We went to see 2046 by Wong Kar-wai last night in Cambridge. It's a beautiful film which I know I'll have to go watch again. I've been waiting to see it for years now and I wasn't disappointed. I'd read he had been editing the film up until the last minute, making changes to it after he showed it at Cannes last year. Losing track of the plot early on, I was able to focus on a delicious succession of interesting shots and recurring images, such as tears rolling down faces, men and women contrasted against interior walls and neon signs, conversations in the hallways of a Hong Kong hotel in the mid-1960s, writing in small rooms, letters sent and received, cigarette smoke and food. All rendered in exquiste detail.
One scene I liked involves Tony Leung's character trying to write a new ending for a short story he had composed for a friend. After moving to Japan, she asks him to change the ending of the story, complaining it was too sad. Leung sits for hours at his desk, with the pen hanging just above the blank page, unable to come up with anything. At one point in the movie, he says (in a voice-over): "Maybe I was being too oblique."
And that's partly what I love so much about his films, how he uses the medium as a type of oblique poetry. Another scene I enjoyed was of Leung and Faye Wong standing on a porch or rooftop, next to the neon sign of the hotel much of the film takes place in. You can't hear what they're saying to each other, but they're smiling and smoking cigarettes. I couldn't help thinking of their work together in the second half of Chungking Express.
The sci-fi sections of 2046 are edited into the fragmented narrative of the relationships between the writer and several women, creating a sense of entering into his imagination without warning. Faye Wong's portrayal of a beautiful android with "delayed reaction" is another reason why I can't stop thinking about this film.
I've started Bret Easton Ellis's novel Lunar Park (Knopf, 2005). I've been reading his books since high school and think of them as essential texts. The first sentence of Less Than Zero ("People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.") evokes for me the endless sun-drenched highways of the Florida I grew up in. Ellis begins Lunar Park by commenting on that first sentence, quickly delving into the topics (drugs, fame, apathy, evil) that he tends to develop in his books.
I saw him read at BU when Glamorama came out a few years ago and was surprised by how affable he seemed, happily answering questions and talking about his work after the reading. At that reading, as in this new novel, he was ruthless in mocking himself and the celebrity that has surrounded him since the publication of his first book.
I consider Less Than Zero and American Psycho to be classics at this point, novels that challenge (or maybe attack) the reader.
After the movie last night, I read Ernesto Priego's excellent chapbook, The Body Aches (Mexico DF: ExPressoDoble, 2005). I'm accustomed to reading his writing on a computer screen so it was a wonderful change to move through the pages of this text, enjoying its great poems. Among the many moments therein I find indispensable is this line:
"August is a form of fading."
(Thank you, Ernesto, for sending me a copy.)