216 coda
inhabits “an almost fictitious realm defined by visual and auditory images of
Shanghai”— cheongsams, songs, dialect, food, mahjong, and daily rituals—as
signs of “a mythologisation of a time and a place in the mind of these homesick
characters.”4 Here again, Zhou Xuan’s music serves to evoke a sense of disloca-
tion. The selection of her song “The Blooming Years” is doubly significant in
this regard, with its lyrical lament for a lost homeland and its historical status
as one of the tunes recorded by the singer after she fled Shanghai for Hong
Kong. Lastly, the Taiwan- made film Dong (The Hole) has been described by its
Malaysian- born director as a tribute to one of his favorite singers, Grace Chang.
The circulation of Chang’s songs from Hong Kong to listeners in Malaysia and
Taiwan further extends the network of migration and diaspora delineated in
the previous examples. In all of these instances, familiar tunes and distinctive
voices function as both a means of mapping movements across a territorial
expanse and an index of the temporal rifts also engendered by these passages.
In direct proportion to her anachronistic status, the songstress conjures up a
sense of pastness and provokes an awareness of distance and loss.
In the Mood for Love derives its Chinese title from the Zhou Xuan song that
is played in its entirety in the film, “Hua yang de nianhua.” The phrase, com-
monly translated as “The Blooming Years,” meta phor ically describes a bygone
golden age in the beauty and brevity of a flowering blossom. The same song
lends its title to, and serves as a soundtrack for, a short film made by Wong Kar-
wai with his longtime collaborator and editor William Chang Suk Ping in the
same year as the feature. The short consists of a montage of found footage frag-
ments, compiled from a cache of nitrate prints of old Hong Kong movies dis-
covered in a ware house in southern California, where they once were screened
in Chinatown theaters. It begins with a dedication from the filmmaker: “To the
blooming years we will always remember.” The first image is of a young bal-
lerina spinning in pirouettes, her movements rendered even more flickeringly
weightless by the use of fast motion compression.5 The melody begins, and a
series of opening credits from different productions flashes by too quickly to
read, followed by a shot of a round clock face (an object that appears in nearly
all of Wong’s films) and then by an image of the same ballerina blowing out
the candles on a birthday cake— now in extreme slow motion. As Zhou’s voice
commences to sing, we are offered a glimpse of the scene in which she origi-
nally performed the song, from the 1947 film Chang xiang si (All-Consuming
Love).6 Thus sound and image align in synchronization for a brief moment in
the body of the singer, only to diverge once again as the film resumes its rapid-
fire montage. A parade of the glamorous leading ladies of bygone years floats
across the screen— styled in the fashions of the times, beaming in close-up for
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