A man tries to find out who his real mother is after the woman who raised him tells him the truth.A man tries to find out who his real mother is after the woman who raised him tells him the truth.A man tries to find out who his real mother is after the woman who raised him tells him the truth.A man tries to find out who his real mother is after the woman who raised him tells him the truth.A man tries to find out who his real mother is after the woman who raised him tells him the truth.
Now when all the normal people with steady jobs and a steady family have gone to sleep, all those still hanging in the balance of existence come out and fly beneath the cold street lamps. Now and then their wings touch, for a fleeting moment, and then they're alone again, flying in circles around the street lamps, like a moth instinctively drawn to something that is bright and warm. This reminds me of the line spoken by Warren Oates in that quintessential American movie about alienation and drifting, Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop: "if I'm not grounded soon, I'm gonna go into orbit". Hollywood rarely understands this type of character. Only someone who has never experienced that directionless orbit can glorify the drifting. The characters here need to be grounded soon. They need human warmth and affection and to know that there's a place they can come back at night and call it home.
We usually think of a drifter as someone who sets off into the desert, into a bleak barren landscape, it's probably easier that way. It takes a step back to look at life around us, as we wait for the subway in crowd, to realize a drifter can be a drifter among people. American film noir treats the city as an 'asphalt jungle', while for some reason Asians seem to tap into the melancholy of the 'asphalt desert'. I'm thinking films like Johnnie To's PTU and Takashi Miike's Rainy Dog. This is one of those films. One of the characters is a cop who does a latenight patrol, always wandering around empty streets by himself. He confesses a little later, that he wanted to be a sailor. The metaphor is poignant.
But at the same time Wong-Kar Wai says a lot of things about compulsion, that driving monomania that sets these people into orbit, and disassociates them from the world. I like how all this plays out in a 50's Hong Kong of cold blue lights and wet streets reflecting neon lights from a distant shop sign. It's not Chungking Express yet, and I'm glad that it's not, Chungking is a vibrant colorful place, and this one is a world that begins a corner down the street from it, where the bustle of city life, where the other people live their lives, is but a faint echo. In fact, until the movie washes up in the Phillipines to get involved in a brawl and take the night train out of the world, we hardly see any people outside the six characters, the small birds whose wings touch now and then.
This is raw and touching and real, like the best of gritnik cinema done by a romantic. Sam Peckinpah was another big romantic of gritnik cinema, but his romance was masculine and fatalist, he was speaking about the ends of things. Wong-Kar Wai tells us about love and obsession, and what it takes for something to begin. Good stuff.
- Sep 30, 2010