Wong Kar Wai is the singular artist who has redefined the limitations of the Arthouse. Instead of buying into its implicit hierarchies in their methods of production and forms, he has single handedly been able to achieve a post-genre cinema where the remnants of genre tropes creates a renewed Arthouse cinema.
Wong’s films starting from Chunkgking Express (Chung Hing Sam Lam, 1994) with its MTV style pastiche provide a new way of looking at duration and movement. Wong is known, along with cinematographer Chris Doyle for capturing instances of nostalgia, memory and loss through variable film stock and stop motion photography
He functions within the realms of a post-Deleuzean film maker i.e. a film maker who consciously uses Deleuze’s texts Cinema 1: The Movement Image and Cinema 2: The Time Image to construct his unique cinema methodology. Wong’cinema is a post-modern reflection on Deleuze’s ideas on movement-image to do with space and time-image which has to do with the duration of a duration. In this way he utilizes Deleuze’s texts to create a cinema of both movement and time. I will now foray into Deleuze’s theories on cinema.
According to Deleuze cinema functions from immanent materials or sections of duration instead of transcendental poses. (Deleuze 4 ). Cinema is in the tradition of Kepler’s laws on orbital temporality, modern physics, modern geometry and calculus in which “mechanical succcessions of instants replaced the dialectical order of (transcendental) poses” (Deleuze 4). It links a series of means of “translation” to a means of “expression.” (Deleuze 4) In this way he links the geneology of cinema to the snapshot instead of the photograph. Taking the example of cartoon film Deleuze deduces that cinema “does not give us a figure described in a unique moment, but the continuity of the movement which describe the figure” (Deleuze 5). Cinema is therefore “the system which reproduces movement by relating it to the any-instant whatever” (Deleuze 6) or to the succession of incomplete fragments that form the whole.
Movement is therefore “a translation in space” (Deleuze 8) that can accelerate or slow down movement by changing the nature of the whole. Deleuze’s example involves the addition of a spoon to a system of sugar crystals in water that changes the nature of the whole . In this way using Bergson’s thesis on movement and change he argues that “if the whole is neither given nor giveable, it is because it is the Open” (Deleuze,9). Through this he deduces three levels of systems:
- The sets or closed systems which are defined by discernible objects or distinct parts
- The movement of translation which is established between the objects and modifies their position
- The Duration or the whole which constantly changes according to its own relations (Deleuze 11)
Cinema can be defined as the spatio-temporal becoming of a fractal. This fractal has several dimensions to it, which lie between horizontal and vertical movement, and also link a part of the segment to the duration of whole. (Deleuze,1) The duration of the whole creates a pre-emption and delay through the doubling of time through the interval between two parts. It is precisely between the interval and the doubling of the whole that chhand or the space between pre-emption, delay and repetition is created.
Chhand is the Deleuzean two sided machine where the shot unfolds in time between duration, interval and movement. In other words the three dimensions to the shot are duration, interval and movement. In this way the shot is the partial object of duration. The shot gives rise to cinema’s false movement that imitates matter. (Deleuze,1-3) According to Maharishi Institute of Management “Chhand comprises the specific sets of laws of Nature that are engaged in promoting the quality of Devata (or divinity) — the process of observation, the dynamism of observing in the witnessing quality of Rishi (or seer) — within the Samhita (or knowledge) level of consciousness, providing a structure to the eternally silent, self-referral, self-sufficient, fully awake state of consciousness, which is intimately personal to everyone.”
Channd also has a physiological aspect which links the sensory to the motor and creates the sense of rhythm in between the two: “In the physiology, Chhanda is found within the feedback loops of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis and sensory-motor systems. These are the resetting mechanisms that maintain proper balance within the range of transformation anticipated or ordained by the body. In a way, these maintain the proper rhythm, or metre.” (Maharishi Institute of Management)
There are two dimensions to the components of the shot, one relates to the part as duration, the other through spatial continuities or sets of space and the link between parts, sets and the whole.(Deleuze,19) On the one hand we have parts of objects that form sets within the image and at the other end we have juxtapositioning of images in the form of montage that forms the whole. The shot lies between the relatively closed sets or parts and the changing whole and “constantly converts the one into the other according to its two facets”. (Deleuze, 22) According to Deleuze, cinema forms an open construct as the parts open out into time that also forms its whole. The part is an addition to the whole which opens itself out to a freeing through duration.
