WONG KAR-WAI, BBS (born 17 July 1958) is a
Hong Kong Second Wave
filmmaker, internationally renowned as an auteur for his visually
unique, highly stylized work, including As Tears Go By (1988), Days of
Being Wild (1990),
Ashes of Time (1994),
Chungking Express (1994),
Fallen Angels (1995), Happy Together (1997), 2046 (2004) and The
Grandmaster (2013). His film
In the Mood for Love
In the Mood for Love (2000), starring
Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung , notably garnered widespread critical
Wong's films frequently feature protagonists who yearn for romance in
the midst of a knowingly brief life and scenes that can often be
described as sketchy, digressive, exhilarating, and containing vivid
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early life and career beginnings (1958–1989)
* 1.1.1 As Tears Go By
* 1.2 Developing style (1990–1994)
Days of Being Wild
Ashes of Time
* 1.3 Breakthrough (1994–1995)
* 1.3.2 Fallen Angels
* 1.4 Widespread recognition (1996–2000)
* 1.4.1 Happy Together
In the Mood For Love
In the Mood For Love
* 1.5 International work (2001–2007)
* 1.5.1 2046
* 1.5.2 Eros and
My Blueberry Nights
* 1.6 Commercial success (2008–present)
* 1.6.1 The Grandmaster
* 1.6.2 Upcoming
* 1.7 Personal life
* 2 Filmmaking
* 2.1 Influences
* 2.2 Method and collaborators
* 2.3 Style
* 3 Recognition and impact
* 4 Filmography and awards
* 5 References
* 5.1 Notes
* 5.2 Citations
* 5.3 Sources
* 6 External links
EARLY LIFE AND CAREER BEGINNINGS (1958–1989)
Wong Kar-wai was born on 17 July 1958 in
Shanghai , the youngest of
three siblings. His father was a sailor and his mother was a
housewife. By the time Wong was five years old, the seeds of the
Cultural Revolution were beginning to take effect in
China and his
parents decided to relocate to British-ruled
Hong Kong . The two
older children were meant to join them later, but the borders closed
before they had a chance and Wong did not see his brother or sister
again for ten years. In Hong Kong, the family settled in the Tsim
Sha Tsui district, and his father got work managing a night club.
Being an only child in a new city, and speaking only Mandarin , Wong
has said he felt isolated during his childhood; he struggled to learn
Cantonese and English, only becoming fluent in these new languages
when he was a teenager.
Hong Kong in 1965, shortly after Wong's
family emigrated there from
As a youth, Wong was frequently taken to the cinema by his mother and
exposed to a variety of films. He later said: "The only hobby I had
as a child was watching movies". At school he was interested in
graphic design , and earned a diploma in the subject from Hong Kong
Polytechnic in 1980. After graduating, Wong was accepted onto a
training course with the
TVB television network, where he learned the
processes of media production.
He soon began a screenwriting career, firstly with TV series and soap
operas, such as Don't Look Now (1981), before progressing to film
scripts. He worked as part of a team, contributing to a variety of
genres including romance, comedy, thriller, and crime. Wong had
little enthusiasm for these early projects, described by film scholar
Gary Bettinson as "occasionally diverting and mostly disposable", but
continued to write throughout the 1980s on films including Just for
Fun (1983), Rosa (1986), and The Haunted Cop Shop of Horrors (1987).
He is credited with ten screenplays between 1982 and 1987, but claims
to have worked on about fifty more without official credit. Wong
spent two years co-writing the screenplay for Patrick Tam 's action
Final Victory (1987), for which he was nominated at the 7th Hong
Kong Film Awards .
