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[FILM] Wong Kar-wai - His Movies, His Soundtracks and More

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  • madchinaman
    Wong Kar-wai: His movies, his soundtracks and more http://www2.chinadaily.com.cn/en/doc/2003-12/23/content_292724.htm Happy Together 3.5 stars Highly academic,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 28, 2005
      Wong Kar-wai: His movies, his soundtracks and more
      http://www2.chinadaily.com.cn/en/doc/2003-12/23/content_292724.htm


      Happy Together

      3.5 stars

      Highly academic, and extremely well researched, James Tambling's
      book takes a detailed look at Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together. As one
      of the series on New Hong Kong Cinema published by the Hong Kong
      University Press, Tambling's analysis is sure to be a required text
      for film and gender studies students in the SAR and beyond.

      The series attempts to explore "how films both reflect and inflect
      culture" (preface), and how Wong's acclaimed films impact Chinese
      culture.

      Tambling begins with an analysis of Happy Together as allegory,
      using the relationship between the men as a reference to the
      relationship between the Chinese mainland and the SAR. Using
      reference to literary critic Frederic Jameson, he finds that "the
      story of the private individual destiny is always an allegory of the
      embattled situation of the public Third World culture and society".
      Other theorists, including Spivak and Ahmad, are invoked to shore up
      Tambling's thesis, although there is an assumption that the reader
      is already familiar with the basics of the field of literary study.
      He asserts that there is a relationship between sexuality and the
      public, political world.

      With the theory out of the way, more common questions are also
      addressed, including questioning its setting in Buenos Aires rather
      than Hong Kong. Tambling posits that the film could be regarded
      as "a tale of two cities, putting them together and almost asking
      them if they could be happy together". This chapter also brings
      together Taiwan's settlement by the Portuguese (the film ends in
      Taiwan) with Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love, both of
      which end in areas suffering from neo-colonialism.

      Contexts and themes including the film imagery (the meanings behind
      the tango dance, yellow wallpaper, and more), homosexuality, and
      whether the film is "affirmative about homosexuality by actually
      representing it, not bothering to discuss it... (and) treating it as
      no different from any other sexual partnership". There is also an
      analysis of nostalgia and melancholy in the film, followed by an
      epilogue that addresses Happy Together in the context of the making
      of Wong's In the Mood for Love.

      Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together will certainly be reserved for
      academic shelves, but it should also be on the must-read list of
      anyone who has watched the film and felt there was more to it than
      simple viewing pleasure. Laura Hutchison

      Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together, by Jeremy Tambling, pub Hong Kong
      University Press, 2003, 122pp, Paperback



      Ashes of Time has risen to cult status, meriting it the pleasure of
      being one of the films addressed in the Hong Kong University Press'
      New Hong Kong Cinema series

      Ashes of Time

      3 stars

      Initially not a success, Wong Kar-wai's Ashes of Time has risen over
      the past nine years to almost cult status. In this analysis by Wimal
      Dissanayake, the emphasis lies on the premise that Ashes marks "an
      important point in the growth of Hong Kong cinema" within the
      context of the creativity of Wong Kar-wai in filmmaking.
      Bearing this in mind, the chapter dedicated to the acclaimed
      director (Chapter 2) is useful and comprehensive, with details of
      his film history as well as inclusion of box offices collections of
      Hong Kong films.

      In comparison with Tambling's analysis of Happy Together,
      Dissanayake's is far less verbose, covering basics like storyline
      and character analyses. Don't be fooled, though: this is as much an
      academic tome as the former, and chapters on characters nonetheless
      tackle the issue of identity and how identities weave around each
      other and "seem to deconstruct identity only to bring out its
      further complexities".

      Dissanayake goes on to discuss narrative structure, style, and
      martial arts (focusing on the poetics of the marital arts film genre
      and whether or not it can fall into the category of wuxia).

      The theory hits on discussion of time, fragmentation, and
      melancholia in the film, and the complexities and convolutions of
      philosophical ramifications of its use. And although very
      interesting, the reader is a bit thrown aback, with Dissanayake's
      statement from the onset being that the film should be analyzed in
      the context of Hong Kong cinema, as opposed to being analyzed as
      allegory or as text for higher academic study.

