Hand, The (2004)

Wong’s expanded version of his short for the ‘Eros’ anthology is more erotic and fatalistic than usual, and also an aesthetic and thematic extension of the world he created with ‘In the Mood for Love’.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,466

Dir. Wong Kar Wai
2004 | Hong Kong | Drama/Romance | 56 mins | 1.85:1 | Mandarin & Cantonese
Not rated – likely to be M18 for sexual content

Cast: Gong Li, Chang Chen
Zhang, a shy tailor’s assistant, is riveted by his imperious client Miss Hua. Upon meeting her, she seduces him to make sure he will truly remember her when designing her garments, and a rapport soon develops between the two.

Distributor: Block 2 Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Desire & Intimacy; Human Connection
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray (Supplement)
Spoilers: No

First produced as one of three short films in the badly-reviewed anthology Eros (2004), The Hand is easily the finest of the trio, with Wong Kar Wai very much sticking to what he knows best. 

The other two shorts by Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni have been picked apart by most critics as being pointless and a waste of time.  It is not a surprise then that Wong decided to expand his tantalising short into a medium-length feature, just clocking shy of an hour. 

If you love In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004), The Hand will surely delight you.  It is very much an aesthetic and thematic extension of these two films, cultivated from the same creative milieu that Wong was so immersed in during the early 2000s. 

In that sense, these films form a trilogy of sorts with Wong once again exploring the theme of unrequited love and the longing for intimate connection. 

“Do you remember the first time we met?”

Chang Chen plays a tailor who is tasked to make customised dresses for an older woman (played by Gong Li), who lives off her ‘meetings’ with rich suitors. 

In their first meeting, she gives him an unexpected handjob (well, the film title doesn’t seem so innocuous anymore, isn’t it?) that he will remember for life.  Wong fleshes out this unspoken bond between them, though it is also one fraught with emotional distance and silences. 

In perhaps the most sexually symbolic moment in all of Wong’s oeuvre, Chang’s character ‘makes love’ to a new piece of fabric that he has created with his arm, and in the process, lets go of all that pent-up sexual frustration. 

While not a terrific work, The Hand is still thoughtful filmmaking, and in some way, a counterpoint to what might have been the anthology’s more salacious aims.    

Grade: B+



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