1. “In the Mood for Love”, Wong Kar-Wai (2000)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.

In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love aka 花樣年華

dir. Wong Kar-wai scr. Wong Kar-wai cin. Christopher Doyle, Mark Lee Ping-bin with Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung

In 100 words: For me, this movie defined cinema: as an artform, it’s the perfect blending of rich colors, graceful camerawork, rhythmic editing, incredible framing and angles with sensual musical choices. As an experience, we watch the central romance blossom and evoke guilt, reluctance, and acceptance, while Cheung and Leung perfectly capture the sensation of ardor and devastation with their electric chemistry and full-bodied performances. And as an auteur statement, this film best captured Wong’s inimitable style and magnified its strengths. If good movies transcend screens, set your synapses on fire, and create a transporting experience, then behold, the greatest movie ever.

Other Movies for Context: Wong is so influential. I can think of Moonlight (2016), which takes a lot of its cues from the colors and rhythms of this movie. Additionally, the entirety of Wong Kar-wai’s filmography is sublime and varied and so stylish and uniquely Wong’s. My favorite, apart from this is Happy Together (1997), which finds Wong and Doyle experimenting with colors and saturation, while putting together one of the most exhilarating gay romance movies ever, featuring my favorite Chinese male movie stars: Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung. Chungking Express  (1994) gave us iconic Faye Wong and Bridget Lin and Takeshi Kaneshiro and really became the other peak of Wong’s stylistic expression. 2046 (2004) proved too diffuse and kinda rushed, but still has some gorgeous compositions and interesting storyline, while The Grandmaster (2011) gives Wong an excuse to create wuxia movie with his style. Ashes of Time (1994) was a mess that preceded The Grandmaster, while Days of Being Wild is memorable for its sensual images and sweaty vibe (1990). Fallen Angels (1995) and As Tears Go By (1988) are interesting discoveries, even if they are minor Wong. My Blueberry Nights (2007) is baffling, but worth seeking for Wong’s English-language debut.

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99. “Irma Vep,” Olivier Assayas (1996)

 

Part of the 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen List.

Irma Vep

Irma Vep

dir. Olivier Assayas (1996) scr. Olivier Assayas cin. Eric Gautier with Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Nathalie Richard, Antoine Basler

In 100 words: Oscillating between cerebral and esoteric, Assayas’s engrossing and frisky metatextual film about filmmaking has plenty of jokes about the cinema and the people who make it. Its characters argue passionately about what exactly is ruining the state of current cinema, whether it’s intellectualism, the money-grubbiness of American movies, or the lack of inventiveness from new directors. But if the film sounds like an excruciating exercise in self-criticism, fear not. It’s full of hilariously neurotic backstage personalities that are all trying to survive, while Maggie Cheung, in a black latex bodysuit, is just trying to stay above it all. Bracing end.

Other Movies for Context: Sad to say that this is my first and only experience with Assayas’s work. I see frequent comparisons to Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), which I also haven’t seen. When I listen to these people have very ,casual and intellectual conversations, I think instantly of Mia Hansen-Love’s Things to Come (2016), which may not be as frisky or as playful as Irma but still engages you to think just as much.