As Tears Go By
Andy Lau starred in Wong's debut, the crime film As Tears Go By
By 1987 the
Hong Kong film industry was at a peak, enjoying a
considerable level of prosperity and productivity. New directors were
needed to maintain this success, and – through his links in the
industry – Wong was invited to become a partner on a new independent
company, In-Gear , and given the opportunity to direct his own
picture. Gangster films were popular at the time, in the wake of John
Woo 's highly-successful
A Better Tomorrow
A Better Tomorrow (1986), and Wong decided to
follow suit. Specifically, unlike Hong Kong's other crime films, he
chose to focus on young gangsters. The film, named As Tears Go By ,
tells the story of a conflicted youth who has to watch over his
Because he was well acquainted with the producer,
Alan Tang , Wong
was given considerable freedom in the making of As Tears Go By. His
cast included what he considered some of "the hottest young idols in
Hong Kong": singer
Andy Lau ,
Maggie Cheung , and
Jacky Cheung . As
Tears Go By was released in June 1988 and was popular with audiences.
It was also a critical success, as several journalists named Wong
among the "
Hong Kong New Wave ". While it was a conventional crime
David Bordwell said that Wong " out from his peers by
abandoning the kinetics of comedies and action movies in favour of
more liquid atmospherics." As Tears Go By received no attention from
Western critics upon its initial release, but was selected to be
screened during Directors\' Fortnight of the 1989 Cannes Film Festival
DEVELOPING STYLE (1990–1994)
Days Of Being Wild
"I could have continued making films like As Tears Go By for the
rest of eternity but I wanted to do something more personal after
that. I wanted to break the structure of the average
Hong Kong film."
—Wong on the transition from his first film to Days of Being Wild
For his follow-up film, Wong decided to move away from the crime
Hong Kong cinema, to which he felt indifferent. He was eager
to make something more unusual, and the success of As Tears Go By made
this possible. Developing a more personal project than his previous
film, Wong picked the 1960s as a setting – evoking an era that he
remembered well and had a "special feeling" for. Days of Being Wild
focuses on a disillusioned young adult named Yuddy and those around
him. There is no straightforward plot or obvious genre, but Stephen
Teo sees it as a film about the "longing for love". Andy Lau, Maggie
Jacky Cheung rejoined Wong for his second film, while
Leslie Cheung was cast in the central role. Hired as cinematographer
Christopher Doyle , who became one of Wong's most important
collaborators, photographing his next six films.
With its popular stars,
Days of Being Wild was expected to be a
mainstream picture; instead it was a character piece, more concerned
with mood and atmosphere than narrative. Released in December 1990,
the film earned little at the box office and divided critics. Despite
this, it won five
Hong Kong Film Awards, and received some attention
internationally. With its experimental narrative, expressive
camerawork, and themes of lost time and love,
Days of Being Wild is
described by Brunette as the first typical "
Wong Kar-wai film". It
has since gained a reputation as one of Hong Kong's finest releases.
Its initial failure was disheartening for the director, and he could
not gain funding for his next project – a planned sequel.
Ashes Of Time
Struggling to get support for his work, in 1992 Wong formed his own
production company, Jet Tone Films, with
Jeff Lau . In need of
further backing, Wong accepted a studio's offer that he make a wuxia
(ancient martial arts) film based on the popular novel The Legend of
the Condor Heroes by
Jin Yong . Wong was enthusiastic about the
idea, claiming he had long wanted to make a costume drama . He
eventually took little from the book other than three characters, and
in 1992 began experimenting with several different narrative
structures to weave what he called "a very complex tapestry". Filming
began with another all-star cast: Leslie, Maggie, and Jacky Cheung
Brigitte Lin ,
Carina Lau , Charlie Young , and
Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Tony Leung Chiu-wai − the latter of which became one of Wong's key
Set during the
Song dynasty ,
Ashes of Time concerns a desert-exiled
assassin who is called upon by several different characters while
nursing a broken heart. It was a difficult production and the project
was not completed for two years, at a cost of HK$ 47 million. Upon
release in September 1994, audiences were confused by the film's
vague plotting and atypical take on wuxia. Film scholar Martha P.
