite a long time toward the end of the lecture. Nearly everyone in the auditorium looked back to give her “the evil eye” but, again, she was ignorant to how rude she was. It was very annoying.

Finally, there was an audience member who was trying to be all know-it-all and suggested that the title 2046 was a reference to the fact that it would be the 50th anniversary of Britain returning Hong Kong to China… well, as I noted in a previous review, the year is actually 2047. I am guessing that the guy read the same review I did and just got the dates confused. This is an example of someone asking a question only to show off.


… the lecture was interesting, probably more due to the fact that it was about a director I love than the content of the lecture. As I said before, I’m not entirely sure what the guy’s thesis was — if there was one at all. It started out with some interesting ideas on time in WKW films, then into WKW’s haphazard method of developing his storylines, and finally into the new continually evolving type of film that WKW has created with the deleted scenes on the Criterion DVD. I wish he would’ve included some discussion of Happy Together (the film that got me hooked on WKW), or As Tears Go By (WKW’s first, apparently more conventional film) or Ashes of Time (which, along with Tears, I have yet to watch). Nonetheless, it great to see someone else intellectually engaged with WKW’s work and maybe it will inspire me in some way that I have yet to realize.

Wong Kar-Wai Lecture in Seattle

On Sunday, July 17 at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle there is going to be a lecture about “assemblege” and the films of Wong Kar-Wai.

From the FRYE film calendar:

Wong Kar-wai: Assembling Pieces of Time
Related exhibition ~ Oliver Herring: Taking and Making
Sunday, July 17, 2 pm

Free passes available at the Information Desk at 1 pm

Like Oliver Herring’s sculptural portraits composed of countless fragments, films are assembled out of tiny pieces of still images. Wong Kar-wai, a director whose work inspires a rapturous response unlike any other filmmaker of his generation (In the Mood For Love, 2046), takes an extreme approach to the idea of assemblage. He and wild man cinematographer Chris Doyle regularly begin shooting without a clear concept of storyline—if indeed any story will emerge. Robert Horton describes Kar-wai’s method and the sensual, haunting results.

The Seattle Weekly‘s Visual Arts Calendar adds:

Magic Lantern Lecture Local film critic Robert Horton explores the parallels between the 3-D collage sculptures of Oliver Herring (now on display at the Frye) and the fragmentary films of director Wong Kar-wai. 2 p.m. Sun. July 17. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., free, 206-622-9250.

Feast Your Eyes

Seattle International Film Festival cover
Last year I was a bad Seattle-ite and didn’t get around to going to any of the Seattle International Film Festival showings. I tried going to see The Corporation, but I didn’t understand the whole pass/buy-your-ticket-in-advance concept back then and I ended up not seeing it when I wanted. But that was last year. And I am glad to say I learned from my mistake.

This year, I am going to go much more full-force with the whole SIFF thing. So far we’re only about four days into the festival, and I’ve seen three SIFF showings — yay for me.

On Friday night and Saturday afternoon (yes, twice) I went to see 2046. Readers of my blog should know that I’ve already seen the movie twice (first review of 2046, second review of 2046). I gotta say that seeing it three, then four, times only made me love the movie more. Every time I’ve watched it I’ve picked up on something different and understood things a bit differently.

Bai Ling
At the Saturday showing the woman from SIFF who introduced the film said a few interesting things. First, she said that she had worked with Wong Kar-Wai on his last five movies and that she asked him to come to Seattle for the debut of 2046. Second, she said that he had to decline because he was working on his next movie, The Lady From Shanghai with Nicole Kidman. As of right now, the Internet Movie Database notes that the film is in production without any cast listed. There are some rumors on the message board that Nicole Kidman would be involved, but nothing concrete… so, it seems to me that we may have been the first to really find out for certain that Kidman is in the next WKW movie. That is awesome. Finally, the woman said that WKW thanked us for seeing the film at SIFF and not going to Scarecrow Video to rent the bootleg/import version of the film. Oops. Well, I guess he didn’t personally thank me, but hey, I saw the SIFF screening twice, so it’s not like I took away business.

Speaking of 2046, when I first mentioned that it would be showing at SIFF I noted that there are apparently two edits of the film. After its Cannes 2004 premiere, WKW went and edited a bit so that it made more sense. I am 90% sure that the version I saw at SIFF was different than the version I watched on DVD. The “2046” and “2047” segments were longer and overall the film made more sense, though that could be due to the fact I had seen it so many times before and the fact I was watching it on a big screen.

