Rewatching In the Mood for Love as an adult

I first watched Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love around the early ‘00s. A former friend recommended it, so I borrowed her VCD of the movie and copied it using a fantastic piece of technology called “CD burner”. I watched it on a chunky white computer monitor. I remember being fascinated at the Maggie Cheung character most of all. How could any man cheat on a woman this gorgeous? I also remember thinking, “This movie is so high-art and so sad and, oh, so ‘quizás, quizás, quizás’ is ‘perhaps, perhaps, perhaps’”.

I recently watched the 4K restoration of the film in House Samyan and had some thoughts and observations.

  1. Maggie Cheung is as radiant, as incandescent, and as ravishing as when I first watched the film. As a non-Hong Kong citizen who has no working knowledge of what HK women looked like during the ‘60s, I take it as a fact that a woman that beautiful can be cheated on by her husband perhaps because there are many other equally stunning women just like her. It also offers this insight on the precarity of most marriages: a married person falling for someone else has nothing to do with one’s spouse good looks and character. 
  2. It would seem as if Chow (Tony Leung) and Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) didn’t have much to do to pass the time except wait at home for their respective spouses who were eternally on extended overseas business meetings. This was what may have compelled them to spontaneously reenact how their spouses carry on with their affair. It’s not that the cuckolded pair were inherently boring people or without any hobbies (Chow, who is a journalist, writes manga comics semi-inspired by real-life events while Mrs. Chan keeps herself busy at home and takes nightly trips to her favorite noodle stall). It’s that they were pining for their spouses and have chosen to process their pain by miming their emotionally and physically unavailable spouses’ ways. 
  3. I would re-watch this movie even only to admire the many cheongsams that Maggie Cheung wore. As Mrs. Suen (Mrs. Soo’s landlady) had implied, the cheongsams are too exquisite only to be worn for nightly noodle noshing. Me and Mrs. Suen had the exact same thought.
  4. It would have made sense for the two to break it off with their spouses, but they didn’t. Maybe they knew that the snatches of time they spent together were more precious than actually becoming a couple, which, as they both knew, is rife with difficulties, temptation, and made-up business trips. And, there’d be no more goods from Japan and, worse of all, no more nightly treks to noodle alley. But, in the grand scheme of things, would it have mattered if they did end up together? Would they have been better off if they had Followed Their Heart? Quizás, quizás, quizás.

Movies I’ve watched recently: The Kingmaker, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Come and See

Imelda, Lucy, Florya

The Kingmaker
It would be difficult even for Hollywood filmmakers to make a biopic about Imelda Marcos, one of the most notorious first ladies who ever lived. I truly believe there is no actress chameleonic enough who can exude the delusional aura that Imelda possesses and no screenwriter talented enough who can write a script that can capture the inanity of every word that comes out of her mouth that spews twisted takes on truth, beauty, and their family’s supposedly glorious rule of the Philippines. But it would be interesting to see Natalie Portman tackle the role of Imelda fucking Marcos.

The Kingmaker is a documentary about Imelda, her pivotal role in shaping Philippine history, and her family’s audacious attempts to ascend, once again, to the highest government positions in the country. Imelda is a fascinating woman who will never cease to be a subject of films, songs, novels, and think-pieces. Also fascinating is how she willingly participates in these films and not think that she’d be portrayed in any way other than as a vicious monster who live —and will die — in a bubble. It could only be explained by her egomania. This documentary is so maddening and so well-made.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about couple Lucy and Jake taking a road trip to meet Jake’s socially awkward parents. Lucy thinks out loud during the trip; in particular, she is thinking of ending things with Jake because she no longer wants to be with him. She’s narrating in her head, as one does while on a road trip to meet one’s partner’s parents. She’s unaware that Jake can hear her thoughts, which induces a pleasant kind of cringe.

It’s an interesting premise although one that would require paying very close attention (which is difficult to do considering this is a Netflix movie, and is therefore watched at home) to what soon unfolds when they reach their destination, Jake’s house, where his parents act all servile and weird. I would have been happier with a straightforward romantic comedy/drama in which a couple is about to separate, with one-half of the couple thinking out loud and the other hearing everything that’s not being said. I enjoy the occasional Charlie Kaufman mindfuck, but I was put off by the dream-like sequences in the school toward the end. It wasn’t quite clear if the person who was thinking of ending things, ended things. I think that is part of this movie’s allure.

Come and See
Florya, a boy barely out of his teens, is joining the village soldiers to fight against the Nazis. His mother is against it, but he does it anyway because it’s not as if there are many options for them; their entire village along with 600 others according to Wikipedia and history books are about to be razed to the ground by very bad people. Florya joins the troop only to be told to stay behind and give his good shoe to a veteran deemed more capable to fight in battle.

Nazi soldiers soon arrive, and it doesn’t take long for them to destroy the village and slaughter every man, woman, and child. Florya and those who manage to escape the first round of slaughter live through this long enough then promptly go mad. When everything you own and live for are taken away from you, it won’t take long before you lose your mind. Florya and some of the villagers are spared, not because they acted right and/or luckily escaped but because the soldiers needed an audience for their little fire show.

The barbarity of Nazi soldiers during World War 2 is well documented in history books, novels, essays, films, etc., but there’s something about its depiction in this film that gets under one’s skin. So many war stories need to be told, and movies like Come and See, about Germany’s invasion of the land formerly named Byelorussia, are an important reminder of the kind of evil humans are capable of, e.g., incinerating people like they’re kindling and doing it with maniacal glee, among many, many, many other acts of cruelty. This movie is a fever dream of atrocity after atrocity. It’s an Important Film, although one that’s very difficult to watch. Watch it.