Nochimson has called it "the most unusual martial arts film ever
made", as fast-paced action scenes are replaced with character
ruminations and story becomes secondary to the use of colour,
landscape, and imagery. As such
Ashes of Time was a commercial
failure, but critics were generally appreciative of Wong's "refusal
to be loyal to genre". The film won several local awards, and
competed at the
Venice Film Festival
Venice Film Festival where
Christopher Doyle won Best
Cinematography. In 2008, Wong reworked the film and re-released it
Ashes of Time Redux.
Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Tony Leung Chiu-wai , Wong's frequent leading man
During the long production of Ashes of Time, Wong faced a two-month
break as he waited for equipment to re-record sound for some scenes.
He was in a negative state, feeling heavy pressure from his backers
and worrying about another failure, and so decided to start a new
project: "I thought I should do something to make myself feel
comfortable about making films again. So I made
Chungking Express ,
which I made like a student film." Conceived and completed within
only six weeks, the new project ended up being released two months
before Ashes of Time.
Chungking Express is split into two distinct parts – both set in
Hong Kong and focusing on lonely policemen (Takeshi
Kaneshiro and Tony Leung Chiu-wai) who each fall for a woman (Brigitte
Faye Wong ). Wong was keen to experiment with "two
crisscrossing stories in one movie" and worked spontaneously, filming
at night what he had written that day. Peter Brunette notes that
Chungking is considerably more fun and lighthearted than the
director's previous efforts, but deals with the same themes. At the
Hong Kong Film Awards it was named Best Picture, and Wong
received Best Director.
Miramax acquired the film for American
distribution, which according to Brunette "catapulted Wong to
international attention". Stephen Schneider includes it in his book
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die with the summary: "While other
films by Wong may pack more emotional resonance, Chungking Express
gets off on sheer innocence, exuberance, and cinematic freedom, a
striking triumph of style over substance".
"Whereas Chungking was sunshiny and suffused with bright, lovely
daytime colors, Fallen Angels is more about neon, and night time, and
Chungking Express and Fallen Angels together are the bright
and dark of Hong Kong." —Journalist Han Ong conversing with Wong
Wong continued to work without break, expanding his ideas from
Chungking Express into another film about alienated young adults in
contemporary Hong Kong. Chungking had originally been conceived as
three stories, but when time ran out Wong developed the third as a new
project instead: Fallen Angels . Although it contained new
characters, Wong conceived both films as complementary studies of Hong
Kong; he later said, "to me
Chungking Express and Fallen Angels are
one film that should be three hours long."
Fallen Angels is broadly considered a crime thriller, and contains
scenes of extreme violence, but is atypical of the genre and heavily
infused with Wong's fragmented, experimental style. The loose plot
again involves two distinct, subtly overlapping narratives, and is
dominated by frantic visuals. The film mostly occurs at night and
explores the dark side of Hong Kong, which Wong planned intentionally
to balance the sweetness of Chungking: "It's fair to show both sides
of a coin".
Takeshi Kaneshiro and Charlie Young were cast again, but
new to Wong's films were
Leon Lai ,
Michelle Reis and
Karen Mok . Upon
release in September 1995, several critics felt that the film was too
Chungking Express and some complained that Wong had become
self-indulgent. Film historians Zhang Yingjin and Xiao Zhiwei
commented: "While not as groundbreaking as its predecessors, the film
is still different and innovative enough to confirm presence on the
WIDESPREAD RECOGNITION (1996–2000)
Leslie Cheung , star of Happy Together (1997) and two other Wong
While his reputation grew steadily throughout the early 1990s, Wong's
international standing was "thoroughly consolidated" with the 1997
romantic drama Happy Together (1997). Its development was influenced
by the Handover of
Hong Kong from Britain to China, which occurred
that year. Wong was widely expected to address the event in his next
film; instead, he avoided the pressure by choosing to shoot in
Argentina. The issues of the Handover were nevertheless important:
knowing that homosexuals in
Hong Kong faced uncertainty after 1997,
Wong decided to focus on a relationship between two men. He was keen
to present the relationship as ordinary and universal, as he felt Hong
LGBT films had not.
