In the Mood for Love: a homeopathic dose of narrative

The family's away for a week, so I'm reading and watching movies.  It's an Asian weekend, for some reason, and first off was Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood For Love (2001).

What's it about?  Primarily, Maggie Cheung's hips.  Also cigarettes and stairways, but mostly the hips, displayed in a kind of dress called a cheongsam, sometimes going down and up stairways, and sometimes while Tony Leung smokes to a romantic melody heard many times during the film.

And that's OK.  I'm totally sold on the dress, and willing to move to Hong Kong, circa 1960, even if I have to listen to Nat King Cole sing in phonetically learned Spanish (the oddly charming popular music heard over several scenes), if only I can watch Maggie go out to get noodles.  Why she doesn't cause a riot every time she does it is beyond me.

There's not a lot of plot, by a narrative addict's standards anyway.  Maggie and Tony (not their character names) each rent a room in adjoining apartments.  Each also has a spouse (never seen), who take up with each other, leaving Maggie and Tony to look longingly at each other.  Tony wants to write narrative--martial arts serials.  He may or may not be trying to lay out some narrative in this relationship (he has them act out possible scenes from their spouses' adulterous relationship), but if so, he fails, what might be a Signal From Fred to the director/writer.  Maggie also has something going on that never makes it to my consciousness, at least:  as one character says, "She dresses that way to get noodles?" What is she trying to do?  She aids and abets her boss's affair, like a good PA should, so does she do the same for her husband?

Kar-Wai is a bit elliptical for me.  The spouses are only caught in glances, and he likes showing only one side of a conversation.  I'd prefer just a couple of grab bars to let me save myself from narrative confusion:  if I hadn't read some reviews, I might have been at sea for much longer.  Did the spouses meet when they moved next to each other by chance, or did they know each other before?  And does Maggie really travel to all the way to Singapore to smoke one of Tony's cigarettes?  And what in the world does Charles DeGaulle have to do with anything?

Worth seeing big screen, I think.  I saw it on DVD, and the scenes are so textured I felt I was missing out.  Plus, the hips would be much clearer.

This excerpt will tell you all you need to know about whether you'll like seeing it.  This isn't an interlude between more narratively active parts of the movie, though there is real dialogue elsewhere, this is the movie:  hips, stairs, noodles, music.  No cigarette smoke here, you'll have to rent it for that.

Next up, the somewhat less elliptical and dreamily romantic Harakiri.