Crooked & Narrow and In the Mood for Love (Wong, 2000)

I’ve been in pre-production for the last several months on Crooked & Narrow, my second feature film (hence, fewer recent posts). We’re up on IMDb; check us out HERE to get a look at the logline and cast. You can expect some artwork, and at least two more exciting actor updates on this blog and IMDb soon.

We roll on 6/22, so it’s fast approaching. I’ve always wanted to shoot a heist film, and while this also hits some other genres and themes I’ve been interested in, it’s certainly got the heist. If you didn’t hit the link, here’s a description:

Amy Walsh returns to Philadelphia after a 10 year absence to join a stick-up crew and to see her ex-cop, current-con father now dying of cancer in prison. After a job goes wrong Warren Mercer, the crooked cop who put her dad in jail, gets on her trail.

Check for more updates from time to time. In the meantime, here’s a post about a film that’s been long in the can.

In the Mood for Love

I hadn’t watched Wong Kar-Wai’s masterpiece (and, for my money, one of the best films of 2000s) in a long time; it was great to see it again and to look at elements other than just pure story.

One thing that I love about Wong Kar-Wai is how he gives audiences information. For example, after Chow (Tony Leung) is in a room-

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-Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) is seen in that same room:

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This might feel obvious, but it’s actually pretty emblematic of the director’s (and DP Christopher Doyle’s) style. See that light in the background (how can you not?)? It’s a reference point that Wong expects the audience to remember, just as he expects them to remember various things throughout the film without much verbal exposition. I like this approach a lot: see something, remember something.

Here’s a later sequence that I really loved. Mrs. Chan returns to the apartment where she lived opposite Chow. She looks out the window-

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-and then we cut to her POV (ostensibly her POV, technically she moves before the shot, but it’s like her “lingering POV”):

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Wong then cuts to a CU of Chow walking, holding a gift:

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Chow goes to his old apartment and is eventually let inside, ultimately filling that POV from above:

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Those two shots of the terrace with the flower frame-left are identically framed save Chow. There’s about 4 shots in between them and maybe 35 seconds of screentime, yet they almost feel as though they’re back-to-back. Mrs. Chan never sees Chow peering out of that window, but the audience makes the connection: when he looks out, it’s what she wished for; it’s him fulfilling her fantasy…though without her there to see it come to fruition.

Chow and Chan’s spouses are never fully shown in the film and Wong uses that to his advantage in one of the best scenes of In the Mood for Love. Early in the film, Mrs. Chan is seen behind her husband. We only get his back and hear his voice – the way we’ll “see” him throughout the film:

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Then much later, Mrs. Chan has a conversation with a man. We only see over his shoulder. She’s asking him about his infidelities. She gets quite emotional:

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It seems obvious that this is again her husband. Context clues aside, the man is also presented as anonymous. But soon Wong cuts to reveal that this is Chow. It’s a beautiful moment that fools the audience. By thinking this is her husband we buy the emotional values of the scene. When we realize it’s not him at all it’s not that the emotion is false, but instead it becomes superimposed onto Chan and Chow. Read: she really has feelings for him.

I’ve written on this blog before about Won Kar-Wai’s play with space. There’s plenty in here. Like how he either ignores the 180 line or breaks it to show a changing of roles (in the first image below Chan and Chow are “playing” themselves; in the second they’re “playing” their spouses):

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He also uses freeze frames, though it looks like the characters just freeze rather than any filmic or digitcal manipulation:

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Then there’s this shot, which is of a blank hallway, and one that we’ve seen before in the film, but that here acts as the last shot of a sequence. It’s non-narrative: this shot adds nothing to the story of the scene, but it’s like an emotional reminder. Remember when this hallway used to be filled with Chan and Chow passing one-another and sharing a form of intimacy? Well, now it’s empty. It’s so strange that he gets away with this. Were this in another film it would feel like a superfluous shot.

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I wanted to include these last two shots for a look at a) the gorgeous production design (god, that purple wallpaper!), and b) Wong’s penchant for mirroring:

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The mirroring is pretty obvious in the second image, but it’s a motif throughout In the Mood for Love. That first image is so cramped and pretty. Doyle and Wong really seem to love points of lights behind their characters (i.e. the lamp that Chow blocks). There’s also both an unevenness (the frame feels weighted towards her: she’s more open to camera, the visible light leans frame-left, the wall hanging is frame-left) and a balance (he occupies more of the frame than she does,  he lands more on the rule of thirds than she).

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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