Friday, December 10, 2004

A second teaser poster for Batman Begins, also tres cool, and, more than the first, actually looks like it's been ripped from the pages of a comic book.

Terrence Malick's first film since The Thin Red Line, The New World, has a trailer. And here's the trailer for Tim Burton's Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. It looks like a scary film. Good. Would you like to see the full uncensored sex scene deleted from Team America? Pervert.

Brother, can you spare $20 million? I'm thinking of buying myself a submarine. You know, for when I feel like going to Boracay over the weekend.

An Oldboy toy! Wicked!


[minor spoilage]

So. 2046.

It did not blow me away. I like it a lot; maybe I even love it but just don't know it yet (I still have to see it maybe 2 more times). At first, I was going to write "I don't know if I'm blown away by it" but then thought to myself "Well, if I'm not entirely sure about that, then it definitely means I wasn't." Being blown away is not a state of uncertainty.

This is not a terribly bad thing, because honestly, it was near-impossible to meet my expectations, built up over 5 years of half-starts and still-in-progress-es, and the director (one of my favorites)'s previous work.

I love so many scenes, so many moments, but structurally I did not find it organic. Unlike with In the Mood for Love, I felt more at a distance with 2046, like I couldn't really get to know the characters the way I wanted to. Maybe that's intentional, maybe it's something on my part.

As always, I love the music. Wong Kar-wai's always been good with that, though some people have found the repetition of certain songs annoying. I'm not sure if it's the first time he's used opera, but he uses it to good effect here, and bringing back songs from Days of Being Wild struck a nostalgic chord. This underscores very well those parts where he links 2046 to characters from Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love. I was also delighted to hear Kieslowski regular Zbigniew Preisner's work included. And as usual, he continues to be inspired by Latin American music, particularly with the song that introduces Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi).

As far as cinematography goes, I have to admit I was expecting a bit more. Though the feeling isn't really disappointment. The use of color is excellent, but the composition of shots and movement of camera was a little more reserved, a little restrained. Which, considering the subject matter, I thought wouldn't be the case. There weren't moments or stylishly-cut sequences that made my jaw drop. The closest thing was the occasional juxtaposition of 2 shots, usually conversation scenes. And one shot of the Carina Lau android going from sorrow to glee (and red to blue) in a split-second. But again, this means more concentration on the narrative, not necessarily a bad thing.

Relating the films together satisfies a fanboy aspect of me but I have to wonder about how it affects the characters from a macro point of view. Are we to understand that Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) was in Days of Being Wild (the very last, seemingly useless scene), and in the unseen wake of the events of that film met/consoled Carina Lau, then got married to someone for In the Mood, then, broken by the events in that film, becomes a cad in 2046? That's some arc! Why is he such an asshole to Bai Ling, when it's hinted he may have found the closest thing to genuine feeling (or did I just answer my own question)? And, in the next "episode," why is he so nice and encouraging and supportive to Faye Wong's character? I would like to think it's not merely because of a superficial attraction.

I have a massive crush on Faye Wong. Ever since I saw Chungking Express. I remember making my family wait while I finished A Chinese Odyssey 2002 (produced by Kar-wai, shot by Doyle, starring Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Chang Chen, and Vicki Zhao; watch it, it's cute fun) at my cousin's place, even though they already wanted to go home. Remember the Melissa Auf Der Maur post? The next of that kind was supposed to be Faye Wong, and it's been sitting half-written in some file for months now. I successfully kept my cool when I found out Quark saw her in Taipei (and a little saddened to hear of some diva-ish behavior). I didn't realize HOW much I'd missed her until I saw her onscreen. She didn't look like she'd aged a bit. The same big, inviting eyes, same cute nose, the same cute expressions that look like they were headed for another emotion but stopped short. It was an utter delight to see her again, hear her voice, see her move. Do you remember what she was saying in Japanese? It gains more relevance later in the film, after more information is disclosed.

It's interesting to watch the scenes set in the future, or the storyworld of "2046," because you have to look at it, at least, on 2 levels. Simply, as narrative, what transpires between the characters, and underneath that, as extensions of what Chow feels towards his life and the characters that orbit him, and how he disguises/masks/subverts those feelings. Because of the characters orbiting Chow, I feel that 2046 is more of a spiritual successor to Days of Being Wild than In the Mood was (and initially hyped as).

Alexis and I still wonder if this is really the final, final cut, because Chang Chen and Maggie Cheung seem to be excised from the film almost completely. Also, there are continuity errors. Big, glaring ones like wasn't a certain character dead? How did they turn up again later in the movie? And of Bai Ling, Chow Mo-wan says "That's the last time I ever saw her"-- TWICE. Mysteries remain, like what's the story with the black-gloved hand? In a more tsismis vein, what's with the naming of a character after a famous Chinese actress who was exiled for acting in Red Square and had a hiccup of a scandal involving Doyle earlier in the year?

I've been thinking a lot about storytelling recently, and the devices/tricks at hand. I'm more analytical towards 2046 than I expected. Partly because I was re-reading articles on Wong Kar-wai films (coming again, I suppose, from the level of excitement/anticipation that preceded it). So I'm looking at what he's using again: repeating patterns, both in the film and in the structure of the film. Echoed/underscored by music, dialogue. Voice-over narration. Themes explored: longing, coping, memory, the passing of time. Where would Wong Kar-wai be without narrow corridors, too few places to eat (so characters could keep bumping into one another against their will), and hotels that only have one phone? In a way, again, a fanboy part of me is welcoming to these elements. But also a small part of me demands the new. One of the great things about In the Mood was it was made as a reaction to Wong Kar-wai style being appropriated by everyone else. So he abandoned his trademark voice-over, tried some new tricks and it was great. He got to this great "show over tell" aesthetic that I was somewhat hoping to see here. But the voice-over narration favors the "tell over show" style, especially when he returns to a full ensemble cast and not the laser-intense focus on 2 characters that In the Mood was. At times, though, the voice-over felt like spackle applied to the gaps in story and continuity. Hence my impression of lack of organic development. I suppose this is an effect of Kar-wai's process. Since he has no script, the story comes together in a very unique way, and to cover up gaps he has to use narration. This connects with what I mentioned earlier about feeling at a distance: without narration in In the Mood, I was more taken in by the characters' stories, because it unfolds in front of me at the same time it does to them. In 2046, we are told what happened. Sometimes it's already in the past, sometimes the narrator wasn't there to see it but was told the story, and is now relating it to us. This is maybe unavoidable with so many characters, but that intimacy and shared experience is sacrificed. The problem with too many characters is you can't give time to each, not as much as you'd want, and you end up short-changing some or a lot of them. Think about it: what do we really know about some of the characters in the film? What we're told by Chow. Because there just isn't enough space to show scenes denoting character; the "plot," as it were, must go on.

I'm a little wary about writing this now, because I wonder if my opinions will change upon the second and third viewings.

Anyway, sorry this went so long. Just thinking out loud.

ADDED: After re-reading the above, I want to reiterate that I really do like the film very much. :)

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