Happy Together tells the story of a couple (
Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Tony Leung Chiu-wai and
Leslie Cheung) who travel to
Buenos Aires in an effort to save their
relationship. Wong decided to change the structure and style from his
previous films, as he felt he had become predictable. Teo, Brunette,
and Jeremy Tambling all see Happy Together as a marked change from his
earlier work: the story is more linear and understandable, there are
only three characters (with no women at all), and while it still has
Doyle's "exuberant" photography it is more stylistically restrained.
After a difficult production period – where a six-week shoot was
dragged out to four months – the film was released in May 1997 to
great critical acclaim. It competed for the Palme d\'Or at the Cannes
Film Festival , where Wong became Hong Kong's first winner of the Best
Director Award (an achievement he downplayed: "it makes no
difference, it’s just something you can put on an ad.")
In The Mood For Love
Maggie Cheung , star of
In the Mood For Love
In the Mood For Love and three other
In his 2005 monograph, Brunette gives the opinion that Happy Together
marked "a new stage in artistic development", and along with its
In the Mood For Love
In the Mood For Love (2000) – showcases the director
at "the zenith of his cinematic art." The latter film emerged from a
highly complicated production history that lasted two years. Several
different titles and projects were planned by Wong before they evolved
into the final result: a romantic melodrama set in 1960s Hong Kong
that is seen as an unofficial sequel to Days of Being Wild. Wong
decided to return to the era that fascinated him, and reflected his
own background by focusing on Shanghainese émigrés.
Maggie Cheung and
Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Tony Leung Chiu-wai play the lead characters, who
move into an apartment building on the same day in 1962 and discover
that their spouses are having an affair; over the next four years they
develop a strong attraction. Teo writes that the film is a study of
"typical Chinese reserve and repressed desire", while Schneider
describes how the "strange relationship" is choreographed with "the
grace and rhythm of a waltz" and depicted in "a dreamlike haze by an
The shoot lasted 15 months, with both Cheung and Leung reportedly
driven to breaking point. Wong shot more than 30 times the footage he
eventually used, and only finished editing it the morning before its
Cannes premiere. At the festival,
In the Mood For Love
In the Mood For Love received the
Technical Grand Prize and Best Actor for Leung. It was named Best
Foreign Film by the
National Society of Film Critics and nominated in
the same category by
BAFTA . Wong said after its release: "In the
Mood For Love is the most difficult film in my career so far, and one
of the most important. I am very proud of it." In subsequent years it
has been included on lists of the greatest films of all time.
INTERNATIONAL WORK (2001–2007)
While In The Mood For Love took two years to complete, its sequel –
2046 – took double that time. The film was actually conceived
first, when Wong picked the title as a reference to the final year of
One country, two systems
One country, two systems " promise to Hong Kong. Although
his plans changed and a new film developed, he simultaneously shot
material for 2046, with the first footage dating back to December
1999. Wong immediately continued with the project once In The Mood For
Love was complete, reportedly becoming obsessed with it. In
Bettinson's account, it "became a behemoth, impossible to finish".
2046 continues the story of Chow Mo-wan, Leung's character from In
the Mood For Love, though he is considered much colder and very
different. Wong found that he did not want to leave the character,
and commenced where he left off in 1966; nevertheless, he claimed
"It's another story, about how a man faces his future due to a certain
past". His plans were vague and according to Teo, he set "a new
record in his own method of free-thinking, time-extensive and
improvisatory filmmaking" with the production. Scenes were shot in
Beijing , Shanghai, Hong Kong,
Macau , and
Bangkok . Actresses Zhang
Gong Li were cast to play the women who consume Mo-wan, as
the character plans a science fiction novel titled 2046. The film
premiered at the 2004
Cannes Film Festival
Cannes Film Festival , but Wong delivered the
print 24 hours late and still was not happy: he continued editing
until the film's October release. It was Wong's most expensive and
longest-running project to date. 2046 was a commercial failure in
Hong Kong, but the majority of western critics gave it positive
Ty Burr of
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe praised in as an "enigmatic,
rapturously beautiful meditation on romance and remembrance", while
Steve Erikson of
Los Angeles Magazine called it Wong's masterpiece.