This doubling movement between the sets and whole is the sensory motor qualities that make up the falseness of chhand, between the closed sets of notes in music or utterances in language that open out to a constantly changing whole that constitute duration which is “identical to consciousness” (Deleuze,10) There is also the matter of the interval between two shots that constitutes the gap in utterances or the silence between musical notes that open up to duration. According to Deleuze “[t]ime as interval is the accelerated variable present, and time as whole is the spiral open at both ends, the immensity of past and future.” (Deleuze,32) In this way the “interval between actions gets smaller and smaller”, as opposed to the whole of duration which is a system getting larger and larger. (Deleuze,32)
I would like to argue that Wong Kar Wai is the master of interval. Interval was first emphasized by Eisenstein who called the interval “the rhythm of the pulse of montage.” Wong Kar Wai realizes Deleuze’s point of cinema being a paradoxical medium that tries to mould itself “on the time of the object and of taking the imprint of its duration as well.”(Bazin,151)
There is a differentiation between the present in its three dimensions one belonging to the past, the other to the present and the third to the future. The present is “something already existing and something anticipated in the future.” Conversely the interval comprises of the fractal shot collapsing into nothingness.
This emphasis on sensorial collapse that measures the materiality of the movement-image can only be possible when there is a withdrawal from action. According to Deleuze the problematic of the movement-image can only be addressed when one deals with its limitations i.e. action. The body has the option of perceiving the image i.e. perception-image, of being affected by the image i.e. affection image or acting on the image i.e. action image.
One finds the origination of Wong Kar Wai’s cinema in that of Mani Kaul. Kaul emphasizes the becoming of thought through the thoughtless in the space of the withdrawal of the action image. This is obtained by extending the shot in duration beyond its denotational end point. Moving beyond the denotational end point makes the shot a volume moving either towards concentration or rarefaction. Kaul rarefies duration by withdrawing movement from action and making it re-enter the realm of perception. An example of this form of cinema would be Kaul’s “first stroke” Uski Roti where the use of the 28mm wide angled lens and 135 mm telephoto lens creates the notion of volume first compressed and then opened up. The chhand is emphasized in the opening sequence where the shot of a mango falling is delayed to create two distant worlds in the same continuous space overlapping through their mutual delay.
Wong Kar Wai plays with the interval so that his montage unlike Eisenstein does not have to do with opposition but with extension. The extension of movements find their constructs in genre-based mise-en-scene and constructed tableux from literature.
An example of this approach one finds in Wong’s films Fallen Angels that combines the gangster genre with Godardian reflection. Chris Doyle, Wong’s famed cinematographer makes use of the fish eye lens to isolate affection from the larger volume of the whole that it belongs to. In this way he creates a cinema between Eisenstenian montage and breaking into son-image chunks. The son-image chunks produce the kind of discontinuity that Deleuze finds is symptomatic of cinema after the Second World War. The actors which form the materiality of the shot fractal are pulled out from genre’s but whose reflections create a sensuality to the capitalist notion of time they occupy.
Wong’s cinema is cinema after the fall of the Berlin wall, where any abstraction will be occupied by the space of the right. He takes this analogy of the right and applies Deleuze’s emphasis on faeccicity where any emphasis on the fragment produces the face. This fetishized face is an ontology of the right where the regime produces copious amounts of isolation. At the same time there is an emphasis on the corner that produces the Bressonian in-between two images that produces a double articulation between movement and interval.
Instead of the “increasingly fast” movement of Abel Gance’s La Roue, Wong’s cinema uses speed as an object in itself reminiscent of the writings of Paul Virilio who emphasizes speed as characteristic of hyper capitalism. This hyper capitalism is emphasized in sequences where the image is tool for itself and the relation between images produces discourses on speed that is faster than the normal duration of the film. Therefore Wong emphasizes the normal duration of the film as emphasized in long take sequences and the use of montage to emphasize the speed of the everyday.
This forms another aspect to the chhand in Wong Kar Wai. The speed is increasing it is faster than the average speed of the whole. It is becoming faster and faster. The length of the shot on the other hand makes the pan- a shift in camera movement from one side to another or slowing down of motion slower and slower. The interval between faster and slower, between relatively closed parts and the open whole produces chhand. Deleuze in this way emphasizes a differentiation between the movement in the shot i.e. framing and the movement between shots i.e. montage. Chhand lies between the frame and montage. Wong carries on from Tarkovski’s notion of time pressure, which complete dismantles the relationship between shot and montage.
