Wong Kar Wai's bluntly titled "The Hand" and set in his recurring milieu of early '60s Hong Kong, follows Zhang (Chang Chen), a humble tailor's apprentice, over his years-long infatuation with a beautiful socialite-turned-prostitute, Miss Hua (Gong Li). Kar Wai's treatment is aesthetically fussy, in keeping with his well-known style, but dramatically bland. There simply isn't much at stake here as the timorous Zhang must be content with the, ahem, hand jobs (see title) he receives all too rarely from the object of his infatuation. Now, hand job scenes (even in non-porno cinema) can be extremely erotic because of what they offer and what they only tease at (for a convincer, see the relevant scene in Michael Heneke's otherwise awful The Piano Teacher. Wow!). In any case, the segment's manually operated pseudo-erotica provide the only spike in an otherwise indolent story that never substantially conveys its central concern: Zhang's steady sexual awakening and his unshakeable devotion to an unavailable woman. Still, Kar Wai's fabulously crafted sound and imagery are both par for the course for this director and his world-class cinematographer, Christopher Doyle.
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Finally grandmaster Michelangelo Antonioni returns to thecinema with "The Dangerous Thread of Things," an overly artsyand confusing metaphor, not helped by its odd and clumsy Italian dubbedsoundtrack. In it, a man (Christopher Buchholz) fights with his wife (ReginaNemni) and then sleeps with another woman (Luisa Ranieri). Some scenesfeel like dreams and others do not. This makes it difficult to grasp anypassage of time, rendering the characters mere ciphers. Nevertheless, takenone at a time, many of the film's images are fascinating and strikinglybeautiful; not many living filmmakers could match them. After all, it wasAntonioni who inspired Wong and Soderbergh to make this film in the firstplace.
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