Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Guest Blogger: Sarah O.

If you couldn’t tell from her first post, Sarah is our resident foreign films guru. We’re hoping to expand our foreign film collection here at the library, and Sarah is just the person to recommend some great titles. So if you’re in the mood for something a little different, check out Sarah’s movie picks. She’ll be blogging regularly to help you find something amazing.

Let’s talk about Wong Kar-wai.
His work as a Hong Kong director is unique as he leaves his signature style on his vision of yearning, alienation and love. One thing to be noted about him is that his scripts are malleable, and are often improvised as the film progresses. One other famous example of this is Apocalypse Now. While Coppola made that the exception, Kar-wai makes it the rule. Kar-wai also favors hand-held camera shots, to give his works that fluid feeling, of one image melting into the next, of time flowing freely onto itself. If anyone can shoot poetry, it’s Kar-wai – and MPL has just received some of his movies: Fallen Angels, Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love, 2046, The Ashes of Time Redux, and My Blueberry Nights. Now, my problem is: which one should I talk about?

How to Choose Just One?
When thinking about Wong Kar-wai, it was difficult for me to choose just one of his films to focus on, as they are all stunning. This being said, I thought I would take a look at “Greatest Movies of All-Time” (meaning really, only over the last 100 years or so) and see which one of his movies made the cut; I, making the assumption that at least one would be. So, I looked at Yahoo!’s list and Time Magazine’s list. Both thought 100 a sufficient enough number for this time period. The New York Times decided to one-up them by choosing the 1,000 best movies of all time. I did not look at the AFI’s selections, as they are limited to American-made movies.

The Results of my Research:
Yahoo! selected In the Mood for Love and Time chose Chungking Express. None of Kar-wai’s movies showed in the NYT 1,000 – thank goodness we have the book here – those indexes sure come in handy. So, how to break the tie? I thought I might give other, less authoritative lists a try, but it seems these lists are shunning most foreign currency. One of my favorite Hong Kong actors, Tony Leung, is in both of them, but then again, there aren’t many of Kar-wai’s movies that Leung isn’t in. Maybe that’s why Leung is so good – he works with the best. Last resort, I thought to try imdb.com, an indispensable resource where finding movie information is concerned. The user rating results are as follows: In the Mood for Love: 8.1; Chungking Express: 8.0. Not a resounding victory, but I need something to go on. See them both; I’ll write about one.

In the Mood:
I had the pleasure of seeing this movie on the big screen, as it was being shown as the prequel to Kar-wai’s latest (this is 2004) 2046. I thought, if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t stay for the double-feature. I not only loved it, but I was mesmerized – drawn in to the story and the magnificent settings. This is one of those movies that makes you forget what time it is and what chores you need to get done; in other words, it is a totally engrossing experience.

I guarantee that you will fall in love with Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung – two of Hong Kong’s acting powerhouses. They play Mrs. Chen and Mr. Chow in 1960’s Hong Kong. They are renting apartments in the same building with their respective spouses. They later learn that both of their spouses are cheating on them – with the others’ spouse. Got it? So, they do the only logical thing there is to do: role-play as the others’ spouse to understand how the affair happened. The actors do an excellent job of conveying unquenchable loneliness through sustained shots. The camerawork is unparalleled as it glides by a wall that separates their apartments, further emphasizing how little separates them, but yet that obstacle is insurmountable. (For more frenzied and hand-held shots, see Fallen Angels or Chungking Express, as you won’t get much of that signature in this movie.) Kent Jones, in his article “Of Love and the City” describes their state of longing and loneliness as “the inherent sadness of being a ‘good person" (Jones, Kent. “Of Love and the City.” American Movie Critics. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Library of America, 2006. 667-672). Isn’t this what we all ascribe to be – especially in the face of the one we love? This will seem like an unconventional love story to many Americans, who are used to the instant gratification seen on our screens, and think it a tragedy when our hero and heroine are not united at the end. But doesn’t that get boring after awhile? Do we have to know everything for certain? A little ambiguity goes a long way.

Needless to say, I stayed for both of them, and after seeing In the Mood, go ahead and try 2046. It is a very different type of movie, but the themes of interior loneliness and the search for love do complement one another and make for a perfect night inside.

Speaking of Favorites…
Do we have yours in our collection? Did you know that you can suggest a purchase at Mentor Public Library? If we don’t have one (or more) of the movies on your “favorites” list – let us know and we will do our best to get them for you. You can contact us by e-mail at: askalibrarian@mentorpl.org, give the Adult Information Services desk a call at: (440) 255-8811 ext. 216, or just stop by the Information Services desk and talk to us!

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