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TitlePeter Brunette - Wong Kar-wai (Contemporary Film Directors)
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Table of Contents
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
Photo Credits
Tears, Time, and Love: The Films of Wong Kar-wai
	As Tears Go By
	Days of Being Wild
	Ashes of Time
	Chungking Express
	Fallen Angels
	Happy Together
	In the Mood for Love
Interview with Wong Kar-wai (Toronto International Film Festival, 1995)
Interview with Wong Kar-wai(Cannes Film Festival, 2001)
Document Text Contents
Page 1


Wong Kar-wai

Peter Brunette

Page 2

Wong Kar-wai

Page 87

66 | Wong Kar-wai

Whatever “encounters” occur—or better, don’t occur—do so through
voiceover rather than face-to-face interaction.
Sex in this film is more desperate and depressing than ever. As Abbas
has put it, “Eroticism in the film is joyless, suspended between boredom
and melancholy” (75). Larry Gross’s witty comment that “nothing is
more typical of the world of Wong Kar-wai than a sex scene where one
of the participants isn’t present” (10) is never more true than here. One
of the saddest moments comes when the dispatcher, clad “erotically” in
high heels and fishnet stockings, masturbates alone on the assassin’s bed.
It’s a curiously unerotic shot (from the bottom end of the bed, with the
wide-angle lens heavily distorting her legs) that conveys loneliness and
isolation more than sensuality. The same thing occurs later in the film,
from exactly the same camera angle—we only know it’s a different event
because the stockings and shoes have changed—suggesting little more
than desperation and fruitless repetition. Everyone wants to be noticed
here, and the blonde girl in the film (Karen Mok), whose frenetic faux-
exuberance often makes her seem on the verge of a nervous breakdown

Figure 10. Fallen Angels: The dispatcher (Michelle
Reis) amuses herself.

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Page 88

Tears, Time, and Love | 67

(and which quickly wears thin, until you realize it’s supposed to), tells
the assassin that she dyed her hair bright blonde “so that no one would
forget me.”
Musical sound bridges and visual cuts enhance the sexual despera-
tion. As the dispatcher, occupying the assassin’s seat in the bar, listens to
a coded message he has sent her through the jukebox (“Forget Him”),
the music continues over into the assassin’s encounter with the blonde
girl in McDonald’s, suggesting that the same disappointment is in store
for her. In her apartment, she tells him that they have been together
before, for a long time (“you called me ‘baby,’” she chortles), but he
doesn’t remember and makes it clear to her that he is only interested
in a one-night stand. Depressingly, she consoles herself by muttering,
“Maybe you’ll like me better in the morning.” The sound bridge of
“Forget Him” then continues its admonitory work by connecting us to
the next scene, back on the dispatcher, who is once again masturbating,
which is followed by a lengthy period of sobbing. Not a very hopeful pic-
ture of heterosexual relationships, certainly, yet its implications extend
even further, since desperate sex is only a sign of a more generalized
loneliness. At one point, Ho considers making videotapes to send as
greetings, as his friend Sato-san does to his son, but decides against it:
“Who would I send tapes to? I really can’t send them to myself.” This
echoes the assassin’s reason for deciding against taking out an insurance
policy: “Who would I name as the beneficiary?” As Tony Rayns has
succinctly put it, “Loneliness is ultimately the film’s centrifugal force”
(“Fallen” 42). All that was frothy and fun in Chungking Express has now,
very purposely, I think, become pathetic and alienated.
By the last sequence of the film, virtually every possible amorous
combination has been worked through. It ends with a lovely sequence
in which Ho and the dispatcher have been left alone in a restaurant, fol-
lowing a fight in which Ho has participated. In voice-over, we have just
heard from each one seemingly innocent comments about the weather
that obviously contain other meanings as well. Ho says: “I hadn’t ex-
pected winter to come so soon.” And she: “I feel cold.” Both speak of
being “more careful” now, solely, yet again, in voice-over. Still in the
restaurant, we then hear from each why nothing can happen between
them. Ho’s comment is particularly funny, because he is speaking of
being an eternal optimist while soaked in his own blood from the fight.

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Page 174

Books in the series Contemporary Film Directors

Edward Yang
John Anderson

Wong Kar-wai
Peter Brunette

Claire Denis
Judith Mayne

Joel and Ethan Coen
R. Barton Palmer

Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Darlene J. Sadlier

Abbas Kiarostami
Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa and
Jonathan Rosenbaum

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Page 175

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