NZASIA 2009 : Proceedings of the 18th New Zealand Asian Studies Society International Conference 2009
New Zealand Asian Studies Society Conference
Place of publication
[Otago, New Zealand]
In the films of Wong Kar-wai one finds a double or parallel sensing of the sublime. Numerous characters are seen to experience perceptual moments of unbounded terror, where they are faced with the weight, enormity or formlessness of objects, things, and natural phenomena that they cannot initially or fully comprehend. These ‘textual’ sublime moments are simultaneously rendered receptively, experientially sublime through the way Wong Kar-wai conjures up a series of refracted, defamiliarised images of heightened intensity, such as bejeweled juke boxes, incandescent lampshades, thick waterfalls, and wispy cigarette smoke rising. Such awesome images are of artifice and nature, conjoined, blurred, or delineated, so that the sublime moment is of the postmodern moment, irrational and irregular, and ‘monstrous’ because of it. In the films of Wong Kar-wai, character and viewer become aligned in a process of identification in which each recognizes their mortality, and inadequacy, in the face of such dazzling, incomprehensible moments that trace across the retina of the eye. The pleasure and the pain of this is something that I will explore in this paper, using such sublime films as Fallen Angels, Chungking Express, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, 2046, and Blueberry Nights, to illustrate my arguments.