Review Date: May 20, 2004
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Writer: Wong Kar Wai
Producers: Yimou Zhang
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what this film is about, but from what I did gather, there's something in it about the year 2046 and how everyone can go there with a train in order to recapture their lost memories. The film is shown to us through the visuals of the writer of the story in the future, who was apparently writing about his past, not the future. Got all that? Didn't think so. Let's just say that it features scenes of this writer interacting with lovely ladies in his hotel, falling for them, them falling for him, sex ensuing, as well as conversations and plenty of slow-motion cigarette smoking. Love, in all its forms...also ensues.
Now that's what I call an "artsy-fartsy" movie! That said, I actually enjoyed this "artsy-fartsy" confection, complete with jumbled continuity, inexplicable futuristic sequences, operatic music, fade-to-black poetic text inserts, pretentious airs and all that other fun stuff. The reason I liked the film is that from the first moment I laid eyes on it...I was captured by its beauty of essence. Sounds pretentious, right? Well, what can I say...maybe I was in a pretentious mood tonight, but the film isn't just a cinematic equivalent of a gorgeous painting/poem with hidden meanings that are left to one's own devices, but a soliloquy of sorts to love affairs, love spats and yeah, good ol' fashioned...heartbreaks. Since everyone can connect to most of these emotional entanglements (especially the latter one), it's easy to get caught up in this film's enrapturing atmosphere set in the late '60s, but demonstrating a timeless quality, complete with colorful and endearing set designs, lovely costumes on everyone, a very unique style of shooting that takes a little time to get used to (but works), and most impressively...a musical accompaniment that rivals any other director in terms of its complementary nature to the work. I want to own this soundtrack and cry myself to sleep at nights with it in the background. Seriously though, the musical stylings in this film are what took it to that whole other pitter-patter level for me with the classical stuff adding weight to the film's slow-motion montage sequences, the cover songs working within every environment created by the filmmaker (loved those Christmas ditties) and the overall continuous use of song, enriching its firmly established "love mood".
The actors were also great and nice to look at, specifically Tony Lueng Chiu Wai, who played the lead cool cat to a tee, with a brimming suit and a cool manner about him (or was he just cold-hearted?) Zhang Ziyi was also perfect in this film, and showed that she's not just another damn gorgeous face, but a decent little actress as well. Seriously Zhang...call me! The director, Wong Kar Wai, also has to be given props for blending the whole piece together with a visual panache that I adored, and that's despite his odes to pretense. My biggest problem with the piece? Well, simply put...I just didn't get it. Most of the film is set up like postcards on the wall, each telling a story, intertwined or brought up via the last one, and even though each tale of pictures and sound put forth an interesting component of what makes up the act of a love affair, I didn't really catch the film's entire flow, meaning or connection. Surely, as I said before, this is supposed to be set up in a way to leave the interpretation to each viewer, which in this case, I actually didn't mind, since it's a visually impressive enough movie to give yet another go-around. But if you're looking for a film that explains every detail-or better yet-anything about itself, you would likely be doing yourself a favor if you skipped this subtext-laden Asian love letter. I personally liked it a lot and might just like it even more on a second go-around...who knows. It's that kind of movie. It's also to note that this film is a sequel of sorts to Kar Wai's previously well-received IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, so those who have seen that motion picture, might understand/appreciate this one even more.
Note: Kar Wai had actually just finished editing this movie the night before it was screened in Cannes (where I saw it), so perhaps some trims/edits will still be worked out for the movie's final print, notably the over-use of the song "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire".
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian