Release Date: 2000
Director: Wong Kar-wai
Why I picked this: Tried watching this before but the DVD broke; what I saw was great
I’ve made this a point several times, but the best movies are those that tells much while saying litte. This Hong Kong movie is one of the greatest examples of “show, don’t tell.” Through the use of music, the framing of images, and acting, every important piece of information and every emotion is conveyed to the audience. The film tells the story of two people, Chow Mo-wan, played by Tony Leung, and Su Li-zhen, played by Maggie Cheung. The two have recently moved next to each other with their spouses, who are both away due to their jobs. As a result, Chow and Su spend much time alone; this is highlighted with slow motion musical montages which as them sitting alone, or going to a noodle station, usually showing the two passing by each other. The same handful of songs are used repeatedly, but it is surprisingly never annoying, as the songs always perfectly match the situation, and the meanings of the songs change with each different use. Chow and Su form a special bond due to their loneliness, spending time with each other; eventually, their deductive reasoning leaves them to discover that their spouses are having an affair together. They never state this fact explicitly, but it is clear to the audience and clear to the characters. Interestingly enough, the two spouses are never shown to the audience; they are heard, but their faces are obscured. We sometimes cut to their spouses in their workplaces, but the shots are framed in a very specific way so we focus on a certain part of the room; whenever the movie cuts back to that shot, the audience instantly knows where they are again. There are plenty of reoccurring visual motifs, a significant one being a lonely lamp on the wall, usually in the rain. Upon deducing that their spouses are seeing each other, the strange relationship between Chow and Su furthers; there are interesting scenes where they act out scenarios involving their spouses, but throughout the entire film, they make an effort to not be like their spouses. While gossip does arise, it is ironically about Chow and Su rather than the two spouses having an affair. Again, the way this information is told to the audience is told more subtly. I really loved the visual style of this movie; like the dialogue, the visuals subtly convey information and emotion to the audience, even without any dialogue. As mentioned, there are slow motion montages and visual motifs, and many of the shots are framed in a way so which the characters themselves are framed by objects or elements in the foreground. In terms of pace, this is a very fast moving film. The film covers much time, and the narrative jumps around very quickly. I rarely felt lost, though; each sequence served its purpose and moves on appropriately. However, I have to admit that I did get a little lost in the last half hour or so, which even required the use of title cards to tell at what point in time the following scenes is. As one could probably guess, this movie has themes of loneliness and love, with the main characters of Chow and Su being the vehicles for these themes. There are some truly touching moments between these two, and again, these themes are conveyed through dialogue and visuals rather than told out loud.
It jumps around time a lot, but this is one of the best examples of storytelling in recent memory; it’s visually beautiful and its themes of loneliness and love should resonate with many.