Eros And My Blueberry Nights
Norah Jones starred in Wong's English-language film, My
Blueberry Nights (2007)
Before starting on his next feature, Wong worked on the anthology
film Eros (2004), providing one of three short films (the others
Michelangelo Antonioni and
Steven Soderbergh ) that centre
on the theme of lust. Wong's segment, titled "The Hand", starred Gong
Li as a 1960s call girl and
Chang Chen as her potential client.
Although Eros was not well received, Wong's segment was often called
the most successful.
Following the difficult production of 2046, Wong wanted his next
feature to be a simple, invigorating experience. He decided to make
an English-language film in America, later justifying this by
explaining: "It’s a new landscape. It’s a new background, so
it’s refreshing." After hearing a radio interview with the singer
Norah Jones he immediately decided to contact her, and she signed on
as the lead. Wong's understanding of America was based only on short
visits and what he had seen in films, but he was keen to depict the
country accurately. As such, he co-wrote the film (one of the rare
times a screenplay was pre-prepared) with author
Lawrence Block .
My Blueberry Nights , it focused on a young New Yorker who
leaves for a road trip when she learns that her boyfriend has been
unfaithful. Cast as the figures she meets were
Jude Law , Natalie
Rachel Weisz and
David Strathairn .
My Blueberry Nights took place over seven weeks in 2006,
on location in
Memphis , Ely , and
Las Vegas . Wong
produced it in the same manner as he would in Hong Kong, and the
themes and visual style – despite
Christopher Doyle being replaced
Darius Khondji – remained the same. Premiering
in May 2007,
My Blueberry Nights was Wong's fourth consecutive film to
compete for the
Palme d'Or at Cannes. Although he considered it a
"special experience", critics were not enamoured by the results.
With common complaints that the material was thin and the product
My Blueberry Nights emerged as Wong's first critical failure.
COMMERCIAL SUCCESS (2008–PRESENT)
Wong's next film was not released for five years, as he underwent
another long and difficult production on The Grandmaster (2013) – a
biopic of the martial arts teacher
Ip Man . The idea had occurred to
him in 1999 but he did not commit to it until the completion of My
Ip Man is a legendary figure in Hong Kong, known
for training actor
Bruce Lee in the art of
Wing Chun , but Wong
decided to focus on an earlier period of his life (1936–1956) that
covered the turmoil of the
Second Sino-Japanese War
Second Sino-Japanese War and
World War II
World War II .
He set out to make "a commercial and colourful film". After
considerable research and preparation, filming began in 2009. Tony
Leung Chui-wai rejoined Wong for their seventh film together, having
spent 18 months being trained in Wing Chun, while
Zhang Ziyi played
Gong Er. The "gruelling" production lasted intermittently for three
years, twice interrupted by Leung fracturing his arm, and is Wong's
most expensive to date.
The Grandmaster is described by Bettinson as a mixture of popular and
arthouse traditions, with form, visuals, and themes consistent with
Wong's previous work. Three different versions of the film exist, as
Wong shorted it from its domestic release for the 2013 Berlin Film
Festival , and again for its US distribution by the Weinstein Company
. Described in
Slant Magazine as his most accessible film since his
debut, The Grandmaster won twelve
Hong Kong Film Awards, including
Best Film and Best Director, and received two Academy Award
nominations (Cinematography and Production Design ). Critics approved
of the film, and with a worldwide gross of US$64 million it is Wong's
most lucrative film to date. Wong at the 2008 Toronto
International Film Festival
In September 2017
Amazon Video issued a straight-to-series order for
Tong Wars , a television drama to be directed by Wong. It focuses on
the gang wars that occurred in nineteenth-century
San Francisco .
