Tag Archives: Shigeru Umebayashi

In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)

In the Mood for Love runs under a hundred minutes. Its present action is somewhat indeterminate, but less than a year total and a few weeks for the longest continuous sequence. As for the length of that continuous sequence, I’m not sure. There’s such a smoothness to William Chang’s editing. It’s calm and measured. It’s not always slow–it often isn’t, especially in the first half of the film, where director Wong and Chang show time transitions through change in dress. With such a concise runtime–and so many ambitions for the film’s visual narrative (which is somewhat separate from the plot)–Wong has to prepare the viewer for the film.

That preparation involves very tight narrative control–this scene leads to this scene, but Wong is actually building to a reveal. Only, since it’s at the beginning of the film, it’s unclear what reveal is supposed to be the most important reveal. At a certain point, In the Mood for Love should be able to be cut into two pieces. Big reveal, whenever it comes, should split the film. Except Wong’s stylistic approach in that first half, how the camera movements, how the framing of characters, it provides such a strong foundation there’s no split. And by not splitting, Wong’s better able to focus the narrative in the second half. In the Mood for Love is a guided tour of its story, with Wong relying on his actors to break through on another level, the tragic one. The actors create the characters, not the script or even Wong’s visual motifs for shooting them. It’s Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. They’re the ones who get it done.

Great photography, great music. Wong’s got a nostalgic way of being realistic portraying the early sixties setting. The best example is probably how he uses Cheung’s dresses to establish a narrative flow and how he can also use them to disrupt the narrative. It’s all so precise, all so delicately done. The film has these slow motion sequences, but Wong keeps them all entirely separate. The way he’s progressing the visual narrative, he finds different reasons to get to the same technique. It should be complicated, but because of how Wong establishes the visual “language” in the first act, it isn’t.

Everything works–like Lam Siu Ping’s goofy sidekick for Leung or Rebecca Pan’s nosy but nice landlady. Thanks to Wong, his crew–and because of Cheung and Leung–In the Mood for Love achieves something singular. It’s great.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written, produced and directed by Wong Kar-wai; directors of photography, Christopher Doyle, Kwan Pung-leung and Lee Ping-bin; edited by William Chang; music by Michael Galasso and Umebayashi Shigeru; production designer, Chang; released by Block 2 Pictures.

Starring Maggie Cheung (Mrs. Chan), Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Mr. Chow), Siu Ping-Lam (Ah Ping), Kelly Lai Chen (Mr. Ho) and Rebecca Pan (Mrs. Suen).


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Daisy (2006, Andrew Lau), the director's cut

Here’s a rule: if you’re going to have your three principal characters each narrate parts of a story (the first act, for example), make sure they keep doing it through the rest of the drama. Multi-character, scene-specific narration is a terrible idea, but at least stick with what you set-up. Not surprisingly, Daisy doesn’t stick with it. Watching the exceptionally long first act (I’m guessing forty-five minutes), I kept wondering how these narrated storytelling would work once the film–presumably–stopped being told in summary. Once it switched over to scenic storytelling, the narration stopped… so much so, at the end, I couldn’t remember the last narration I’d heard. I think there was some from the girl–Daisy is sort of a love triangle, but not really–through the second act, but definitely not in the third. She’s mute by this time and has been for quite a while, so it would have been nice. In the third act, the film makes its second attempt (the first being the relationship between the two suitors) at something interesting. It reminded me, for a minute, of Hitchcock, when the woman discovers her man isn’t the man she thought.

Korean romantic comedy–well, he’s too old to be a wunderkind, but think a late forties wunderkind–Kwak Jae-young wrote Daisy. His regular lead female actor, Jun Ji-hyun, is in the film and so I was really looking forward to it. He didn’t direct it (Chinese director Andrew Lau directs the Korean actors in the Netherlands), but if he had, Daisy wouldn’t have been any better. It’s an attempt at a tragedy. I say attempt because it never really connects enough to achieve that label. The narration keeps the characters distanced from the audience and Jun’s muteness keeps her distanced from the other characters. The long first act makes it boring and the short third act makes it unbelievable. There’s still a few good things about the film, but nothing to particularly recommend it. Lau’s direction is fine. His editing is occasionally fast in a good way, using the film to create connections in the viewer’s mind. Neat stuff. Of the two suitors, Jung Woo-sung and Lee Sung-jae, Jung is better. He’s the bad guy. He also looks a lot like Skeet Ulrich, but he can act. He can’t surmount the impossibility of the script however.

I’ve read Jun described as Kwak’s muse, but Daisy is no example of that relationship. If it had been one, she’d have been in the film enough to make an impression. Kwak didn’t like her character more than any other ones and he didn’t like her character at all, which explains everything faulty in Daisy.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Andrew Lau; written by Kwak Jae-young; directors of photography, Lau and Ng Man-Ching; edited by Kim Jae-beom, Kim Sang-beom, Wong Hoi and Chan Ki-hop; music by Chang Kwong Wing and Shigeru Umebayashi; produced by Teddy Jung; released by Showbox.

Starring Jung Woo-sung (Park Yi), Lee Sung-jae (Jeong Woo), Jun Ji-hyun (Hye-young), Jeon Ho-jin (Detective Jang), Dion Lam (Yun Joon-ha) and David Chiang (Cho).


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