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Saturday, November 28, 2009


Masterful moviemaking from Kai War-Wong who finds & maintains a potent dramatic & visual balance using his signature painterly palette to detail the quietly devastating effects of a thwarted romance . The time is 1960s Hong Kong and a 30-something wife is renting rooms for herself & her absent husband just as another husband does the same for himself & his absent wife, right next door. In a brilliant move, Kar War-Wong keeps the absent spouses off-screen while showing parallels in the lives of his superb leads, Tony Leung & Maggie Cheung, as they take tantalizingly small steps toward friendship . . . and perhaps more? But the mood deepens/shatters as they jointly begin to see the obvious: their respective spouses are absent together, in the midst of an affair. Left alone, but together, so to speak, Leung & Cheung find comfort not in an affair of their own, but in role-playing the passions & rationalizations of their absent spouses. The film owes some of its tortured restraint to BRIEF ENCOUNTER/’45 and the similarities & differences in the respective cultures only adds to the richness in Kai War-Wong’s conception. But it’s the period flavor, the superb art direction & the oblique storytelling technique that make this so special. That, and the stunning high collars on Maggie Cheung’s outfits.

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