      The reader is brought back into the original hypothesis in Chapter
      11, discussing responses to the film, complete with a timeline and
      with published examples of criticisms, comments, and analysis on
      Ashes. The conclusion reiterates the original motive of analyzing
      the film's significance to the evolution of Hong Kong cinema, but
      also makes clear the "intention to focus on two important dimensions
      of the film: its intertextuality and its social relevance". A little
      late in the day, Ashes is also related to the mood of the 1990s in
      Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the reader is left having to turn back to
      sections of the book to reconfirm this point instead of having had
      it introduced early on. Laura Hutchison

      Wong Kar-wai's Ashes of Time, by Wimal Dissanayake with Dorothy
      Wong, pub Hong Kong University Press, 2003, 175pp, Paperback
      Available online from the usual outlets


      In the Mood for Love: The Soundtrack

      Huayang Nianhua

      4stars

      One of Wong Kar-wai's most popular films is also one of the most
      treasured soundtracks among many a CD collection. A melancholy
      fusion of different genres - jazz, classical, and opera - all are
      personal favorites of the director and his mother.

      The first track on the disc Yumeji's Theme is a typical Shanghai 30s
      ballad featuring strings and a solo violin. This tune is synonymous
      with the film and recurs on countless occasions as the theme for the
      lovely qipao clad, Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung).

      All the Chinese opera (Beijing opera, Zhejiang opera, Jiang Su
      opera) are tracks recorded from the original vinyl records. The
      Beijing opera Si Lang Tan Mu and Sang Yuan Ji Zi are the
      representative works by famous Chinese opera artist Tan Xinpei (1874-
      1917) that prevailed in the 1930s. The Zhejiang opera Hong Niang Hui
      Zhang Sheng and Qing Tan's love story is closely mimicked by Zhou
      Muyun (Tony Leung) and Su Lizhen in In the Mood.

      Wong Kar-wai selects three songs by singer Nat King Cole, whose
      works also can be heard in the higher echelons of old Shanghai
      nightlife haunts. Those three songs are Aquellos Ojos Verdes, Te
      Quiero Dijiste and Quizas Quizas Quizas, full of Nat King Cole's
      typical jazz and Latin style, invoking visions of colorful
      ballrooms, and dazzling Shanghai nights.

      No soundtrack of a film set in Shanghai 1930s would be complete
      without the inclusion of Zhou Xuan's "Golden Voice". Her famous
      rendition of Hua Yang Nian Hua is in fact what the film was named
      after. The soundtrack features her original recording of the song,
      eerie and vacant.

      The other eight tracks are commissioned works by Michael Galasso
      most of which feature strings - mainly cellos and violins.

      This CD is a must-have for any China resident, and, as Christmas
      approaches, a great one for giving.

      As Tears Go By (Wang Jiao Ka Men)

      4 stars

      Taking HK's overheating gangster flick scene circa 1987 and turning
      it into a certified tearjerker was quite a feat. Wong Kar-wai's
      ability in achieving just that worked wonders towards cementing long
      lasting foundations for his tumultuous career.

      Released in early 1988, the spectacularly enthralling love drama
      established not only director Wong's reputation, but also his cast
      of unique regulars, all later superstars in their own right. Andy
      Lau did Wah, a wise guy desperately in love with cousin Carmen, a
      cute, longhaired Maggie Cheung fresh from her Police Academy
      successes and young enough to maintain some serious naiveté.
      Carmen's a regular village girl, her normative lifestyle and demure
      nature compelling Wah into reconsidering his own questionable path.

      Adorned with cool Jacky Cheung as Andy's self-destructive side kick
      Fly, As Tears Go By managed to integrate classy intelligentia with
      hearty emotion, remaining a must see to this day.

      Starring: Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Ronald Wong

      1988, Cantonese, 94 minutes

      Days of Being Wild (A Fei Zheng Zhuan)

      3 stars

      Due more to bad translation work than actual script writing issues,
      many of those anticipating Wong Kar-wai's sophomore outing were
      disappointed upon learning it outright lacked anything remotely wild
      start to finish. Basically, it came to be a revisiting of three
      staples: the seedy nightlife, quality thespians and versatile
      storytelling. For this project, Wong's cast expanded to include
      Leslie Cheung and Carina Lau, giving rising star Leslie a shot at
      the lead as 1960's playboy Yuddy, involved with two opposing women
      and repulsed to some extent by both. Good girl Su Lizhen (a once
      again sweetened Maggie) faces nocturnal prowler Feng Ying (Carina
      Lau) in a joust to decide which will make off with Yuddy's promise
      of loving stability.

      Little do they suspect he himself feels lost, oblivious of his
      father's identity and keen on obtaining true male bonding, something
      reckless buddy Zeb (Jacky Cheung) simply can't provide. Even an
      introspective cop-turned-traveler (Andy Lau) can't stop Yuddy from
      colliding with destiny to tragic results. There was also a brief
      cameo by then-prospective regular Tony Leung.