Wong opens up the closed system of the frame. The frame according to Deleuze is “ a determination of a closed system, a relatively closed system which includes everything present in the image.” (Deleuze,12) The use of handheld camera deframes the close space of the frame to open it up to possibility of otherness and combine “the partial set with its out of field” This out of frame has two functions for Deleuze:
- A relative system by which a closed system is related to a set which is not seen
- An absolute aspect by which the closed system open out to a duration (Deleuze,18)
According to Teo, this association with the use of the wide angled lens finds its origins in the work of Francis Bacon who “blurred and disintegrated his figures not so much to capture the effect of movement, as was the motive of the Futurists, but as a means to bring out inherent qualities, so that a portrait of a distorted face may be more real than one that merely seeks to ape a physical likeness”
I think this approach to the face is reminiscent of a Deleuzean becoming where the blurring of the face produces pure form that does not resemble the everysame but becomes something other than itself through a form other than mimesis i.e. by avoiding imitation or other forms of resemblance.
Wong Kar Wai in this way is a descendant of the French school where according to Deleuze movement is extracted from things to emphasize the kinetic nature of the shot. However Wong is post-Godardian in the sense that he appropriates excess i.e. the excess of capitalism. The excess produces the temporality of the outside which comprises of useless activities like cigarettes smoked, reflections on life, masturbation (excess sexuality) that meditate on the nature of hyper capitalism. The excess produces a realism ,which appropriates reality to a degree of sameness.
Wong continues this discourse on sameness by using his location-space as a way of creating difference. The location space is the condition of possibility of a different machine like in Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of Kafka, within which repetition produces immanence as well as extension of the interval.
For Wong, Hongkong is “a carnivalesque cosmogony” which is “a homology between the body,dream, linguistic structure and structure of desire.” It is would be important to stress how Wong emphasizes this desire, how he works with the image (hence this qualifies him as a visual artist) with the objective of seducing. The emphasis arises from a location space. According to Stephen Teo, Fallen Angels is simply a documentary “on the older side of Wanchai, in the streets and alleys of Queen’s Road East.” For Wong the “restuarants, the old bookshops, the grocery stores reflect the lifestyles of the Hong Kong people but which most probably will appear in the near future.” In this way the film combines the gangster genre with the sci-fi genre through the emphasis of the location-space of Hong Kong. (Teo, 94)Fallen Angels has been called his most political film for the in which “it inserts history (society) into a text and of this text into history”
Wong Kar Wai functions within Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of two sided machines where the whole is fragmented through a multiplicity of processes. The process of breaking into parts has two processes one the fragment, which is the partial object of the whole and the other is its nth repetition which makes the fragment equivalent to its ever same. Wong Kar Wai fragments the whole so that n number of entry and exit points can be connected to each other. In this way his construct is very similar to that of the internet which functions around Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of a rhizomatic construct.
To study Wong Kar Wai I would suggest Bergson’s theory of looking at a totality of matter to study the difference between representation and movement-images. The movement-images are the real perceptions of the static representations. The movement images do not function via resemblance as they do not resemble their static objects/representations. In this way we engage with the notion of Deleuzean-becoming where the object becomes “something other” in its movement image. In this way the object exists in a multiplicity of states: both its movement image and its representation.
For Gilles Deleuze cinema has two parts, one relating to the action image where the action of the character/director on the perception creates a modified situation or action i.e. movement-image, and the second where a withdrawal of action leads back to the totality of time or forms a time image, i.e. time image. For Deleuze the crisis in action-image following the Second World War lead to a fragmentation of sound and image that lead to optical (op signs) and sound (son signs) situations that were different from the closed construct of the situation. Wong follows in this geneology of time-image with his emphasis on duration and repetition.
Duration can also be thought as a multiplicity where 1 second can be part of a volume of time equivalent of time 1 minute and at the same time be part of 6 minutes. Three shots can comprise different durations of 1,2 and 3 minutes (equaling 6 minutes) and form a construct of variable intensity of qualitative duration.
