Wong Kar-Wai, 1997
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If I have one standard as to my taste in films it is that plot>character>mood. This film is much more about characters and mood than plot. If I am to like a character driven film, one place it can go wrong is by having characters without redeemable qualities. Sadly, the couple at focus here is constantly bickering, and it is this dependent misery that is the focus of the film. I spend the whole film wondering why they are together and donít have enough reason to get emotional when they break-up (as they do on many occasions).
Definitely too fussy for my tastes. Though the rich colours are beautiful, so many of the flourishes just feel tedious to me Ė I canít be the only one who thinks that slo-mo thing he often does is kind of hideous. Thereís a stylish coolness to Wong Kar-wai that I find kind of corny. The relationship itself didnít really compel me all that much either, at times I feel like the film coasted on Tony Leungís wonderfully expressive and sympathetic face rather than developing much between the two leads, though I'm quite certain that's not how most feel. In addition to Tony Leung, who is wonderful to spend time with, what I really did like about the film is the feeling of isolation. The sense of being far from home and relying on a familiar bond regardless of how unhealthy it may be. The apartment is such a perfectly defined and confining space. The scenes where Lai is at work are also very good, not oppressive, but quietly sad.
The disintegrated relationship between Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung) and Ho Po-wing (Leslie Cheung) just isn't that interesting ó or, rather, it isn't presented in an interesting fashion. Instead, their scenes together are like a caricature of a Cassavetes film ó two people being sort of repetitively nasty to each other. It made me long to watch Two for the Road again instead. There are a few strong moments between them (I especially liked the lighting of the cigarette shot through the door, for example), but there are long stretches when the film relies on its masterful audiovisual technique to maintain any sort of engagement. Wong excels at dramatizing the making and missing of personal connections, but Ho and Lai are stuck in limbo between those ends, and the script seems a bit stuck, too. When Tony Leung's character is on his own, the film really soars, evoking wonderfully his sense of isolation and the near connection he has with Chang. The cumulative effect of the sustained mood affected me even more strongly than that in Days of Being Wild, and the film ended on its highest note, which really helps its lasting impression with me.
For me, when that kind of rendering of emotions and mood works, it really works. Huge reason as to why I love Happy Together and Friday Night.
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.