      While less thoughtful than As Tears Go By and somewhat of a plod
      fest at times, this film nonetheless went towards consolidating the
      esteemed moviemaker's mesmerizing style.

      Starring: Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Carina Lau, Jacky
      Cheung, Tony Leung

      1990, Cantonese, 94 minutes

      Chungking Express (Chongqing Sen Lin)

      3.5 stars

      Arguably one of the greatest films to emerge during the early 90s,
      it too fell prey to weird transliteration choices, oddly forgoing
      its true title, Chongqing Forest, in favor of obvious fluffing up.
      Whatever your thoughts on that, you won't quickly gloss over Wong
      Kar-wai's vivacious amalgamation of quirky characters, frenzied
      camera work and hypnotic pacing.

      Certainly, it was more style than content but at least unashamedly
      so, unlike other products of the same era with their presently
      extinct cooler-than-y'all attitude.
      Two cops, numbers 223 and 663 (Takeshi Kanehiro and Tony Leung
      respectively) obsess over lost love interests among a perpetually
      dark, Tower of Babel-like version of HK veering pleasantly close to
      bonafide science fiction. The first soon falls for a wig-wearing
      smuggler and master crook (screen empress Brigitte Lin), the latter
      acquiring bliss with timid restaurant employee Faye (Wong Faye).

      Pioneering techniques later used around the world, Chungking Express
      challenges viewers' attention spans and willingness to stay focused
      with its loosely tied plot and ecstatic cinematography. With several
      new stars added to his roster and such an acclaimed piece of work
      under his belt, Wong Kar-wai's credibility was affirmed for years to
      come.

      Starring Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung, Wong Fei

      1994, Cantonese/Various, 97 minutes

      Fallen Angels (Duo La Tian Shi)

      3 stars

      Plenty reasons exist to claim Chungking Express pseudo-sequel status
      for this one, but despite more of the same nightly cavorting, wacky
      personas and blurred action segments it doesn't quite capture the
      impetus so exquisitely evident in its predecessor.

      Continuing Wong Kar-wai's effort to diversify his talent stock, the
      film pits Leon Lai (as hit man Johnny) against a mysterious
      underworld filled to bursting with treacherous clients and ambushes
      just waiting to happen. Two additional protagonists parlay about,
      one being Johnny's caretaker and secret admirer (super-sexy Michele
      Reis looking veritably astonishing in those tiny minis).

      Although her devotion to the assassin knows no boundaries, she can't
      bring herself to even confess these feelings, doomed to remain
      heartbroken. Comic relief, if you can call it that, comes via
      Takeshi Kaneshiro's rendition of eccentric deaf-mute He Zhiwu,
      another lost soul wondering HK's lonely streets while tormenting
      residents with harmless pranks as the ultimate time killer. Karen
      Mok fans will relish her as a multifaceted bimbo acting out several
      characters to acceptable effect.

      Potent and capable, Fallen Angels' moderately gripping story and
      smoky atmosphere serve as valid strong points even if it didn't rise
      to previous WONG KAR-WAI standards. At any rate, it was a good
      stopgap on the way to the director's scandalous Happy Together and
      international smash hit In the Mood For Love.

      Starring Leon Lai, Michele Reis, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Karen Mok

      1995, Cantonese/Various, 90 minutes

      Coming Attraction: 2046

      UNRATED

      Lots of controversy around this overdue milestone, promising to be
      Wong Kar-wai's first full-blooded science fiction masterpiece and
      possibly Asia's greatest contribution to the genre, with roots in
      landmarks such as Blade Runner, Barton Fink and I, Robot.

      Why controversy? Well, one version has it the movie will revolve
      around a writer (Tony Leung) meeting a washed up hooker (Maggie
      Cheung, staying at room 2046) and proceeding to concoct endless
      tales of artificial intelligence and love.

      Others claim the plot resides in a despotic HK around the year 2046,
      where citizens all have numbers instead of names, possibly since
      they've been replaced by droids.
      Regardless, a lot rides on 2046 and Wong Kar-wai's success in
      getting it done before January 1, 2046 actually passes by.

      Additional confirmed cast members include Wang Fei, Carina Lau,
      Beijing's Zhang Ziyi, her former Crouching Tiger screen mate Chang
      Chen and Kimura Takuya.

      Keep all applicable digits crossed.
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