Sunday, November 19, 2006

‘Where Have all the Cities Gone?,’ Asked Wong Kar Wai

The artist of dissolving cityscapes now turns to composing poetic elegies to the urban world that he feels once was and never will be again. If in In the Mood for Love Wong Kar Wai took daring leaps of imagination to place the rotting away of cities at the intersection of the death of personal desire and war and carnage then in 2046, notionally a sequel to In the Mood…, Mr Chow survives the decades following the 1960s and finds himself facing a new generation of urban technologies – human and material – that somehow retains the molecular intensity of pure desire itself. In between war and disease have eaten away at the crumbling facades of the city to create a new generation of human beings who see and think differently yet desire the proximity of human bodies as before. The dissolution of Mr Chow’s secret left forever in a hole in the wall of a Cambodian temple at the end of In the Mood… is followed in the sequel by his career as a profligate and promiscuous writer-journalist. Mr Chow has liaisons with women who will metamorphose in a different generation and decade into protagonists of Kar Wai’s earlier cinema. Here Kar Wai had used the combined intensities of kitsch and new visual machines to meditate upon human fate in times of perpetual motion and wayward desires in the dissolving cities of the 1980s and 1990s. The city dies because love cannot be expressed and it dies when it is expressed badly – people leave. In the end Mr Chang is left on the edge of a technological science fictive future where his desire has become a myth and fuels the cables that keep the infemotional grids of cybercities going, grids that create the mood for love in the year 2046.
The irony of course is that even the past of Kar Wai’s fantasy of the 1960s is recreated through the technologies of 2046. Probably, there is a truth in all of this. The past when sentiments could be expressed is best filmed through the technologies of the present; the materiality of cities and landscapes moves as if animated by a mind, expressive of the emotions of protagonists. But this same movement takes bodies away from cities, borne away by the intensity of unfulfilled desires, the energy freed up used to imagine new techniques of visualisation. Cities were a map of the human mind, its architectonics a trace of the twists and turns of the deepest human curiosity to explore the unknown. The city of In the Mood…has disappeared forever; left are the poses and sensuously real images of the past that might teach future surfers of the virtually real two or three things Kar Wai knew about love.


alpha_ro_mel said...

...antithetical to that Kar Wai vision of crumbling megalopolice, where urbanity has lost its sheen is Kieslowski's Tricoluers. I came across this blog from your orkut link and this thought on vanishing cities sparkeld some dormant thoughts. Through out the annals of human history the towns have been the nerve centers for blossoming civilization, a convergence of dynamism and innovation...but every cinematic vision of future possess this "tired grey sky with emaciated breathing below" sort of frames.
Why so? Why do non-European fimmakers indulge more in excavating this perspective? Non-European i say so because mostly in european movies the cities have this solid presence , maybe their architecture is overtly responsible for this. And here its where i come to Kieslowski. Everybody i know gets floored by the strength in his visualization of the colours Blue, White Red but somehow i could sense a raw energy in the cities..a bland Paris and frosty Warsaw in White and sensuos Paris again in Red..inviting for melancholic seduction.
Is there any example of Asian cinema with the city flourishing in its regal solidity? Even in the stylized Infernal Affairs HongKong is not plain sombre solid, the backdrop seems almost menacing in that famous Tony Leung Andy Lau encounter.
Is there any European movie with withering cityscape?
I am still waiting for an answer.

Neel said...

Firstly if I may differ, I do not agree that "every cinematic vision of future possess this "tired grey sky with emaciated breathing below" sort of frames." Secondly a 'sensuous paris' or 'raw energy' has nothing to do with Cities flourishing in its regal solidity? Infact the very terms 'regal solidity' brings to me images of a plain sobre solidity which is not what Asia is all about Or even Contemporary European or Latin American Cinema is all about. And if I see Breathless even today it brings to me very human images Paris, throbbing with vibrancy as opposed to the classical description od Paris being regal and splendid. And as for your answer, watch 'The Road Home' by Zhang Yimou.