Finally, and this is my last comment about 2046 and SIFF, but I have to say that The Neptune theatre in the University District is by far the worst movie ever to see subtitled films at. The floor isn’t sloped enough so the head of the person in front of you is always in the way. Again, learning from my past, when I went on Saturday afternoon we got the front row seats on the balcony, which at least gave us a chance to read all of the subtitles… as for the comfort, that still left a lot to be desired. That place needs new seats!

Secret Festival pass
In addition to the regular films at the festival, my coworker learned about this thing called The Secret Festival. Every year SIFF (and this is, I understand, pretty unique to SIFF) does this additional set of movies that you can see but not talk about. How serious are they about not talking about it? Well, pretty serious, apparently. Using my pretty keen Google-fu, I couldn’t find anything online about what has been shown in the past. Additionally, when you get the pass, you sign what is basically a nondisclosure agreement:

I, the undersigned, do hereby solemnly swear that I will never divulge the titles of discuss any of the films screened at the 2005 SIFF Secret Festival. Futhermore, I agree that I will not commit to print, broadcast on radio/television, on-line service or any other media form information regarding any of the 2005 Secret Festival screenings. I understand that the Seattle International Film Festival can and will pursue legal action against me in order to recover punitive and financial damages caused by my breach of this contract. I understand that no recording device is allowed into festival venues and that I may be subject to physical search of my person or personal property upon entrance to festival venues.

So yah, don’t expect any more information about the Secret Festival showings.

As for the other films, this is what I plan to see:

  • Ronda Nocturna @ Harvard Exit @ May 25, 2005 9:30 p.m.
  • Childstar @ Neptune Theatre @ May 27, 2005 7:15 p.m.
  • Izo @ Egyptian Theatre @ May 28, 2005 11:55 p.m.
  • November @ Neptune Theatre @ May 31, 2005 9:30 p.m.
  • Mysterious Skin @ Egyptian Theatre @ Jun 2, 2005 9:15 p.m.
  • A Hole in My Heart @ Egyptian Theatre @ Jun 4, 2005 11:55 p.m.
  • L’Amant @ Harvard Exit @ Jun 5, 2005 6:30 p.m.
  • Clean @ Harvard Exit @ Jun 7, 2005 9:30 p.m.
  • Ellie Parker @ Neptune Theatre @ Jun 11, 2005 2:00 p.m.
  • Frozen @ Harvard Exit @ Jun 12, 2005 4:15 p.m.

So yeah, within the next month my ass will become very sore and I will be an expert at taking the 7 bus route between my place and the U-District (for the Neptune showings).

It would be totally awesome for people to join me at any of these movies. And I do intend to review each film I see as much as possible, though it could become rather overwhelming.

What am I most excited about? Right now, Mysterious Skin because I love Greg Araki (Nowhere, The Doom Generation) and I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I am also excited about Clean because Maggie Cheung was great in In the Mood For Love and because the film involves heroin addicts and rock stars. As for the rest, we’ll see.

Wish me luck!


Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, and Jude Law in Closer
Watching the movie Closer tonight seemed to tie together a lot of thoughts I’ve been having about various things lately. Allow me to elaborate (in a bit).

First, I’ll say that I loved the movie. I wasn’t sure whether I would, given that the movie had some non-hype hype… that is, although I guess it wasn’t a huge mainstream success, it seemed to do pretty well in the theatres (i.e. it wasn’t a total indie art film). Though, after seeing that this is the director that did Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (which, yes, I really love), now I understand why the movie was so good.

As for the acting, after seeing Revenge of the Sith the other day, it was nice to be reminded that Natalie Portman (Alice) can act (which, I know, is probably the #1 cliché written by critics reviewing both Closer and Garden State, but whatever) and I forgot how much I love Julia Roberts’ (Anna) voice. Oh, and I loved Natalie Portman’s hair and how it changed so often.

I can’t/won’t say much about Clive Owen (Larry) and Jude Law (Dan). I guess their performances were okay (though Clive Owen was nominated for his role, so others must have been impressed). I didn’t like their characters at all, and I thought it was bizarre that both of the male characters were British, but oh well.

In regard to the two themes that this movie touched on that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

Love as a Coincidence/Temporal Anomaly

I think 2046 really got me started on this whole thought process, but Closer really reassured me that maybe all love is is timing. All of the times that the four characters meet one-on-one are all a matter of chance — Dan seeing Alice get hit by a car, Dan meeting Anna at a photo shoot, Dan tricking Larry into meeting Anna, and Larry finding Alice at a strip club. Nobody had a lot in common with each other. Love was just something that happened to them.

