14 October 2005


The film '2046' by Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai doesn't cure the melancholy induced by all our current weather. It merely adds a frame of grey glamour to the tears. This morning, I was dripping of East Village rain as I settled in for the 11am at Sunshine on Houston St.. Two hours of relentless 60s Chinaglama, with subtitles translating predictable arias. The film likes closeups of stunningly sad faces, tight hallways, cracks on wooden walls, abandoned alleyways dressed up for painful farewells. A friend describes the brooding as Tristanesque, though throughout the film there is only abandonment, the Isolde drifting only as uncertain memories. The love potion is the film itself, stereotype-toxic. The camera zooms in to follow the still drops of water from the eye, from leaky faucets, or beads of sweat or rain; the smoke from a cigarette, the light from glistening hair: an opera of stylized gestures of emptiness, from a narrative that refuses to move beyond the clean bel canto of careful cinematic photographs. There's a character named 'Lulu,' known to others as 'Mimi.' Another character's theme song is Bellini's 'Casta diva' from Norma. Maria Callas appears to me in the first bars of the aria, and then slowly Angela Gheorghiu shows her sorrowful face. Gheorghiu has a wide palette of grey in her voice, and her timbre to these ears has significant quantities of the sweet acid of Callas. Elsewhere in the movie, Callas herself is asked to vocalize the slow fadeout of a lover, with 'Oh s'io potessi' from the final scene of Bellini's Il Pirata. In the happiness of love, or in the peace of happiness, their rupturing voices begin to mourn the centripetal logic of the tragic end. There is rain in their sound, familiar music of a lost lover.