The question is how can the totality of matter lead to an intensity? The question of relativity is such that matter is not large or small, slow or fast, but slower or faster, larger or smaller than its representation. The totality of matter in a space x is either more or less dense than its representation. A movement-image in cinema can make this matter, in Deleuze’s words, either move towards concentration or rarefaction to form an “informatic” system.(Deleuze,18)
Does Wong Kar Wai create a body without organs in the sense of Deleuze and Guattari? Question arises: can we define a body without organs? According to Deleuze and Guattari the body without organs is the body without an image. It is “matter occupying space to a particular degree, a degree of intensity.” For Deleuze the body without organs already exists at a particular intensity but it has to be realized (or ‘real’) at an intensity of 0 or the Buddhist shunya where matter exists without intensity.
The CGI sequences in Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 is an attempt at constructing the body without organs much as the totality of the shot is the chhand that exists between the doubling of movement, both vertical and horizontal, and the interval between two successive shots. The question that arises is what is the degree of Wong’s intentionality in constructing this body without organs?
Wong is a visual artist and attempts to give as a representation of the topology of the body without organs. The repetition-fragment leads back to the source a point before the object was created and the multiplicity of points between the representation and its movement image. The movement-image itself is the spiral of duration that comprises a multiplicity of lengths (of time).
The intentionality of Wong lies between that of his source material, which comes from the abstract writings of a Cortazar or Puig towards the 0 intentionality or aboutness states of Ozu, where the images are images of time, “a little time in its pure state.”(Deleuze,16)
Wong Kar Wai’s masterpiece In The Mood For Love uses expansions and contractions in space and time to create the architecture of the body without organs that exists without intentionality. There is a distinction between the crowded interiors of the Hong Kong apartments and the corridors in the exteriors. Both the interiors and exteriors put to a calculated interiority where duration can be stretched or compressed. These as established above are fragmented by the repetition of the fragment (the famous Yumeji’s theme from In The Mood For Love) and the formal nature of the fragmentation that breaks away from the closed action image to open the film to duration.
For In The Mood For Love, Wong’s references include Hitchcock, Antonioni and Bresson. I would like to argue that it is the films of Bresson that have most influenced Wong Kar-Wai particularly the way in which a sequence is sent to its end point. The use of repetition is counterpointed by the use of ellipse thus forming a channd of repetition and absence. Repetition creates a new fragment different from the ever same that is established from the location-space at which the action takes place. In this way Wong is influenced by Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of Kafka according to which the location space creates a dissimilar set of machines.
Wong is influenced by Bresson not just in his use of difference and repetition as a tool but also in his emphasis on the actor. Whereas Bresson used non-actors or models to capture random, chaotic moments in their constructed performances through the mechanism of the retake, Wong uses actors but surrenders a Hollywood based event-logic for the sake of improvisation. In this way Wong gets to the heart of Bressonian cinema by making a documentary on the actor who is a non-model but is filmed in such a way so as to arouse the unknown within him/her.
Wong cites the influence of Hitchcock’s Vertigo particularly its zoom in,track technique to move closer to the movement of the object but further away from its trajectory. In this way Hitchcock traces the diagrammatic of the double movement of two women who resemble one another in Vertigo. The diagrammatic is a Deleuzean becoming as it does not resemble the movement-image that produces it. With each repetition of Yumeji’s theme Wong goes deeper and deeper into the diagrammatic of the space while becoming more and more detached from the movement image. This false interiority is contrasted with the documentary footage of De Gaulle’s arrival in Phnom Phenh, which creates the body without organs of the location space without any intentionality.
This technique of confronting documentary with a succession of fiction is a thoroughly Godardian technique where the literary constructed vignettes become increasingly literary until Godard choreographs an interview sequence with a personality and his actor to create the discourse “around a lecture, interview and the theater.” (Ranciere,149) It was also famously used by Mani Kaul in his film on Muktibodh , Satah Se Uthata Aadmi (1980) where he placed all of his actors out of their narrative situations in a factory and filmed the rhythms of the factory.
However, whether we emphasize Teo’s references to Puig and Cortazar or Wong’s own emphasis on the short story format, the Hong Kong master emerges as one engaged with narration taking the medium of cinema into account. Larry Gross, one of Wong’s earliest and most sensitive critics states “ [i]n fact no less than an Antonioni or a Welles, Wong Kar-wai’s deepest interest is in creating an original mode of cinematic narration.Image, actor movement and language are all unleashed to usurp the authority of the straightforward linear narrative, but this turns out to have very specific thematic and formal applications and implications.”
