Friday, December 31, 2021

My Top 3 Films of 2021

(3) Annette [Leos Carax, 2021]

(2) Licorice Pizza [Paul Thomas Anderson, 2021]

(1) The Beatles: Get Back [Peter Jackson, 2021]


Friday, December 24, 2021

Special Guest Blog: Marianna Ellenberg

Top Ten List, Film and Live Performance: Marianna Ellenberg, 2021

In no particular order, these were the flicks and live shows that wowed me during this darkest of years. These thoughts are dedicated to the brilliant artists and thinkers we lost this year, including bell hooks, Lauren Berlant, Joan Didion, Alvin Lucier, Stephen Sondheim, Greg Tate, to name just a few.

(1) “Sun and Sea”

Direction and set design by Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Libretto by Vaiva Grainytė , Music and musical direction by Lina Lapelytė


An opera on climate crisis and late capitalism, Beckett meets German arthouse theater, with hints of Roy Anderson. Painful and beautiful to watch. A tableau of vacationers sing morbid songs of consumer desire on a beach tableau. There is an existential dread in their plastic joy. It made me think of “Cruel Optimism, ” by the late visionary author Lauren Berlant. Global greed leads to a Sisyphean beach holiday that slowly goes sour.

(2) “The Lehman Trilogy,” written by Stefano Massini and directed by Sam Mendes.  

With Set Design by Es Devlin. Video Design by Luke Halls.

Cast: Simon Russell Beale, Adrien Lester  and Adam Godley

Nederlander Theater, NYC

The Lehman Trilogy, as staged by Mendes blew my mind with the potential that contemporary theater (developed by the National Theater in London) can still accomplish. It was both live and cinematic, dark as the colors of Wallstreet and joyful like a Chaplin skit. What does a brilliant family of Jewish German emigres do with the American Dream? In Mendes' hands, they create it, but also suffer from its false promises and all consuming alienation. Did the playwright have a socio-political perspective? Maybe not, but what Massini lacked, Mendes provided. In Mendes’s direction and Devlin’s gray, brooding set, we get another story on top of the rise to Wallstreet success, alienated men imprisoned by their own successes and endless desires. The set, a minimalist rotating office/glass box, created by Es Devlin, alongside the direction by Sam Mendes was sublime. And each actor was a show unto itself, as they performed every character in their lives, from babies to first loves. Even while I was being seduced by the incredible video design and acting I thought, wow, another piece about smart Jews making a lot of money, oof. But, to my surprise, the writer is an Italian of Jewish descent, and potentially too removed from the harsh realities of inequality and structural racism that titans of American capitalism, like the Lehman brothers, consciously or unconsciously have been a part of in building today’s USA. Anyway, Mendes and the set design far surpassed the obtuse non-message about the ultimate model minority and the American dream. This was pre-omicron, and I was lucky enough to experience the power of the live to illuminate visions of possibility.

(3) Brother to Brother, Rodney Evans, 2004  

An Independent Black film from the early oughts weaving a coming of age tale of young, black queerness via re-enactments of Langston Hughes' inner circle, intercut with interracial dating and its various complexities in the New York liberal arts and art scene of the late nineties. The flashbacks to Black Poets and artists making a name for themselves in the early days of the Harlem Renaissance was beautifully rendered, without sentimentality. I was inspired by Evan’s  synthesis of  seventies neo-realism, kitchen-sink melodrama and authentic queer coming of age vision. Hoping Evans gets more attention for his brilliant work with this Criterion Channel Release.

(4) Succession

Why do we love watching rich white men tear each other apart? I don’t know, but Jeremy Strong’s performance in the final episode blew my mind. And Brian Cox, Matthew Mcfayden and J. Smith-Cameron take my nod as top television actors of the year. Maybe it’s masochism, British wit or a continued fantasy of being in the backseat of the foils of the 1%?

(5) The Passion of Anna, Ingmar Bergman, 1969 

Getting to see Liv Ullman and Max Von Sydow mourn past relationships, the droll pain of existence on a gray, bitter isolating Swedish Island is wonderful. The stalwart pain that each actor can exercise in a gesture, look or turn of phrase is incredible to watch. The black and white and reds are like watching a 16mm Brakhage film projected for the first time: pure cinema, pure color, pure Bergman.