Regarding his next film, the Asian media has reported that it will be
titled Blossoms and based on a book by Jin Yucheng, which focuses on
numerous characters in
Shanghai from the 1960s to the 2000s. When
asked about his career in 2014, Wong told The Independent, "To be
honest with you, I feel I’m only halfway done."
Wong and his wife, Esther, have one child – a son named Qing. The
director is known for always appearing in sunglasses, which James
Motram of The Independent says adds "to the alluring sense of mystery
that swirls around the man and his movies."
" a heady mix of influences, ranging from modernist novels to
narrative, visual and aural motifs drawn from local films and popular
culture. High and low, new and old, and local and global are all
thrown onto a blank canvas, one that assumes shape ... editing
process." —Giorgio Biancorosso, in
Hong Kong Culture: Word and
Wong is wary of sharing his favourite directors, but has stated that
he watched a range of films growing up – from
Hong Kong genre films
to European art films . They were never labelled as such, and so he
approached them equally and was broadly influenced. The energy of the
Hong Kong films had a "tremendous" impact according to Brunette,
while some of the international names associated with Wong include
Martin Scorsese ,
Michelangelo Antonioni ,
Alfred Hitchcock , and
Bernardo Bertolucci . Some of his favorite contemporary filmmakers
Christopher Nolan , and
Quentin Tarantino . He is
often compared with
French New Wave director
Jean-Luc Godard . Wong's
most direct influence was his colleague Patrick Tam , who was an
important mentor and likely inspired his use of colour.
Outside of cinema, Wong has been heavily influenced by literature. He
has a particular affinity for Latin American writers, and the
fragmentary nature of his films came primarily from the "scrapbook
structures" of novels by
Manuel Puig and
Julio Cortázar , which he
attempted to emulate.
Haruki Murakami , particularly his novel
Norwegian Wood , also provided inspiration, as did the writing of Liu
Yichang . The television channel
MTV was a further influence on Wong.
He said in 1998, "in the late eighties, when it was first shown in
Hong Kong, we were all really impressed with the energy and the
fragmented structure. It seemed like we should go in this direction."
METHOD AND COLLABORATORS
Wong Kar-wai filmography § Casting
Wong has an unusual approach to filmmaking, starting production
without a script and generally relying on instinct and improvisation
rather than pre-prepared ideas. He has said he dislikes writing and
finds filming from a finished script "boring". As such, he writes as
he shoots, "drawing inspiration from the music, the setting, working
conditions, and actors". In advance, the cast are given a minimal
plot outline and expected to develop their characters as they film.
To capture naturalness and spontaneity he does not allow for
rehearsal, and forbids his actors from using "techniques", but
improvisation and collaboration are encouraged. Wong similarly does
not use storyboards or plan camera placement, preferring to experiment
as he goes. His shooting ratio is therefore very high, sometimes
forty takes per scene, and production typically goes well over
schedule and over budget. Tony Leung has commented that this approach
is "taxing on the actors", but Stokes "> Cinematographer
Christopher Doyle , Wong's "defining collaborator"
Though Wong admits to being controlling, and oversees every aspect
the filmmaking process, he has formed several long-lasting
partnerships and close collaborators. In 2013 he said, "It is always
good to work with a very regular group of people because we know how
high we can fly and what are the parameters, and it becomes very
enjoyable." Two men have been instrumental in developing and
achieving his aesthetic: production designer
William Chang and
Christopher Doyle . Chang has worked on every Wong
film and is a trusted confidant, responsible for all set design and
costuming. Doyle photographed seven of his projects, all from Days
of Being Wild to 2046. Stephen Schneider writes that he deserves "much
credit" in Wong's success, as his "masterful use of light and colour
renders every frame a work of art". Wong's other regular colleagues
Jeffrey Lau , producer Jacky Pang, and
assistant director Johnnie Kong.
