A woman's swaying hips are sexy, but they'd be sexy anyway, in Wong Kar-Wai's films or anyone's. Ditto food: My Blueberry Nights boasts a closeup of melted ice cream on pie so lovingly composed and lit that it amounts to dessert-as-orgasm -- and you know that when you're hungry that's just what a luscious dessert can feel like, in spirit anyway. But the sexiness, the sheer visceral tingliness, of this artist's work transcends particular situations. Somehow he makes everything sexy: sweaty huts, cobblestone streets, peeling paint; fear, regret, misery, death. How?
By communicating exuberance at existence. His films may chart specific lusts -- for sex, for love, for freedom, for murder -- but all those lusts are gathered beneath a poetic umbrella: lust for life.
He's what I called, in a 2009 Salon series about "The Directors of the Decade," a "sensualist" filmmaker: "Sensualist directors have a respect for privacy and mystery. They are attuned to tiny fluctuations in mood (the character’s and the scene’s). But they’d rather drink lye than tell you what a character is thinking or feeling – or, God forbid, have a character tell you what he’s thinking or feeling. The point is to inspire associations, realizations, epiphanies — not in the character, although that sometimes happens, but in the moviegoer. You can tell by watching the sensualists’ films, with their startling cuts, lyrical transitions, off-kilter compositions and judicious use of slow motion as emotional italics, that they believe we experience life not as dramatic arcs or plot points or in-the-moment revelations, but as moments that cohere and define themselves in hindsight — as markers that don’t seem like markers when they happen."--Matt Zoller Seitz