(6) Genealogies, Amie Siegel, 2016 

Finally I get to see a brilliant film essayist humorously deconstruct the sexism in Godard’s Contempt, with a subtle eye and brilliant editing style, connecting Pink Floyd’s concert in Pompeii with a Beastie Boys video, Sympathy for the Devil and the Malaparte Family’s indulgent mansion. 

(7) Watermelon Man, Melvin Van Peebles, 1970 

The most brutal, caustic satire of race relations made in 1969 by the brilliant iconoclast, Melvin Van Peebles. With a searing screenplay, Peebles puts the lens on one man’s journey to accept and love his new found race. Inspired by Kafka’s Metamorphosis, with a pointed performance by Godfrey Cambridge.

(8) Ace in the Hole, 1951, Billy Wilder. 

American greed, capitalism, and “Making It”, all in beautiful black and white. The horror of capitalist hubris has never so beautifully been rendered before. Wilder’s undersung film foreshadows the media circus of the 24 hour news cycle with its tale of a has-been journalist’s cruel drive for fame and fortune at any expense. 

(9) Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay, 2021

Idiocracy for the age of climate crisis. Or a dark comedy for the age of Endtimes. Either way, Leo was sexy for the first time since The Departed or maybe Titanic! Watch out for Cate Blanchett in a scene stealing role as a Laura Ingraham type. Did I feel sad at the end? Yes, but I also felt that McKay was telling us to wake up, stop whining and fight like hell, or maybe that in endtimes, all you need is a Beatles tune?  Either way, it was surprisingly brilliant, brought up both Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove) and Haynes (Safe), and contains a superb cast. 

**(Mary Rylance as the Peter Thiel villain was timeless if not Oscar worthy.

(10) The Souvenir Part II, 2021, Joanna Hogg, 

My most anticipated movie of the year, yet to see, but betting, if it’s anywhere as good as Part 1, she’s going to convince me that feminist arthouse cinema still has a few lives left.


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Joan Didion (1934-2021)


"Imagine Marion Morrison in Glendale. A Boy Scout, then a student at Glendale Higih. A tackle for U.S.C., a Sigma Chi. Summer vacations, a job moving props on the old Fox lot. There, a meeting with John Ford, one of the several directors who were to sense that into this perfect mold might be poured the inarticulate longings of a nation wondering at just what pass the trail had been lost. "Dammit," said Raoul Walsh later, "the son of a bitch looked like a man." And so after a while the boy from Glendale became a star. He ddid not become an actor, as he has always been careful to point out to interviewers ("How many times do I gotta tell you, I don't act at all, I re-act"), but a star, and the star called John Wayne would spend most of the rest of his life with one or another of those directors, out on some forsaken location, in search of the dream."

—from Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), from "John Wayne: A Love Song" (1965)


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 1932

These are my Top 10 films of 1932, as requested by Jack Miller. Special mention for two Universal directors in their prime: Tod Browning for Freaks, and James Whale for The Old Dark House.

(10) Ootona no miru ehon: Umarete wa mita keredo [A Picture-Book for Grown-Ups: I Was Born, But...] [Yasujirō Ozu, 1932]

(9) Blonde Venus [Josef von Sternberg, 1932]

(8) Nasanu-naka [No Blood Relation] [Mikio Naruse, 1932]

(7) Fanny [Marcel Pagnol with Marc Allégret, 1932]

(6) Scarface [Howard Hawks, 1932]

(5) Shanghai Express [Josef von Sternberg, 1932]

(4) Trouble in Paradise [Ernst Lubitsch, 1932]


Vampyr: The Strange Adventure of Allan Gray [Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932]


Boudu sauvé des eaux [Boudu Saved from the Waters] [Jean Renoir, 1932]

(1) La nuit du carrefour [Night at the Crossroads] [Jean Renoir, 1932]


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

My Top 21 Films of 1968

These are my Top *21* films of 1968, as requested by Jeffrey Gardener.

