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Gong Li and Chang Chen contemplate the hand.
Year: 2005
  Director: Wong Kar-Wai, Steven Soderbergh, Michelangelo Antonioni
  Cast: Gong Li, Chang Chen, Robert Downey Jr., Alan Arkin, Ele Keats, Christopher Buchholz, Regina Nemni, Lusia Ranieri
  The Skinny: Three totally unconnected movies about eroticism. The first film is good, the second is amusing, and the third is bewilderingly bad. Asian Cinema fans can rest easy: Wong Kar-Wai directed the first film.
by Kozo:
     We could talk about "Equilibrium", the short film by Steven Soderbergh, or "The Dangerous Thread of Things", the short film by Michelangelo Antonioni. However, this is an Asian film site, and neither of those films qualifies as anything approaching Asian. They are, however, connected to "The Hand", the short film by Wong Kar-Wai, in that they're all part of an anthology movie called Eros. All three films are supposed to deal with the subject of eroticism, and all do - after a fashion. But we're only here to talk about "The Hand', so we'll reduce the other two films to one sentence each. "Equilibrium" is witty, entertaining, and unfathomable. "The Dangerous Thread of Things" is blindingly bad arthouse-flavored softcore porn. "The Hand" is good, and again, it's by Wong Kar-Wai. Everyone still following along?
     Chang Chen is Zhang, an apprentice tailor enthralled by one of his master's clients, the gorgeous courtesan Hua (Gong Li). At their first meeting, she immediately worms her way into his consciousness with her forceful, erotically-charged presence, plus a particular favor she proffers via her extraordinarily skilled right hand. The reason for her charity: Zhang is a talented tailor who has yet to know a woman's touch. If he's going to be servicing woman with his skills, he better be okay with touching them. It's questionable if Hua's sexual schooling makes Zhang a better tailor, but from then on he's hooked - by her. The years pass, Hua's clients change, and all the while Zhang longs for Hua's touch once more. When he has time, he makes her clothes.
     With "The Hand", Wong Kar-Wai seems to be heading back into In the Mood for Love territory, i.e. repressed longing in intimate, confined spaces. Plus it has to look and sound great. Wong is aided and abetted by his usual cinematic partners (Christopher Doyle on cinematography, William Cheung Suk-Ping on art direction, Peer Raben on music), so those expecting 40 minutes of gorgeous-looking cinema won't be disappointed. Those expecting something as accomplished as either In the Mood for Love or 2046 could be put off, however, as "The Hand" doesn't really do that much during its slight running time. As is usual for a Wong Kar-Wai film, there's not much of a plot, and without ample time to develop the longing between Zhang and Hua, "The Hand" resonates less than it probably could.
     However, what "The Hand" does excel in are its moments. Wong Kar-Wai constructs a simple story with moments of truly gorgeous emotion, delivering on the promise of eroticism in a reserved, but astoundingly effective way. Intimate physical contact is given almost palpable erotic charge; at one point, Zhang measures Hua's body with his hands instead of a measuring tape, and the years of desperate longing between the characters practically bleeds from the screen. The actual (fully-clothed) sex in the film might seem a bit too lurid for some, but Wong manages to make it affecting in its utter sadness. "The Hand" is not one of Wong Kar-Wai's truly outstanding works. However, the images created and feelings evoked make it a worthy stop in the director's almost flawless filmography. (Kozo 2005)
Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
2-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese
"Eros" - Feel 100% (30 minute featurette)

image courtesy of Jet Tone Pictures Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen