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[FILM] Strange Yet Cool: Listening to Wong Kar Wai

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  • chiayuan25
    Strange Yet Cool: Listening to Wong Kar Wai...and Making Sense of 2046 Thursday August 4 9:41 AM ET by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE Sitting in the front row of
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 6, 2005
      Strange Yet Cool: Listening to Wong Kar Wai...and Making Sense
      of "2046"
      Thursday August 4 9:41 AM ET

      by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

      Sitting in the front row of the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln
      Center in June, a young woman from Hong Kong smiled broadly and
      shifted around in her seat excitedly, awaiting the start of a
      screening of "2046." We started chatting and I assumed from her
      enthusiasm that she had not yet seen the movie. Telling her that she
      was in for a real treat, I started to talk a bit about the movie.
      She politely admitted that she had already seen various versions of
      the film a half-dozen times, mostly on imported DVDs. On this
      particular night, because director Wong Kar Wai would be making an
      appearance to introduce the screening and participate in a Q&A after
      the showing, a large crowd was filling the theater. As the screening
      time approached, the women next to me became increasingly giddy with
      excitement, so I showed her a digital camera photo that I had just
      taken of Wong Kar Wai at the pre-screening reception, assuming that
      this would be the first time she was seeing him in pers on. She
      literally squealed as she looked at the image but then admitted that
      she'd already met him on numerous occasions back in Hong Kong. So
      finally I asked her directly why she was so excited. "Because I love
      him," she exclaimed.

      In a theater jammed with equally amorous fans of his work, Wong Kar
      Wai talked extensively, and at times quite vaguely, about his latest
      film. Wearing his trademark dark sunglasses and black Izod Lacoste
      polo shirt, the filmmaker reflected on the new movie, its connection
      to his previous films, working with cinematographer Christopher
      Doyle, and the movie's music.

      Opening Friday (August 5th) in the U.S., Wong Kar Wai's "2046" is
      the continuation of the story of a writer (played by Tony Leung) who
      carries out a number of affairs with women (including Ziyi Zhang,
      Gong Li, Carina Lau, Faye Wong, and Maggie Cheung), in a hotel room
      with a memorable room number.

      The film premiered late at Cannes 2004, missing its festival debut
      when it was not quite ready; Wong brought the movie to Cannes a day
      later and unveiled the film amidst critical complaints that it felt
      unfinished. He eventually re-worked the film a bit before it opened
      in China at the end of September. Describing the film, which in many
      parts bore a strong resemblance to his last movie "In the Mood for
      Love," Wong Kar-Wai said at a Cannes press conference, "The film is
      actually a portrait of a person who is trying to get away from his
      past -- the more you try to forget it, the more you remember it,
      maybe one day the past or the memory will leave you." The title
      marks the year five decades after the handover of Hong Kong back to
      China. "How you deal with your past (is) not only about a person, it
      can be a city, it can be about anything," Wong summed up in Cannes.

      Asked at what point he realized he was making a sequel to "In The
      Mood For Love," Wong Kar Wai offered during the Lincoln Center
      discussion, "In fact, I started this film at the same time -- we
      started the two films back to back, at first we thought 'In the
      Mood' would take three months, but it took nine months. I never
      thought '2046' would be a sequel, but in the process I realized that
      the two films were connected in certain ways." He then quipped, "I
      think that, like a joke... that became the beginning of the troubles
      in a way."

      "2046" is a film that took Wong years to finish, with production
      stopped due to SARS and the story changing over time. In Cannes last
      year, many joked that this movie would not be seen until the year of
      its title, a charge that stung the filmmaker. He said in Cannes the
      day after the premiere, "(As of) today this joke is over and I am so
      glad, thank you very much."

      "I don't think '2046' is like a sequel, it is like a continuation,"
      Wong emphasized during his appearance in New York in June. "I think
      the two films are about two different subjects." Continuing he tried
      to sum it up, saying, "'In The Mood for Love' is a love story about
      two persons, '2046' is a story about a love story, about the writer
      Tony Leung himself."

      Perhaps explaining it a bit more succinctly, in New York this spring
      for the Tribeca Film Festival, actor Leung offered, "If 'In the Mood
      For Love' was a love story, then '2046' is a story about love."

      So, in the follow-up to "In The Mood," Leung returns as a writer who
      meets a young prostitute (played by Ziyi Zhang) in hotel room 2046,
      the same room where he had the affair with a married woman (Maggie
      Cheung) in the previous film. Reflecting on love and loss, the
      writer composes a futuristic story entitled "2046."