(21) Targets [Peter Bogdanovich, 1968]

(20) Vargtimmen [The Hour of the Wolf] [Ingmar Bergman, 1968]

(19) Teorema [Theorem] [Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968]

(18) Actua 1 [Philippe Garrel, 1968]

(17) Mandabi [The Money Order] [Ousmane Sembène, 1968]

(16) Un film comme les autres [A Film Like Any Other] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1968]

(15) Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One [William Greaves, 1968] 

(14) Belle de Jour [Luis Buñuel, 1968]

(13) Toby Dammit [Federico Fellini, 1968]

(12) La hora de los hornos [The Hour of the Furnaces] [Octavio Getino and Fernando Solanas, 1968]

(11) Je t'aime je t'aime [I Love You I Love You] [Alain Resnais, 1968]

(10) Maxwell's Demon [Hollis Frampton, 1968]

(9) One Plus One [Jean-Luc Godard, 1968]

(8) High School [Frederick Wiseman, 1968]

(7) L'enfance-nue [Naked-Childhood] [Maurice Pialat, 1968]

(6) Faces [John Casssavetes, 1968]

(5) Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach [Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach] [Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1968]

(4) The Immortal Story [Orson Welles, 1968]

(3) Le gai savoir [Cheerful Knowledge] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1968]

(2) Baisers volés [Stolen Kisses] [François Truffaut, 1968]

(1) 2001: A Space Odyssey [Stanley Kubrick, 1968]


Sunday, December 19, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 1947

Here are my Top 10 films of 1947, at the request of Kevin Orloski.

(10) The Fugitive [John Ford, 1947]

(9) Fireworks [Kenneth Anger, 1947] 

(8) Lady in the Lake [Robert Montgomery, 1947]

(7) Quai des Orfèvres [Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947]

(6) Nightmare Alley [Edmund Goulding, 1947]

(5) Daisy Kenyon [Otto Preminger, 1947]

(4) Secret Beyond the Door... [Fritz Lang, 1947]

(3) Monsieur Verdoux: A Comedy of Murders [Charles Chaplin, 1947]

(2) The Woman on the Beach [Jean Renoir, 1947]

(1) Build My Gallows High, aka Out of the Past [Jacques Tourneur, 1947]


Saturday, December 18, 2021

My Top Films of 1999

These are my Top 10 films from 1999 — requested by Jordan Clifford.

(10) The Straight Story [David Lynch, 1999]

(9) Magnolia [Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999]

(8) Charisma [Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 1999]

(7) La Commune (Paris, 1871) [Peter Watkins, 1999]

(6) Small Notes Regarding the Arts at Fall of 20th Century: The Old Place [Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, 1999]

(5) Beau travail [Nice Work] [Claire Denis, 1999]

(4) julien donkey-boy [Harmony Korine, 1999]

(3) Sicilia! [Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1999]

(2) Bâd mâ râ khâhad bord... [The Wind Will Carry Us...] [Abbas Kiarostami, 1999]

(1) Eyes Wide Shut [Stanley Kubrick, 1999]


Friday, December 17, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 1931

And here are my Top 10 of 1931, as requested by Lucy Sante. (Not sure if she requested '21 or '31, thanks to my handwriting.)

(10) On purge Bébé [Baby's Getting His Laxative] [Jean Renoir, 1931]

(9) Tōkyō no chorus [Tokyo Chorus] [Yasujirō Ozu, 1931]

(8) Die 3groschenoper [The 3penny Opera] [G. W. Pabst, 1931]

(7) The Public Enemy [William A. Wellman, 1931]

(6) Marius [Marcel Pagnol with Alexander Korda, 1931]

(5) Limite [Limit] [Mário Peixoto]

(4) Tabu: A Story of the South Seas [F. W. Murnau, 1931]

(3) La chienne [The Bitch] [Jean Renoir, 1931]

(2) M [Fritz Lang, 1931]

(1) City Lights [Charles Chaplin, 1931]


My Top 10 Films of 1921

These are my Top 10 films of 1921 — I can't read my handwriting so I'm going to list my 1931 list directly following this one. One or both (or neither??) come via request by Lucy Sante.