According to critic Stephens J. Carbon Wong’s cinema is instrumental in generating a feminine energy which can be compared to the Taoist yin instead of John Woo’s masculine and masochistic cinema closer to yang. (Carbon in Brunette,4) This arousal of a feminine spirit is interesting keeping in light the fact that Wong’s cinema witnesses the break down of Godardian categories that make distinctions between genre,action,collage and event redundant. For Wong himself the distinction between commercial and arthouse categories was broken by cinephilia in which “ Fellini was treated as a commercial film.” (Brunette,4)
According to Wong “…as a kid, I spent a lot of time with my mother at the cinemas . And we didn’t know which is an art film, which is a commercial film, we just liked to watch the cinema.” (Brunette,4)
For Bordwell, Wong’s cinema is a liquefaction and vapourization of solid genres and codes to create a more personal cinema which “dissolved crisp emotions into vapourous moods.” (Brunette,4) According to Ackbar Abbas, the image in Wong’s cinema always misses its mark and in this way brings about a sense of approximation. (Abbas, 44-45) Brunette brilliantly points out that the details emphasize a facialization of the image . This fetishization also finds its origins in literature: it is through the literary description of the affect that the disproportionate image is realized. This is often brought out in the fight scenes where the causality of the characters actions, a breakdown on who-did-what-to-whom is sacrificed for the sake of creating an abstract movement-image.
Wong’s films find their genesis in Godard’s return to the commercial arthouse with Sauve qui peut La Vie (1980) also known as Slow Motion where Godard attempts to create an “abstract pornography” (Badiou) that privileges the speed of the image, speed as the most important quality of the image, over its content. Like in Slow Motion, Wong’s cinema are such that “the violence itself provides the excitement. Rather than any narrow psychological identification with a specific character” (Brunette,11)
Bordwell describes Wong’s process of extending movement over duration and privileging it over the Deleuzean action-image. According to Bordwell:
In As Tears Go By he devised the technique of shooting action at only eight, ten or twelve frames per second and then “stretch printing” the result to the normal twenty four frames. The comparatively long exposure during filming makes movement blue, while the printing process, repeating two or three times, produces a jerky pulsation. Wong shifts visual accents by using different rates of stretch-printing, adding or deleting frames at different points.(Planet, 277)
Wong’s cinema tends to frequently diverge from its realist representation to conform towards a cinema of psychology. This subjective psychology is precisely what is brought out through duration, each character’s subjective duration which either looks back at memories in the past or projects in the future. Like Godard has stated, the present moment is absent in most films except in bad films. The facialization of clocks resembles that moment i.e. the present which is precisely made absent, made to disappear.
The use of lensing, odd close-ups and slowing and quickening of the speed of the shot creates a psychological approach towards time which implies a differentiation in temporal forms instead of presenting reality as having one dimension as in realism. The emphasis on characters is to create archetypes of post-modernity that makes the whole of emotion fragment into unit sensations. This is precisely what brings us to Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the artistic concept which they defined as “the inseparability of a finite number of heterogeneous components traversed by a point of absolute survey at infinite speed. Concepts are ‘absolute surfaces or volumes,’ forms whose only object is “the inseparability of distinct variations.”
The block of difference makes up the concept. The characters are not free they are locked in the temporal object that is the concept. The concept works on a different level than chhand, and both create the multiplicity of speeds and intensities on Wong Kar Wai’s body without organs, the frame.
The frame is defined as Deleuze as the set of matter within the finite set which has the frame as its border. The finite sets are linked to an infinite set of matter outside the limits of the frame. The finite and infinite sets both open up to duration. The shot is no longer the movement image. In Wong it is a collapse in the movement image that signifies Hong Kong’s colonial position and their evolving engagement with China. The characters on the voice over free the frame of its spatial crystallization and often point towards fictional spaces that occupy the space between fantasy and reality.
Examples of such a fantasy are epitomized by the character of Yuddy in Days of Being Wild and Cho Mo-Wan in In The Mood For Love who fantasize about the one legged bird who only rests when it dies or the hole into which a secret from the past is stored. These spaces are between the real spaces of the film and the imaginary fantasy spaces where the potential of desire in the frames is realized.
Peter Brunette has emphasized the importance of thinking through Ozu in the way in which Wong positions his characters by having the camera frame the interiority of the space or by having them look straight into the camera. In In The Mood For Love ,Wong also shares Ozu’s preference for having the characters look straight into the camera as well as holding the shot beyond its denotational end point.
