It was said about the great painter Monet that in the partial blindness of his old age, "He only had one eye, but what an eye!"
I've never seen a photo or TV interview with the great Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai when he wasn't wearing dark glasses, but I know this artist sees better than most. Maybe his sight is too piercing, too clear to go without shade. His images, like Monet's, capture that fleeting moment, one that is so beautiful you want to grab at it, hold it, never let it go, but that, like time itself, poignantly escapes our permanent grasp. These moments can take place in dingy hotels and can be tragic or ineffable but they are rendered beautiful by Kar-Wai's eye. They make up a celluloid canvas that is unlike any other and mark him as an old-fashioned auteur.
Who knew red-painted toenails on white skin could make such an artistic statement? Or that a wisp of a hem of a luxurious cheongsan in motion would stop the clock? Or that artificial light in a dim interior could vy with the sky for how it bestows beauty?
His work is flawed, perhaps because his appetite for the lush image is insatiable and difficult to balance with narrative. But any new Kar-Wai film is an occasion for cinephiles to get excited.
Speaking of narrative, there is not much there. "In the Mood for Love" was a series of scenes of brief encounters and the subject mostly unspoken longing. The characters in "2046" went farther than longing, but there wasn't much in the way of dialogue and in the end, there was not much action to account for outside all the weeping despite its (excessive) length. But the visual esthetic was expansive and rich. No one makes use of color and composition like Kar-Wai.
So, I'm running to "Blueberry Nights" as soon as it gets here.