Skeptical viewers may suspect, with some reason,
that Wong Kar Wai has been making the same movie for a number of
years now – their subjects include displacement across time
and space, romantic yearning, color and light, loneliness and
reverie. When he changes up the formula, let’s say by making his
lovers two men (Happy Together) or by goosing the ennui with lavish
science-fiction inserts (2046), it only seems to intensify the
familiar feelings of gentle anxiety and punch-drunk desire. “We love what we
can’t have, and we can’t have what we love,” Wong once told an
interviewer, and over and over his films seem to find new approaches
to that same disconnect, traveling roads that wind through familiar
surroundings but offer a slightly different view of the landscape.
I was walking on 57th Street the other day, heading toward the Hudson River, and noticed the side-street façade of the new Time Warner building, constructed at great expense just off Columbus Circle, for the first time. “It looks just like the Metreon in San Francisco,” I thought to myself. Later, walking down Broadway in Times Square, the glass-fronted building that will house the M&M’s Store caught my eye. “And this looks just like Las Vegas.”
The opening credits of David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ (yup, that’s how you spell it) suggest anything but a virtual reality thriller. Earthy textures emerge from the darkness again and again, sometimes overlayed with anatomical drawings that recall the opening titles of Cronenberg’s last great film, Dead Ringers (1987). Coupled with a characteristically somber theme from Howard Shore, it’s an efficient introduction to the ensuing yarn, which deals in organic, rather than silicon gadgetry.