The voiceovers also find their origins in Bresson where the confessions of the “Country Priest” (Diary of a Country Priest, Robert Bresson, 1951) are now tweaked so as to allocate the characters and their fantasies. The voice-overs are spoken by more than one of the film’s characters, as pointed out by Brunette. These make the image resonate with language as the utterance resonates with the image but frees it from its constructed nature. In Bordwell’s commentary, these monologues move back to Bresson’s Jansenist approach:
“The monologues are purely confessional, issuing from some parallel realm, pouring across sequences to create links and symmetries, recollections and prefigurations”
(Bordwell in Brunette, 27)
Happy Together marks the first jump in Wong’s level as it is less a film and more a meditation on images. The images provide the post-modern characters an occasion to reflect. The problems presented here are acutely emotional. Wong suggests that Eros is no longer sick as in the films of Antonioni, but Eros has made emotion sick such that the characters are always in a process of recovery. This is reminiscent of Deleuze’s reading of Orson Welles where the situation puts time “out of joint” and the characters are continuously recovering from the affect of the situation(what Deleuze calls a “permanent crisis”). (Deleuze,109)
Like Orson Welles, Wong uses extra wide-angled lenses to create a distopia in proportionality that points to a form that moves beyond realism, representation and resemblance. The image in its fragmented form is a way by which characters deal with their isolation in a post-modern world. The image brings back our faith in the sublime which now according to Lyotard’s conception has acquired a new ephemeral form. Permanence has been overtaken by a multiplicity of change which functions at different levels and can help us carve a post-modern look at the thinking man.
Wong’s two chief references in his work are Welles and Resnais. These are the two film makers that Deleuze spends a considerable portion of space with in his study Cinema 2: The Time-Image. I would suggest that Wong is working around the parameters of Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad and reconstructing Marienbad into a post-modern space. This is particularly true in the case of In The Mood For Love, where the characters are occupying a fantasy space, room 2046 where their affair can be realized. Resnais’ exporation of architectural difference through Bergsonian elan vitale is replaced by repetition. The repetition of the part that creates a Bressonian fragment i.e. a machine functioning at the location space.
Wong in this way brings about a sensorial collapse which replaces the material collapse of a Hollywood film. Hollywood functions within the logic of what Deleuze would define as the large form, as opposed to the small scale of a Wong film. Therefore the purpose is to show off the largest structure, the fastest car or the strongest man. The end of the film emphasizes the destruction of the largest, fastest or the strongest. The destruction is material, emphasized through the physical explosion of the building, the destruction of the car, the death of the strongest man. Wong attempts to do the same through the sensorial elements or vibrations given out by all the material elements within the frame so that the materials continue to exist and are not physically destroyed but collapse their vibrations. This creates a condition of possibility in between masculine presence and feminine absence. Between presence (of material) and absence (of vibration), one reaches the sensorial collapse. This is typically emphasized in sequences with jump cuts, increased movement and repetition of footage.
A typical example of this is the sequence where Su Li-Zhen wants to meet Cho Mo-Wan before he leaves for Singapore. Using the sound of her footsteps and increasing the pace of her actions bring about the urgency in her movements. Wong cleverly and masterfully repeats the shot of her climbing the staircase twice to create a metaphysical relationship between the materiality of the film and her movements. Her movements are no longer in space but in time which measures the rhythm of her movements.
I mean to say that Wong Kar Wai is thinking about a two sided machine where one side commits to the location-space and the other to the rather sparse narrative space. The space is not about love or fulfillment. The characters will only find their potentials in their own loneliness. The space for loneliness is opened out through the set design where the frame commits to the finite whole in which the character occupies space. The function of this form of cinema is to create a condition of possibility of space occupation.
A question arises in relation to intentionality. What is the relationship between parts and the whole? The parts consist of partial objects carefully constructed by Wong with his tasteful use of music. The whole does not have any intentionality or atleast tries not to. In other words the intentionality of the part moves towards 0 through the auteur’s will. The free will of the audience is exercised as the discontinous location space creates dissimilar machines that form a body-without-organs whole that has no intentionality.
The fantasy is presented either as a space or through language which is beautifully photographed in all of its sensuality. The characters moving slower or faster than their duration would suggest create an individual fantasy which is implied to the group that is the audience. This space is beautifully photographed and forms a mental architecture that moves beyond the denotational limit of the image.
