Escape the tyranny of the huge flatscreen TV for an evening and surrender to a slow-moving visual feast best seen on the big screen in a darkened room with lots of people barely breathing. They’re holding their breath for a variety of reasons. The gorgeousness of Christopher Doyle’s cinematography for one, depicting 1960s Hong Kong as a kaleidoscope of butterfly blues, resinous ambers and neon reds. The unusual focus of the plot for another – on the man and woman realising that their other halves are having an affair with each other. On the losers not the winners in the game of love, in other words. And on the awful, stomach-clenching feeling of a love – yes, they fall for each other – that dares not express itself. Why not? After all, they have every right. The answer is because it is 1962 and they’re in Hong Kong and because they are moral people to the core. Or possibly they’re just cowards. Though the more Wong Kar Wai takes us into their world, the more we lose track of our own. Little by little we too are living crowded lives in tiny back-to-back rooming-houses, lives that remain genial, decent, tolerable because everyone obeys the rules. And little by little, we start to accept the unrequited lovers’ explanations for their actions, or lack thereof. Wong Kar Wai has made films as beautiful since, but never as immersive or painfully romantic.
© Steve Morrissey 2007