Wong Kar-wai

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Wong Kar-wai

Wong Kar-wai (Template:Zh-tsp) (born July 17, 1958) is a Hong Kong film director known for his unique visual style of slow paced romantic art films. His trademark image is always wearing a stylish pair of dark sunglasses.

Contents

Early career

Born in Shanghai, China, he moved to Hong Kong with his parents at the age of five. Coming from the Mainland and speaking only Shanghainese, he had a difficult period of adjustment to Cantonese speaking Hong Kong, spending hours in movie theatres with his mother. After graduating from Hong Kong Polytechnic College in graphic design in 1980, he enrolled in the Production Training Course organized by Hong Kong Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) and became a full-time television scriptwriter. He subsequently graduated to feature film work. He is credited with about ten scripts between 1982 and 1987, covering an array of genres from romantic comedy to action drama, but claims to have worked to some extent or another on about fifty more without official credit (Hoover and Stokes, 1999). He considers Final Victory (最後勝利, 1986), a dark comedy/crime story for director Patrick Tam, his best script.

Work as director

He made his directing debut in 1988 with As Tears Go By. It was a crime melodrama of the kind then hugely popular, and with heavy borrowings from Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1974), but already displayed one of his principal trademarks in its atmospheric and sometimes expressionistic color palette. It is his only box office hit to date.

His next film, Days of Being Wild (1990), a drama about aimless youth set in the early 1960s, established his trademark form: elliptically plotted mood pieces, with lush visuals and music, about the burden of memory on melancholy, misfit characters. Days was a box office failure but now regularly tops Hong Kong critics' polls of the best local films ever made. It has been described as a sort of Cantonese Rebel Without a Cause.

He also established his own independent production company, called Jet Tone Films Ltd. in English. His partner in the company is Jeffrey Lau, a director and producer who tends to work closer to the populist vein of mainstream Hong Kong film.

Wong went on to direct several more feature films in the 1990s produced by Jet Tone, which allowed him to work at his own pace. Among these were Chungking Express (1994), which is a Godardesque foray into the lives of two love-struck cops and mysterious women. In the same vein Fallen Angels (1995), often considered a third segment or sequel of Chungking Express, is a neo-noir focused on a disillusioned killer trying to overcome the affections of his partner, a strange drifter looking for her ex-boyfriend, and a mute trying to get the world's attention in his own ways, all set against a sordid and surreal urban nightscape.

Wong's fourth movie, Ashes of Time (1994), released between Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, applied his approach to a star-studded wuxia (martial arts swordplay) story; the desert shoot in Mainland China dragged on for over a year and resulted in one of contemporary Hong Kong cinema's most notorious commercial disasters.

His first major international recognition was at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival where he won the Best Director prize for Happy Together (1997). A film that "uses gorgeous, saturated images set to an eclectic soundtrack of classic tangos, torch songs and Frank Zappa instrumentals to chronicle the stormy affair of a gay couple living as expatriates in Buenos Aires." [1] (http://www.multilingualbooks.com/foreignvids-chin-wongkarwai.html)

Despite his background as a scriptwriter, one of Wong's trademarks as a director is that he works largely through improvisation and experimentation involving the actors and crew rather than adhering to a fixed screenplay. This has been a frequent source of trouble for his actors, his financial backers and many other people connected with his films, including sometimes himself.

The filming of In the Mood for Love (2000) had to be shifted from Beijing to Macau after the China Film Bureau demanded to see the completed script. This was all in all a minor setback in the "very complicated evolution" of the project which goes as far back as 1997. It was Wong's intention to make two films, one of which would be titled Summer in Beijing, the plot unclear at the time, but eventually taking form in Macau. Here Wong planned to call it Three Stories About Food, but saw it better to settled for only one story, A Story About Food, that centers on a writer. Together with scenes shot in Bangkok and Angkor Wat, the filming took as long as 15 months. This was an especially arduous time for lead actress Maggie Cheung whose hair and makeup reportedly took a daily five hours, and who appeared in different cheongsams in each scene. She famously compared the lengthy shoot to a cold she couldn't get rid of. Working without deadlines, the film's upcoming premier at Cannes nonetheless put some pressure on Wong to finish editing. Intending to name the film Secrets he was dissuaded by Cannes, and finally named it In the Mood for Love after Bryan Ferry's cover of the song "I'm in the Mood for Love" he was listening to. (Kaufman [2] (http://www.indiewire.com/people/int_Wong_Kar-Wai_010202.html), Rayns [3] (http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/2000_08/eiff_wongkarwai.html))

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(Left to right) Christopher Doyle, William Chang, Wong Kar-wai on 2046 set in Shanghai, China

It is now well known that a running joke amongst the crew of 2046 (2004) was that he would finish in the year 2046. However, the time-consuming method seems to be a key to Wong's unique style.

