Can I watch a movie without it turning out to be Vertigo in some way? Just days after talking about Cathy Moriarty's resemblance in Raging Bull to Kim Novak's character in Vertigo, I watched Wong Kar-wai's 2000 film In the Mood for Love, the wikipedia entry for which has this quote from the director;
the role of Tony in the film reminds me of Jimmy Stewart's in Vertigo. There is a dark side to this character. I think it's very interesting that most of the audience prefers to think that this is a very innocent relationship. These are the good guys, because their spouses are the first ones to be unfaithful and they refuse to be. Nobody sees any darkness in these characters - and yet they are meeting in secret to act out fictitious scenarios of confronting their spouses and of having an affair. I think this happens because the face of Tony Leung is so sympathetic. Just imagine if it was John Malkovich playing this role. You would think, 'This guy is really weird.' It's the same in Vertigo. Everybody thinks James Stewart is a nice guy, so nobody thinks that his character is actually very sick.
This resembles my own feelings about the genius of casting James Stewart in Vertigo, and the odd actions of the two characters in In the Mood for Love I think would probably automatically be taken as normal because of Tony Leung's persistently open and earnest countenance. But I still see the relationship portrayed in the film as quite innocent, and maybe it says something about Kar-wei himself that he does not find it innocent.
I'm not sure if he means to imply anything sinister with the word "dark", but in my mind darkness and innocence are very closely related as both suggest a lack of moral consciousness, a lack of concern for morality, or a, shall we say, unrefined perspective on morality.
The impression I had was of two people who have suddenly realised they don't really understand how love works, having been comfortably ignorant of true passion in the socially prescribed institution of marriage. Their strange play acting relationship is an attempt to understand how to process the feelings that their spouses have shown them are natural, and which they themselves begin to feel without the influence of their intentions or courtship conventions.
Very little of this is conveyed in dialogue--the movie's vital organs are its excellent actors, music, and beautiful compositions of shots. One of my favourite examples is this very Hitchcockian shot of Maggie Cheung;
The shot lasts for a while as we watch Cheung, alone in her bedroom, almost expressionless, begin to cry. Cheung gives a very subtle performance throughout the film of someone very tightly controlled whose feelings, strange to her, are breaking through without perfect understanding from her. I thought about how much better she'd have been in Maggie Gyllenhaal's role in the movie Secretary, which I watched again a week ago. There's a bit where James Spader tells her character that she seems very "closed", but she doesn't. I like Gyllenhaal, but she exhibits far too much self confidence and warmth to ever seem closed, which is a tricky thing for an actor to do while still communicating to the camera. Maggie Cheung pulls it off brilliantly.
The above shot so nicely conveys someone tortured by being alone with herself, unable to express her feelings when she needed to and now finds those feelings endlessly reflected back on her to the point of intense pain.
I also loved shots of the hallway outside of the room where the two protagonists regularly meet in secret;
It's the often replicated shot from Cocteau's Belle et la Bete of billowing curtains in a hallway, in this case bright red curtains, a bit of environment, serving as so much of the atmosphere of the film, to exhibit the feelings of the two leads who don't know how to express feelings themselves.
With breakfast to-day, I watched the third episode of Baka to Test to Shonkanju. This show is just plain great. I loved the tagline on the faux Apocalypse Now poster in this shot;
Last night's tweets;
Scarecrow's shredded documents have vanished.
They functioned as his liver and kidneys.
Digested telegrams are now tarnished.
His guts known to would-be Antigones.