Wong Kar Wai

My first glimpse of Wong Kar Wai’s oeuvre was the “2046” website shown to me by my excited husband, who wanted to check the premiere details. The website was all Metropolis-like skyscrapers dotted with high-tech billboards and this, plus the title, plus my husband’s interests, made me think the film was a science fiction one. It turned out to be a dreamy nostalgic drama set in night clubs and diners of the 1960s Hong Kong, a drama about impossible love which always comes too early or too late or with too much jealousy or at a great price.

I used to think “2046” is just a sequel to “In the Mood for Love”, a film which is even more dreamy as the actors playing in it didn’t actually know what the plot was about and spent a year or so acting out different unrelated scenes, and the female lead has a different quipao in every scene although the heroine couldn’t possibly afford it. This time there’s only one love story, the one of the writer from “2046” and his neighbour’s wife. It’s wonderfully presented: it is his wife and her husband who had an affair first, we never see the spouses’ faces (and their bodies were played by the two leads anyway) and the lovers never declare love or kiss or go to bed so perhaps they are not lovers at all and it’s just our western imagination going wild?

I used to think “2046” is just a sequel to “In the Mood for Love” and so seemed to do most of the reviewers, but in fact it’s the last part of a trilogy, the first part being “Days of being wild” with multiple love stories again and as sad as usual. The three films are all objects and tunes – the light switches, the wallpapers, the phones give you (at least if you remember them from your grandma’s flat) as much kick as the sambas, the cha-chas and Nat King Cole singing in Spanish with a heavy American accent.

If you are more into stories than moods, Wong Kar Wai has also made the best romantic comedy ever and that’s the second of the two novellas that are “Chungking Express”. A word of warning though – it’s a romantic comedy for those who don’t want an ending on the Empire State Building or at Heathrow Airport or in the rain, nor any kissing/running into the arms etc. I like “Chungking Express” just as like “Toutsie”, in which the two leads, instead of becoming a couple at the end, walk away from us talking about which dress is HE going to lend HER.

A great thing about Hong Kong cinema is that you keep bumping into your favourite actors without even planning this. In “2046” there are Tony Leung, Faye Wong and Carina Lau. In “In the Mood for Love”: Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung. In “Days of being wild”: Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung, Carina Lau and Andy Lau, and the last three minutes of the film is just Tony Leung preparing for a night out. In “Chungking Express”: Tony Leung, Faye Wong. In “As tears go by”: Andy Lau, Maggie Cheung, Jacky Cheung. In the “Infernal Affairs” trilogy (best thriller of all times): Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Carina Lau. Well, it’s a great thing about Chinese cinema as such, not only Hong Kong. After all you can see Tony Leung in “Hero” (with Maggie Cheung) or “Chinese Odyssey” (with Faye Wong). And so on and so forth. It’s just that I like Cantonese more. Unless it’s the Mandarin of Chen Daoming (Hero, Infernal Affairs III) 🙂


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