Anyone seen this? It’s a remarkable film: a loose sequel to ‘In The Mood for Love’ with many familiar Wong Kar Wai elements, but all of them taken to another level. To the extent that it has a narrative structure, it is all over the place. It skips back and fore in time, from the “real” story to the fictional one that the protagonist (Chow) is writing, and it replays certain scenes as new information makes them more poignant, or marginally intelligible. I kept thinking of ‘Beau Travail’ as I watched it because that’s another film that I can watch over and over for its imagery without ever really understanding what is going on. So I won’t even try to explain the plot, and it is in any case irrelevant to the pleasures of the film.

Tong Leung is fabulous both because of the half smile that always plays on his lips, and because his sentences always end with a rising inflection that makes him sound questioning even when he is making a statement (this is a film that has to be watched with subtitles rather than dubbing). His three loves, Li Gong, Faye Wong and Ziyi Zhang, are all superb, especially Zhang as the prostitute that falls hard for Chow. I’m not sure anyone can demonstrate the bittersweet quality of love as well as Wong Kar Wai.

And the cinematography is, as you would expect, nothing less than stunning. Almost every image is beautifully composed; you would expect to see them hanging in an art gallery rather than strung together in a movie. Oh, and check out the first deleted scene in which Black Spider visits Chow. It should not have been cut, and would have made a wonderful ending to the film.

Funny Ha Ha

I watched Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha last night after reading a lot of accolades (particularly A.O. Scott in the Times and the Slate end-of-the-year critic’s discussion which Reynolds referenced a couple of weeks ago). This film is a stripped to the bones, no-budget portrait of twentysomething post-graduates trying to figure it all out (work, love, freedom, obligation). During the first twenty minutes I was put off by the amateurish quality of the filmmaking, but the performances were believable, the writing honest and unaffected and there was nary a note of hipster irony (these kids aren’t overeducated slackers spouting off the greatest hits of Heidegger and Nietzsche and McLuhan) so I stuck with it . . . and I’m glad I did. Funny Ha Ha is unassuming—a comic work of “slice of life” naturalism in the tradition of John Cassavetes and John Sayles (the closest I can come to finding an appropriate analogue is Sayles’ The Return of the Secaucus Seven). Bujalski’s film develops real poignancy over its 90+ minutes offering up a genuinely believable collection of psychologically complex (and confused) characters who both embrace and resist the randomness of human existence in order to defend themselves from the encroaching responsibilities of adulthood while consciously moving in that very direction. My only criticism concerns the way Bujalski makes invisible the very integuments of class privilege which provides these kids the time and space to work it all out. Worth a look.