Three weeks ago Criterion announced they are bringing out In the Mood for Love on blu-ray; I never got into that film back when it was released and thought I should give it another go.
If I was indifferent then, this time I was entranced: the grain of the images, the colours, the music seeped through my eyes into my mind and heart. The sensuousness of the world inhabited by the characters was so deeply intoxicating that I even had a dream about the film the night after I watched it. Love, longing, loneliness, memories, mysteries, missed connections: what they mean and how they affect us is much clearer when you’re older.
I guess this is the reason why the film didn’t resonate with me back then: not enough life, not enough opportunities to experience the frustration of impossible love, the unwieldiness of attraction. Probably my cinematic tastes weren’t as catholic as they are now. When I was growing up cultivating my cinephilia, Hong Kong and Korea were all the rage: Wong Kar-Wai was trendy, but I was unfashionably into Welles, Scorsese, Almodovar and Lang. Determined as I was to master the four languages I could speak, I avoided films in languages I didn’t understand, thus foolishly precluding myself the possibility to get into Asian cinema. Now with a bit more life experience under my belt, and decidedly more visual literacy, I am rediscovering the beauty of Kar-Wai’s work.
Last night I watched Happy Together again, and here was another surprise: another marvellous piece of work about difficult loves, travels and plans gone awry, finding a place for the past while moving on. The acting is superb by all involved, which is not surprising, given WKW’s free-flowing (random perhaps) working method, which allows him to shoot hours and hours of improvised footage in which actors find their characters, create stories, carve out minute moments with surgical precision. Christopher Doyle’s photography is a breathtaking roller-coaster ride of lurid places turned lyrical in black and white, colours distorted by memories, intense accelaration and aching slo-motion. I think I may have a new favourite filmmaker.
(Also lately I’ve been thinking of potential double bills, and In the Mood for Love/Lost in Translation and Happy Together/Weekend would work a treat.)
[images from Happy Together via contre-plongees]