(10) Körkarlen [The Coachman] aka The Phantom Carriage [Victor Sjöström, 1921]

(9) Blade af Satans bog [Leaves from Satan's Book] [Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1921]

(8) The Haunted House [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1921]

(7) Manhatta [Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler, 1921]

(6) Die Bergkatze [The Mountain-Lion / The Wildcat] [Ernst Lubitsch, 1921]

(5) The Play House [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1921]

(4) High Sign [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1921]

(3) The Boat [Buster Keaton with Edward Cline, 1921]

(2) Der müde Tod [Weary Death] [Fritz Lang, 1921]

(1) The Kid [Charles Chaplin, 1921/1972]


Thursday, December 16, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 1928

These are my Top 10 films of 1928, as requested by Neil Bahadur. There's one I left out and would have made some room, but it's here as a straggler marked Number 11. It could fit anywhere in between 10 and 6.

(11) Potomok Chingiskhana [The Heir to Genghis Khan] [Vsvelod Pudkovin, 1928]

(10) The Last Command [Josef von Sternberg, 1928]

(9) The Docks of New York [Josef von Sternberg, 1928]

(8) Four Sons [John Ford, 1928]

(7) La chute de la maison Usher [The Fall of the House of Usher] [Jean Epstein, 1928]

(6) The River [Frank Borzage, 1928]

(5) The Cameraman [Buster Keaton with Edward Sedgwick, 1928]

(4) Steamboat Bill, Jr. [Buster Keaton with Charles F. Reisner, 1928]

(3) Oktyabr': Desyat' dney kotorye potryasli mir [October: Ten Days That Shook the World] [Sergei Eisenstein, 1928]

(2) Spione [Spies] [Fritz Lang, 1928]

(1) La passion de Jeanne d'Arc [The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc] [Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928]


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 1936

These are my Top 10 films of 1936, also requested by @nletore.

(10) Naniwa elegy [Kenji Mizoguchi, 1936]

(9) Arigatō-san [Hiroshi Shimizu, 1936]

(8) Le nouveau testament [The New Testament] [Sacha Guitry, 1936]

(7) César [Marcel Pagnol, 1936]

(6) Mon père avait raison [My Father Was Right] [Sacha Guitry, 1936]

(5) Faisons un rêve... [Let's Make a Dream...] [Sacha Guitry, 1936]

(4) Le roman d'un tricheur [Novel of a Cheat] [Sacha Guitry, 1936]

(3) Hitori musuko [The Only Son] [Yasujirō Ozu, 1936]

(2) Partie de campagne [Country Outing] [Jean Renoir, 1946]

(1) Modern Times [Charles Chaplin, 1936]


My Top Films of 1933

Here are my Top 10 films of 1933, as requested by @nletore.

(10) Dekigokoro [Passing Fancy] [Yasujirō Ozu, 1933]

(9) Yogoto no yume [Every-Night Dreams] [Mikio Naruse, 1933]

(8) Hijōsen no onna [Dragnet Girl] [Yasujirō Ozu, 1933]

(7) Liebelei [Max Ophüls, 1933]

(6) Minao no nihon-musume [Japanese Girls of the Harbor] [Hiroshi Shimizu, 1933]

(5) Design for Living [Ernst Lubitsch, 1933]

(4) The Bowery [Raoul Walsh, 1933]

(3) Doctor Bull [John Ford, 1933]

(2) Zéro de conduite, jeunes diables au collège. [Zero for Conduct: Young Devils at School.] [Jean Vigo, 1933]

(1) Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse [The Testament of Dr. Mabuse] [Fritz Lang, 1933]


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

My Top Films of 1996

These are my Top 10 films of 1996. Once again, whoever sent this eludes me, try though I might have to rummage. 1996 was a formative year for me at school and in my movie-life, though I don't think I saw any of these in the year they were originally released. They were in the air, especially Scorsese's Casino, which as great as it is didn't make the cut.

