Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Oriental Hotel/Hotel Orienta: Wong Kar-wai not?

Q: Wong Kar-wai. Wong Kar-wai. All day with your Wong Kar-wai. Is that all you ever talk/think/write about?

A: Yes!

The ending of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, in which Tony Leung's character whispers into a hole in a stone in Cambodia, haunts me still. The scene is echoed in 2003's LOST IN TRANSLATION (Bob whispering to Charlotte), is maybe predicted by Emily Dickinson ("Could mortal lip divine/The undeveloped freight/Of a delivered syllable/’Twould crumble with the weight"), is explained in WKW's *2046*, which I'm watching, slowly, on DVD—savoring it over the course of several weeks.

2046 is the name of an alternate world, identical with the year 2046 (one imagines), though the film's frame unfolds in the 1960s. It's also a room number at the Oriental Hotel. It could be other things, too. I haven't finished the movie yet.

But the Oriental Hotel . . . Years ago I spotted, on West 79th or thereabouts, a name incised above a doorway: HOTEL ORIENTA. I love the formal names of apartments and SROs, love to imagine a time when you would jump into a cab and say, "To the 'Oliver Cromwell,' buddy—and step on it!"

The sighting of the H.O. led to the creation of a file on my computer called "Hotel Orienta." It started as a sketch for a story, then became a notebook, then was abandoned. This happens on a regular basis.

I've written at length about the Brown Notebook of yore, and now present to you the first of three extracts from the file "Hotel Orienta," an address of mild comedy, numerous questions, and astonishing solipsism:

"How do I explain to Marjorie that the robots no longer exist? It would take too much time, too many words. I imagine her preserving the balled paper that I lob out three or four or fifteen times a day, though I’ve expressly told her that these are to be destroyed. Somewhere in the basement, perhaps, every scotched scenario, every line of scumbled dialogue, hangs pressed and illuminated, with a bit of wall text explaining its genesis and possible relation to the rest of the epic being penned by the man upstairs. (Who *is* this remarkably informed curator?) My pencil rests and I daydream myself a culture hero, a secret historian; a Prometheus, a Merlin; a hermit, a zombie, a freak."


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