Short films

Wong Kar-wai has directed various short films, television commercials, music videos, or combinations thereof, all faithful to his style. Most notable short films for commercial purposes include wkw/tk/1996@7′55″hk.net which he made in 1996 for Japanese designer Takeo Kikuchi, featuring Tadanobu Asano and Karen Mok; one for Motorola in 1998 also featuring Tadanobu Asano, this time with Faye Wong [4] (http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Towers/6617/cityent.html); and more recently one for Lacoste, La Rencontre, featuring Chang Chen and Diane MacMahon (picture [5] (http://www.jobddong.com/zbbs/data/wong_news/0524.jpg)). Others include a commercials for Suntime Wine with Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung [6] (http://members.jcom.home.ne.jp/baht/suntime_wine_e.html), for JC Decaux's ad featuring different kinds of dawns in cities around the world shot by famous movie directors [7] (http://members.jcom.home.ne.jp/baht/jcdecaux_e.html), the 2001 short-film The Hire: The Follow as part of the BMW films initiative, and a TV spot for a French mobile network company [8] (http://www.buf.fr/WORK/popup?class=comm&year=2001&section=2001.Commercials&key=Orange3&index=0). Additionally, in 2000 Wong directed a music video of Tony Leung's duet with Niki of a song from the In the Mood for Love soundtrack to be included in Tony Leung's CD by the same name, and in 2002 the music video Six Days for DJ Shadow featuring Chen Chang and Danielle Graham. His short film Hua Yang De Nian Hua is a montage of scenes from vintage Chinese films, most of which were considered lost until some nitrate prints were discovered in a California warehouse during the 1990s, set to a song from the soundtrack of In the Mood for Love, it was shown at the 2001 Berlin International Film Festival [9] (http://www.dighkmovies.com/v2/128/128a.html).

Filmography as director

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Movie poster for In the Mood for Love

Feature films

Selected short films

Scriptwriter and producer

As already mentioned, Wong is officially credited with about ten screenplays while having worked on another fifty in one way or another before his directoral debut. He has yet to direct a feature based on a script other than his own (though Ashes of Time was adapted from a Louis Cha novel), which would be highly unlikely considering his method of improvisation. Wong, through Jet Tone, is also the producer of all of his own films since 1993 with the exception of Ashes of Time, a project that began much earlier. Through Jet Tone of otherwise, Wong has also produced various films, some directed by his partner in the company, Jeffrey Lau. Here are lists of films other than his own that Wong wrote screenplays for or produced:

Writing Credits:

Once Upon a Rainbow (1982), Just for Fun (1983), Silent Romance (1984), Chase a Fortune (1985), Intellectual Trio (1985), Unforgettable Fantasy (1985), Sweet Surrender (1986), Rosa (1986), Goodbye My Hero (1986), The Final Test (1987), Final Victory (1987), Flaming Brothers aka Dragon and Tiger Fight (1987), The Haunted Cop Shop of Horrors (1987), The Haunted Cop Shop of Horrors 2 (1988), Walk On Fire (1988), Return Engagement (1990), Saviour of the Soul (1992)

Producer:

Flaming Brothers aka Dragon and Tiger Fight (1987), The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993), First Love: the Litter on the Breeze (1997), Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002), Sound of Colors (2003)

Awards

See also

References

  • Abbas, M. A.. Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance. University of Minnesota Press, 1997. ISBN 0816629250
  • Bordwell, David. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-674-00214-8
  • Dannen, Fredric, and Barry Long. Hong Kong Babylon: The Insider's Guide to the Hollywood of the East. New York: Miramax, 1997. ISBN 0-7868-6267-X
  • Dissanayake, Wimal, and Dorothy Wong. Wong Kar Wai's Ashes of Time. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003. ISBN 9622095852
  • Lalanne, Jean-Marc et al. Wong Kar Wai. Paris: Dis Voir, 1997. ISBN 2906571679
  • Stokes, Lisa Odham, and Michael Hoover. City on Fire: Hong Kong Cinema. London: Verso, 1999. ISBN 1-85984-203-8
  • Tambling, Jeremy. Wong Kar Wai's Happy Together. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003. ISBN 9622095895

External links

Fansites

Articles

Interviews

  • Asia Studios (http://www.astyle.com/interviews/members/wongkarwai.html) Wong Kar-wai Exclusive Interview, by Khoi Lebinh and David Eng
  • Sights and Sounds (http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/2000_08/eiff_wongkarwai.html) Edinburgh: Wong Kar-Wai, by Tony Rayns
  • Guardian Unlimited (http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,386766,00.html) Mood Music, by Jonathan Romney
  • Indiewire (http://www.indiewire.com/people/int_Wong_Kar-Wai_010202.html) The "Mood" of Wong Kar-wai; the Asian Master Does it Again, by Anthony Kaufman
  • BOMB Magazine (http://www.bombsite.com/karwai/karwai.html) Interview by Liza Bear
  • Onion AV Club (http://avclub.theonion.com/feature/index.php?issue=3707&f=1) Interview by Scott Tobias
  • TIMEasia (http://www.time.com/time/asia/features/interviews/int.wongkarwai05224000.html/) And The Winner Is..., by Stephen Short
  • TIMEasia (http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501041004-702208,00.html) "We love what we can't have, and we can't have what we love", by Bryan Walsh
  • Urban Cinefile (http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=4716&s=VisionStream/) Audio Interview with Richard Kupier (RealMedia)

Other

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