(10) Kansas City [Robert Altman, 1996]

(9) Adieu au TNS [Farewell to the TNS] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1996]

(8) Sydney aka Hard Eight [Paul Thomas Anderson, 1996]

(7) Gabbeh [Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996]

(6) France Gall: "Plus haut" / Plus oh! [France Gall: "Higher" / More, Oh!] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1996]

(5) The Funeral [Abel Ferrara, 1996]

(4) Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore [Sarah Jacobson, 1996]

(3) For Ever Mozart [Jean-Luc Godard, 1996]

(2) Nanguo zaijan, nanguo [Goodbye South, Goodbye] [Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1996]

(1) Irma Vep [Olivier Assayas]


My Top 10 Films of 1989

Here are my Top 10 films of 1989. I have it written on my list but can't find who submitted it, so please step forward for credit and apologies for omitting your name for now...

(10) Visions in Meditation 2 [Stan Brakhage, 1989]

(9) Visions in Meditation #1 [Stan Brakhage, 1989]

(8) L'enfant de l'hiver [Winter's Child] [Olivier Assayas, 1989]

(7) Cat Chaser {Longest-Extant Non-Ferrara's Workprint Cut?} [Abel Ferrara, 1989]

(6) Cézanne, dialogue avec Joaquim Gasquet [Cézanne: Dialogue with Joaquim Gasquet] [Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1989]

(5) Mašq-e šab [Homework] [Abbas Kiarostami, 1989]

(4) Recordações da casa amarela, uma comédia lusitana [Remembrances of the Yellow House: A Lusitanian Comedy] [João César Monteiro, 1989]

(3) Les sièges de l'Alcazar [The Seats at the Alcazar / The Sieges of the Alcazar] [Luc Moullet, 1989]

(2) O sangue [Blood] [Pedro Costa, 1989]

(1) Les baisers de secours [Emergency Kisses] [Philippe Garrel, 1989]


Monday, December 13, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 2006

These are my Top 10 films of 2006, as requested by @eliu_abel.

(10) Young American Bodies: Season 1 [Joe Swanberg, 2006]

(9) A Prairie Home Companion [Robert Altman, 2006]

(8) Vrai faux passeport [True False Passport / Real Fake Passport] [Jean-Luc Godard, 2006]

(7) Prière pour refuzniks (1) [Prayer for Refuzniks (1)] [Jean-Luc Godard, 2006]

(6) Prière pour refuzniks (2) [Prayer for Refuzniks (2)] [Jean-Luc Godard, 2006]

(5) Old Joy [Kelly Reichardt, 2006]

(4) Miami Vice [Michael Mann, 2006]

(3) Quei loro incontri / Ces rencontres avec eux, les cinq derniers 'Dialogues avec Leucò' de Cesare Pavese [Those Encounters of Theirs / Those Encounters with Them: The Five Final 'Dialogues with Leucò' by Cesare Pavese] [Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 2006]


INLAND EMPIRE [David Lynch, 2006]


Juventude em marcha [Youth on the March], aka Colossal Youth [Pedro Costa, 2006]


Note: If I had "gone to 11" Resnais's Cœurs [Hearts] and/or Apichatpong's Syndromes and a Century would have made it — ditto my 1978 list for Malick's Days of Heaven. 


Sunday, December 12, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 1987

These are my Top 10 films of 1987, as requested by Gerard-Jan Claes. 

(10) Armide [Jean-Luc Godard, 1987]

(9) 4 aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle [4 Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle] [Éric Rohmer, 1987]

(8) Intervista [Interview] [Federico Fellini, 1987]

(7) China Girl [Abel Ferrara, 1987]

(6) Comédies et Proverbes: L'ami de mon amie [Comedies and Proverbs: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend] [Éric Rohmer, 1987]

(5) Sous le soleil de Satan [Under the Sun of Satan] [Maurice Pialat, 1987]

(4) Soigne ta droite, une place sur la terre [Keep Your Right Up: A Place on the Earth] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1987]

(3) Khane-ye doust kojast [Where Is the Friend's House] [Abbas Kiarostami, 1987]


King Lear [Jean-Luc Godard, 1987]


Full Metal Jacket [Stanley Kubrick, 1987]


My Top 10 Films of 1976

These are my Top 10 films of 1976, requested by @soheilchivaee.