Wong often casts the same actors. He is strongly associated with Tony
Leung Chiu-wai , who has appeared in every film apart from As Tears Go
By and My Blueberry Nights. Wong describes him as a partner, stating,
"I feel like there is a lot of things between me and Tony that is
beyond words. We don’t need meetings, talks, whatever, because a lot
of things are understood." Other actors who have appeared in at least
three of his films are
Maggie Cheung ,
Chang Chen ,
Leslie Cheung ,
Jacky Cheung , and
Carina Lau .
Wong is known for producing art films focussed on mood and
atmosphere, rather than following convention. His general style is
described by Stephen Teo as "a cornucopia overflowing with multiple
stories, strands of expression, meanings and identities: a
kaleidoscope of colours and identities". Structurally, Wong's films
are typically fragmented and disjointed, with little concern for
linear narrative, and often with interconnected stories. Critics
have commented on the lack of plot in his films, such as
Ty Burr who
says "The director doesn't build linear story lines so much as
concentric rings of narrative and poetic meaning that continually
revolve around each other". Similarly, Peter Brunette says that Wong
"often privileges audio/visual expressivity over narrative structure".
Wong has commented on this, saying "in my logic there is a
storyline." Screenshot from
In the Mood For Love
In the Mood For Love (2000), showing
Wong's use of vivid colour and step-printing
The visual style of Wong's films is key to his work, often described
as beautiful and unique. The colours are bold and saturated, the
camerawork swooning, resulting in what Brunette calls his "signature
visual pyrotechnics". One of his trademarks is the use of
step-printing, which alters film rates to " hard blocks of primary
colour into iridescent streaks of light." Other features of the Wong
aesthetic include slow motion, off-centre framing, the obscuring of
faces, rack focus , filming in the dark or rain, and elliptical
editing. Stephen Schneider writes of Wong's fondness for "playing
with film stock, exposure, and speed the way others might fiddle with
Another trademark of Wong's cinema is his use of music and pop songs.
He places great importance on this element, and Biancorosso
describes it as the "essence" of his films; a key part of the
"narrative machinery" that can guide the rhythm of the editing. He
selects international songs, rarely cantopop , and uses them to
enhance the sense of history or place. According to Julian Stringer,
music has "proved crucial to the emotional and cognitive appeal" of
The dependence on music, heavily-visual and disjointed style of
Wong's films has been compared to music videos, and detractors claim
that they are "all surface and no depth". Curtis K Tsui argues that
style is the substance in Wong's film, while Brunette believes that
his "form remains resolutely in the service of character, theme, and
emotion rather than indulged in for its own sake".
RECOGNITION AND IMPACT
Wong is an important figure in contemporary cinema, regarded as one
of the best filmmakers of his generation. His reputation as a
maverick began early in his career: in the 1996 Encyclopedia of
Chinese Film, Wong was described as having "already established a
secure reputation as one of the most daring avant-garde filmmakers" of
Chinese cinema. Authors Zhang and Xiao concluded that he "occupies a
special place in contemporary film history", and had already "exerted
a sizeable impact". With the subsequent release of Happy Together and
In the Mood For Love, Wong's international standing grew further, and
in 2002 voters for the
British Film Institute
British Film Institute named him the third
greatest director of the previous quarter-century. In 2015, Variety
named him an icon of arthouse cinema.
