Saturday, November 29, 2008
In the Mood for Love
My favorite parts of Wong Kar-Wai’s 2000 film In the Mood For Love are the numerous slow motion sequences in which So and Chow simply pass by each other. I have always found that Wong Kar-Wai has the ability to capture intimate yet seemingly empty moments and give them a weight and eminence that may otherwise go unnoticed (if it would exist at all). Some critics have said that Wong Kar-Wai’s style is too pop, too much like an MTV music video. In some ways this could be true. He often uses a fast paced editing scheme, off kilter cinematography and highly stylized and visually contrive sets. All of these are staples of the industrialized music video industry. Indeed, it is necessary to capture the minds of millions of ADD effected preteens, tweens and teens who lack an attention span of more than a few a seconds. However, such a view fails to incorporate many of the other scenes that punctuate Wong Kar-Wai’s films. Scenes such as those intimate passings-by of So and Chow.
Take for example another of Wong Kar-Wai’s films, Chungking Express (1994). The film opens with an action packed sequence in which a drug dealer (Brigitte Lin) sets up a deal with a group of South-Asian immigrants, only be cheated and forced to hunt them down. This portion along certainly follows the MTV paradigm, however, this portion is not the entire story. It is followed by the romance between and Lin’s character and a cop (Takeshi Kaneshiro). They meet at a western style bar, go to a hotel and quickly commence to do nothing. Lin is too tired from the nights and excursions and falls asleep, leaving Kaneshiro to stay up and watch movies alone. This is not the long night of explicit and gratuitous love making that would punctuate the supposedly “pop” MTV work that Wong Kar-Wai is accused of. This is expressed even in the bar scene, in which the camera longingly follows the two characters as they sit and talk, with expressive, if not nostalgic long shots. A scene like this would be akin to Ambien to the MTV audience.
This same awareness of pacing and balance can be seen in In the Mood For Love. While it’s highs are not as high as in Chungking Express, In the Mood For Love paces itself against a singular design of fast paced, jump cut sequences (such as when So is running up the stairs in the hotel) and slow arid long takes (such as the slow motion shots) to create a balanced and conscious picture. Even in content, In the Mood For Love breaks from the MTV model. It certainly contains the elements of a Hollywood mass-market plot, circumstantial romance, cheating spouses, etc. However, Wong Kar-Wai does not cheapen the film by turning it into a run-of-the-mill domestic melodrama, or an over the top revenge picture. There are no explicit sex scenes. There are no great explosions or arguments. There is no wealth of tears. Instead this emotionally charged, nostalgic and energetic film plays with a graceful and prudent determination. Balancing the energy of the story and style of the film with a light, yet deliberate cinematic touch.
(In the Mood for Love 花樣年華, dir. Wong Kar-Wai 王家衛, 2000)