If anyone's gonna make a movie about a hand job and call it Art, it would be Wong Kar Wai. Cigarette smoke, Nat King Cole, moody interiors, and much (much) brooding over a glass of whiskey, neat--an escapist's dream come true. Spaces are cramped and, everyone has excellent hair all the time.
As one of WKW's lesser-known films, The Hand (a nod to Alexandre Dumas' La Dame aux Camélias) is a must for the self-proclaiming aficionado who likes to imagine herself among colorful wallpaper and form-fitting cheongsams. A short film at only 40 ish minutes long, The Hand is packed with color-obsessed scenes and signature WKW unrequited love story (because if it was requited, it would be called "marriage" and that's obviously not worth making a movie about, but I digress).
Miss Hua (Gong Li) is the high-end call girl with a taste for expensive clothes and Zhang (Chang Chen) is the naive tailor who....well...gets the hand job. Two, to be exact. Over the course of the film via Zhang's POV, we find that Miss Hua is losing her appeal (and her clientele). Her finances are a mess, she has a lover on the side who ditches her after she gets pregnant, and all the while Zhang continues to visit her for her fittings. We overhear her undignified calls to her past clients and we see that with each fitting her waistline grows. Finally, she falls from grace, whores herself out at the docks, gets sick, and dies of TB (while still looking good in a cheongsam).
Like Francois Truffaut, WKW's artistic skills really comes at portraying sensitive subjects with a subtle hand. We are never told that Miss Hua is pregnant and we never see any of her clients (except in one scene when we catch the back of a man storming out of her apartment). Even towards the end when she's bringing back men from the docks, all we see is a shot of her foot at the edge of a shaking bed frame. WKW trusts his audience enough to pick up on visual cues and to connect the dots for themselves throughout the film. The result is a piece layered in complexities--making art out of cultural taboos..
Of course there are some plot hole questions to point out (from the POV of a 2018 viewer). For example, why doesn't Miss get herself a roommate to help with the rent? What is she spending her money on that she has to sell all her jewelry she doesn't look like she eats that much? What happened to her baby? And is Zhang a virgin or something I mean, he looks like he's at least 35?
Bits & Pieces
A place for experimentation, a place for pieces unpolished and unpublished, a place to work out thoughts and ideas for larger collections. Typos aplenty. Enjoy (or not).