      "'2046 is like a reunion," explained Wong Kar Wai, "Some characters
      from my previous films show up. You see how many things have
      changed, or they can remain unchanged." Noting the ending of his
      1991 film "Days of Being Wild," Wong reminded the Lincoln Center
      screening attendees that Tony Leung appears at the end of that film,
      a finale that Wong said was one of his favorite endings of all of
      his films and a movie that was supposed to have a second part. Since
      making that film, he had hoped to make another movie about the
      gambler character.

      Q&A sessions with the director do not always give his fans clear
      answers. "In '2046' Tony is a gambler, it can be like the ending
      of 'Days of Being Wild'," Wong Kar Wai riffed, "And the beginning
      of '2046' can happen in one night with a difference of twelve

      Perhaps a bit more concretely, Wong was asked about his use of
      Christmas as a recurring time period in the new film. He
      explained, "In the film there are four chapters, each chapter begins
      or ends with Christmas." Noting that the motif is used because the
      Christmas holiday often sees the highest rate of suicides, Wong
      added, "On Christmas, or Christmas Eve people feel very lonely on a
      time or date or night that you are supposed to share with someone

      In "2046" the sounds of "The Christmas Song," performed in the movie
      by both Umebayashi Shigeru and the Nat King Cole Trio, signal the
      holiday season. Not surprisingly, "2046" boasts an exceptional
      soundtrack (available on import) offering Umebayashi Shigeru and
      Peer Raben, as well as classic tunes from Xavier Cugat with Connie
      Francis, Dean Martin, and Cole. Asked about his criteria for
      choosing the music, Wong said that the soundtrack in his films gives
      a sense of rhythm to he and his crew. "In this film, in a ballroom
      or hotel, we have a lot of dance music," citing Cugat, Martin, and
      Francis (who sings the ever-present "Siboney" in the film), "Its
      music that reminds me of that person." Citing music in the work of
      Truffaut, Fassbinder and Kieslowski, Wong added, "Especially coming
      back to you is the date or the time that you look at this film, it
      is also a tribute to my favorite directors."

      Of course, another trademark of Wong Kar Wai's filmmaking is its
      distinctive visual style. In the case of the striking look
      of "2046," Wong was asked at Lincoln Center why he chose to shoot in
      such a widescreen format. "My main reason is I want to torture Chris
      Doyle," Wong smiled, referring to longtime collaborator,
      cinematographer Doyle, who shot the film on Super 35 film stock in
      the crammed locations. Asked about the colors and look of this
      movie, Wong Kar Wai explained, "There are two types of
      cinematographers," adding obliquely, "Some work like soldiers and
      some work like sailors." He seemed to be saying that some are steady
      and some change a lot, placing Doyle in the sailor camp. "For Chris,
      he started as a sailor, he needs to move, and in a way I give him
      space, but most of the time I decide about the framing, the look,
      and even the colors, but it doesn't mean that he works according to
      what I decided. So there will be surprises, but most of the time it
      is a good s urprise."

      Asked further about some of the distinctive distorted images
      included in "2046," Wong Kar Wai admitted that in the film, Doyle
      used some lenses that were more than 40 years old. "I think that is
      because of the lense, sometimes they have defects, somehow we have
      to turn these defects into a style or reflections or distortions,"
      he said, eliciting laughter from the audience. "It makes it look
      like something really cool," he smiled, adding, "I think Chris did a
      very good job on this."

      Finally, Wong Kar Wai was asked about a key element in '2046' in
      which characters whisper their secrets into a black hole. "What is
      my secret, he pondered, then answered, "To me my film is my hole, I
      have put all my secrets in the film."

      The woman seated next to me loved that answer. Wong Kar Wai's fans
      enjoy the occasional teases and vague answers, they've become as
      much a trademark of the filmmaker as the distinct slo-mo, saturated
      visuals, his use of latin-flavored music, or his own black polo
      shirt and trademark dark glasses.

      About those glasses, a friend and I had been chatting continuously
      throughout the evening about those sunglasses he wears even during a
      low-lit reception or in a dark theater, wondering what purpose they
      serve. I've never seen him without them, so I asked the woman seated
      next to me if that was to mask an eye defect, or maybe shield him
      from light due to super sensitive eyes. Or was it simply part of his

      She replied simply, "I think it is to make him look cool."

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