Wong’s cinema is faithful to Deleuze’s description of Antonioni especially in his description of Antonionesque landscapes which he defines as “a treatment of limit-situations which pushes them to a point of dehumanized landscapes, of emptied spaces that might be seen as having absorbed characters and actions, retaining only a geophysical description, an abstract inventory of them.” (Deleuze,5) Wong Kar Wai works between the facialization of objects and the fragmentation of the face to create tensions in the whole of the film. The purpose of the tension is to create a construct which is taut much like a yoga asana which stretches corners of the body till they are perfectly tense.
The next question that arises relates to the materiality of the assemblage presented before us. Wong is taking a material element: film and making it immaterial to produce desire, emotion, fulfillment: a general experiential quality to film.This transformation of materiality exists as a double articulation. On the one hand it decreases the materiality of the characters so that they become ideas occupying time, in the larger whole of time which consists of fragments of space, while at the same time the materiality of the film medium, its existence as an object keeps increasing. Chhand and the shot exist between these two movements, one on the increase the other on the decrease.
So far we have dealt with Wong as a durational film maker, his approach to chhand and the importance of the intermission in his praxis. The purpose of this discourse is to arrive at character. Where does the character emerge? The character exists in the space. The space extends, the character does not have an origin i.e. “renounce the notion that beings and objects appear from somewhere, it is instead the space that extends.” The space is the location space where the filming of the scene occurs. As in Deleuze’s masterful reading of Welles in relation to Kafka, the location space creates a new assemblage that is different in the case of each location. It is precisely this difference that opens out the image to thought or the Deleuzean thought-image.
In Godard’s recent cinema there is an emphasis on the vertical movement as opposed to the horizontal movement of the film. The film therefore moves in a linear succession that then creates a hierarchy between images. In the case of Kafka, the hierarchy between two characters creates a problematic. In Wong Kar-Wai, this hierarchy is sacrificed for the sake of an interiority, the interiority of the character’s space and its link to both duration and chhand.
The different spaces are linked together by Wong’s use of repetition. This repetition , in the case of Fallen Angels and In The Mood For Love (arguably his best work) is emphasized through the music track which reappears after a given amount of duration.In this way Wong Kar-Wai achieves Deleuze’s dictum of difference and repetition by fragmenting space in a way reminiscent of Bresson.
Much like Bresson, Wong Kar-Wai is a Deleuzean film maker. Wong differs from Bresson in the sense that he is a self consciously Deleuzean master aware of Deleuze’s theories while approaching his theoretical practice. While this comment should be reserved for Hou Hsiao-Hsien or Abbas Kiarostami, it is Wong who most clearly applies Deleuze’s theories on time to a post-modern construct.
The emphasis on representation is destroyed to instead produce the script less film (for all of Wong’s films are made without a script) to understand how the part becomes a whole and enters a process of production i.e. the production of the film. The film is made on its own, Wong mediates its own completion. Wong therefore has no intentionality; the film reaches its own aboutness state closest to that of the Buddhist practitioners. The intentionality belongs to the images which are attached to one another and the audience that watches the film.
In this way we move away from Truffaut’s auteur theory to manifest a participation of the audience in completing the half intentional film through difference, repetition and ellipse. This makes Wong closest to the tradition of “transcendental film makers”, Bresson and Ozu.
The intentionality can only be nullified by destroying the natural becoming of the images. This is precisely Deleuze’s concern relating to a time-image following the Second World War where an “any-space-whatever” takes the place of a causal, linear cinema. What occurs therefore is a destruction of the causal or in Deleuze’s words sensory-motor linkage between the parts that form the whole. Like Robbe-Grillet, Wong destroys the space through description. The son-image fragment is a description of an action which makes the action withdraw from its movement-image to its temporal counterpart.
Whereas Russian formalists emphasize a dialectic in the relationship between the chhand and the whole, for Deleuze, French masters emphasize a dynamism in the image which creates a seduction in the linearity of its succession. Wong breaks this succession with cutting and variable motions to create a new dialectic in between the Russian formalists and the French impressionists. The dialectic however no longer exists as the duration is hyper capitalist and has no space for a self-other dialectic. In other words an indiscernible difference between the self and the other creates an otherness of form best emphasized by the female characters in his films.
As I have established, the space extends to allocate the character, the character does not appropriate the space. The sets or parts between the frame and the out of frame are broken through the use of handheld camera. Representation is destroyed for the sake of production of an unscripted progression. Improvisation allows the film to go as far away from the story while maintaining the chhand. The vertical movement that takes place is through the sensations of the female characters who complete the Otherness of the gaze. The intentionality is nil.