When Dan in Closer and Chow in 2046 try to “outsmart” love, or don’t really accept the reality of it, they end up getting burned. Dan is a hypocrite in Closer for cheating on Alice with Anna and then getting angry at Anna for sleeping with Larry again. Then after ruining his relationship with Alice only to ruin the subsequence relationship with Anna, he assumes that Alice will always love him and that he can return to her. In the end, however, he’s left alone and rather pathetic. I wouldn’t say that Chow is necessarily pathetic, but the fact he never gets over Su Lizhen from In the Mood for Love and doesn’t realize the temporality of the relationship leaves him, in the end, alone.

Jude Law as Dan and Natalie Portman as Alice

Wanting All the Details After Being Cheated On

When I re-watched Short Cuts the other week, the scene in which Julianne Moore’s character’s (Marian) husband Ralph questions her about a time years ago when she got with some artist named Mitchell Andrews reminded me of something that has bothered me about men for a long time: whenever they are cheated on, they want all the details, as explicitly as possible along with a comparison of “was he better than me?”

After seeing Short Cuts, I actually started a post and saved it in draft so I could work on a larger post about this idea, but Closer totally broke it into the open.

When Anna first cheats on Larry, he wants all the details (“Did he make you cum?”, “How many times?”, “Was he better than me?”, etc.) when she decides to tell him that her and Dan had been seeing each other for a year. Likewise, when, at the end, Alice tells Dan that she slept with Larry, Dan demands details about their encounter.

In both movies, the men seem to want to know everything. Also, in both movies, the women don’t want to reveal what happened. They believe that either the details don’t matter or don’t want the men they are with to know in the first place. But, as seen in Closer via the actions of Larry and Dan, when they don’t know the details it drives them nuts, and then when they do get the details, it drives them more nuts.

I know there are tons more movies where this happens (sorta in Lost Highway when Peter demands that Alice tells him about how she met Mr. Eddy), and I am also sure there are cases where the women want to know everything from their men. If anyone has more examples, that would be awesome.

From a critical theory standpoint, I would situate this phenomenon into my one of my favorite topics: the presence of an absence. The absence, in this case, is the knowledge about the hookup. The men know that it exists, but they don’t know anything about it. Instead of being filled with concrete details, the absence remains an empty shell into which they can project whatever they want. And the fact that it remains in such a state, means that they can project the most extraordinary and bizarre details into the situation. I’m sure that the men, castrated by the presence of the unknown, imagine the sex to be mind-blowingly good. Even when they women assure them that they regret the hookup or that it was only sex, the men are not satisfied. They hope that, somehow, by gaining knowledge, they will be able to face the unknown and turn the absence into something they can understand and reject and be angry about.

From a non-critical common-sense standpoint, I would situate this phenomenon into one of my least-favorite topics: competition/jealousy. I’m sure this is a more easily understandable concept, so if my presence of an absence description is whack, just realize it’s a fancy way of saying jealousy.

Overall, Closer was a great movie. I’m not sure about all these reviews commenting on it’s explicit and “brutally honest” portrayal of sex (compared to other films I’ve watched, it was tame), but whatever. The acting was great, the directing (I imagine) was also superb, and the writing was “write”-on. I would love to see the stage version of Closer if ever given the chance. I also love that the film helped me go deeper into some things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately — it got me closer to coming up with some more solid conclusions and more thought-out studies.


2046 movie poster
SIFF has this year’s schedule up, so everyone in Seattle should go see Wong Kar-Wai‘s 2046.

I’m not sure which version this will be. The one that played at Cannes last year has apparently been edited a bit to make it make more sense. The version I got from Netflix lists the running time at 129 min, which is the same running time posted on the SIFF web site. So maybe it’s the version I’ve seen before, maybe not?

One thing I will say is that before seeing it again, I am going to re-watch In the Mood For Love. Not that it is a prerequisite, but I think it would be awesome seeing them back-to-back. (Hey, some people do it with Lord of the Rings, others with Star Wars… I do it with… well, both of those, plus these WKW ones.)

You might always want to checkout my first review of 2046 for my overall (spoiler-free) impressions and then if you are ambitious, check the follow-up review of 2046 for more thematic types of thoughts.

Who Really Loves Me?

Wong Kar-Wai DVD Collection
So, who really loves me and wants to buy me The Wong Kar-Wai Collection??? Although the retail price is $76.96, it looks like you can find it used on amazon for under $70. I will love you forever and forever.

For real, though, I have to buy this. It contains the following movies:

Although I already own Happy Together, I think it’s worth doubling my efforts in this case. I can give it away as a present or something sometime in the future.

Also, as a bonus, if you really really really love me, you can throw in In the Mood For Love – The Criterion Edition. I want that too.