(10) Je t'aime moi non plus [I Love You Me Neither / I Love You I Don't] [Serge Gainsbourg, 1976]

(9) L'innocente [The Innocent One] [Luchino Visconti, 1976]

(8) Comment ça va [How's It Going] [Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, 1976]

(7) Numéro deux [Number Two] [Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, 1976]

(6) Die Marquise von O... [The Marquise of O...] [Éric Rohmer, 1976]

(5) I Messia [The Messiah] [Roberto Rossellini, 1976]

(4) Scènes de la vie parallèle: 2: Duelle (une quarantaine) [Scenes from the Parallel Life: 2: Duelle (A Quarantine)] [Jacques Rivette, 1976]

(3) Six fois deux, sur et sous la communication [Six Times Two: On/Over and Beneath Communication] [Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville, 1976]

(2) Scènes de la vie parallèle: 3: Noroît (une vengeance) [Scenes from the Parallel Life: 3: Nor'wester (A Vengeance)] [Jacques Rivette, 1976]

(1) The Killing of a Chinese Bookie [John Cassavetes, 1976]


Saturday, December 11, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 1963

Continuing the exercise. These are my Top 10 films from the year 1963, requested by Ray Pride.

(10) Il nuovo mondo [The New World] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1963]

(9) Os verdes annos [The Green Years] [Paulo Rocha, 1963]

(8) Donovan's Reef [John Ford, 1963]

(7) Shock Corridor [Samuel Fuller, 1963]

(6) 8-1/2 [Federico Fellini, 1963]

(5) Les carabiniers [The Riflemen] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1963]

(4) Muriel, ou le temps d'un retour [Muriel, or: The Time of a Return] [Alain Resnais, 1963]

(3) The Nutty Professor [Jerry Lewis, 1963]

(2) The Birds [Alfred Hitchcock, 1963]

(1) Le mépris [Contempt] [Jean-Luc Godard, 1963]


Friday, December 10, 2021

My Top 10 Films of 1978

A few eons ago I posted my Top 10 films from a variety of years across the history of cinema. Subjective, and always subject to change: by no means have I seen every movie ever made in every year. For the end of 2021 I'm going to revisit the exercise. I've reached out on social media to take requests for specific years. This first in the series serendipitously marks my year of birth, and comes via request by Nicky Otis Smith.

(10) The Last Waltz [Martin Scorsese, 1978]

(9) An Unmarried Woman [Paul Mazursky, 1978]

(8) Halloween [John Carpenter, 1978]

(7) Prova d'orchestra [Orchestra Rehearsal] [Federico Fellini, 1978]

(6) Burial Path [Stan Brakhage, 1978]

(5) Drunken Master [Yuen Woo-ping, 1978]

(4) American Boy: A Profile of — Steven Prince [Martin Scorsese, 1978]

(3) Höstsonaten [Autumn Sonata] [Ingmar Bergman, 1978]

(2) Girlfriends [Claudia Weill, 1978]

(1) Perceval le Gallois [Perceval the Welshman] [Éric Rohmer, 1978]


Sunday, December 05, 2021

The Hand

If the Dress Fits, Kill 'Em

Wong Kar-wai's The Hand [Shou, 2004/2019], made for the omnibus film Eros, which also includes Michelangelo Antonioni's final work and final masterpiece The Dangerous Thread of Things, wears a title that suggests three meanings — (a) Hua's (Gong Li's) hand that masturbates Zhang (Chang Chen) to provide a mnemonic that reinforces the beauty of the dresses he must sew for her; (b) Chang Chen's handiwork in creating the dresses Gong Li is to wear; (c) in the English, the hand that gets dealt in the gambling craft we already saw at play in 2046

Plot in Wong can take a fantastical turn (e.g., canned-pineapple expiration dates, close to a magical realism that, ashamed of itself, seeks to dispel itself) or a quotidian turn (e.g. Chang hides Gong's expanded waist size of 25cm to tell her she's just below 24, at which point she says use the old measurements and she'll just lose weight). 

To tend to the dresses of Gong/Hua, who gazes at herself in the mirror ensorcelled, whose midsection fights to pass tight corridors, is to tend to her clothes worn as the definition of the woman.