East Asian scholar Daniel Martin describes Wong's output as "among
the most internationally accessible and critically acclaimed Hong Kong
films of all time". Because of this status abroad, Wong is seen as a
pivotal figure in his local industry; Julian Stringer says he is
"central to the contemporary Chinese cinema renaissance", Gary
Bettinson describes him as "a beacon of
Hong Kong cinema" who "has
kept that industry in the public spotlight", and
Film4 designate him
the filmmaker from
China with the greatest impact. Together with
Zhang Yimou , Wong is seen by historian Philip Kemp as representing
the "internationalisation" of East Asian cinema. Domestically, his
films are generally not financial successes but he has been
consistently well-awarded by local bodies. From early on he was
regarded as Hong Kong's "enfant terrible ", one of their most
iconoclastic filmmakers. Despite this he has been recognised in both
cult and mainstream circles, producing art films that receive
commercial exposure. He is known for confounding audiences, as he
adopts established genres and subverts them with experimental
techniques. "Wong stands as the leading heir to the great directors
of post-WWII Europe: His work combines the playfulness and
disenchantment of Godard , the visual fantasias of Fellini , the chic
existentialism of Antonioni , and Bergman 's brooding uncertainties."
Ty Burr of
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe
Both Stringer and Nochimson claim that Wong has one of the most
distinctive filmmaking styles in the industry. From his first film As
Tears Go By he made an impact with his "liquid" aesthetic, which
Ungerböck claims was completely new and quickly copied in Asian film
and television. His second film, Days of Being Wild, is described by
Brunette as "a landmark in
Hong Kong cinema" for its unconventional
approach. Nochimson writes that Wong's films are entirely personal,
making him an auteur , and states, "Wong has developed his own
cinematic vocabulary, with an array of shot patterns connected with
him". Stringer argues that Wong's success demonstrates the importance
of being "different".
In the 2012 Sight Happy Together and 2046 in the top 500; and Ashes
of Time and As Tears Go By also featured (all but two of Wong's films
to that point) . Directors influenced by Wong include Quentin
Lee Myung-se ,
Tom Tykwer ,
Zhang Yuan ,
Tsui Hark ., and
Barry Jenkins .
FILMOGRAPHY AND AWARDS
Wong Kar-wai filmography and List of awards and
nominations received by
Wong's oeuvre consists of ten directed features, 16 films where is he
credited only as screenwriter, and seven films from other directors
that he has produced. He has also directed commercials, short films,
and music videos, and contributed to two anthology films. He has
received awards and nominations from organisations in Asia, Europe,
North America, and South America. In 2006, Wong accepted the National
Order of the Legion of Honour: Knight (Lowest Degree) from the French
Government. In 2013, he was bestowed with the Order of Arts and
Letters: Commander (Highest Degree) by the French Minister of Culture
International Film Festival of India gave Wong a Lifetime
Achievement Award in 2014.
As Tears Go By
旺角卡門 Wong gok ka moon
Days of Being Wild
阿飛正傳 Ah fei zing zyun
重慶森林 Chung Hing sam lam
Ashes of Time
東邪西毒 Dung che sai duk
墮落天使 Do lok tin si
春光乍洩 Chun gwong cha sit
In the Mood for Love
In the Mood for Love
花樣年華 Fa yeung nin wa
My Blueberry Nights
一代宗師 Yi dai zong shi
* ^ The plot has been compared to
Martin Scorsese 's Mean Streets
(1971). Wong later admitted that he borrowed
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro 's
character from Scorcese's film, but claimed that he was mainly
inspired by the experiences he had as a young man when he was friends
with a low-level gangster.
* ^ In an interview, Wong explained the reasoning and difficulties
behind the restoration: "The laboratory where we stored all our
negatives went bankrupt overnight following the Asian economic crisis
in 1997. So on short notice we had to retrieve all the materials ...
we noticed that some of the original negatives and sound tapes had
deteriorated into pieces. We decided to rescue the film ... We spent
the first few years searching for missing materials ... we realized
that a 100-percent restoration of the original version was out of the
question, so we trimmed out the parts that were beyond repair and
replaced them with other options. From there we embarked on another
five-year journey from restoration to redux".
* ^ Lisa Stokes and Michael Hoover believe Happy Together is even
more strongly linked to the Handover, as they argue that the
relationship of the main characters represents that of
China and Hong
Kong. Jeffrey Tambling agrees this is a viable interpretation. Wong
has denied this, but admits that the title is a reference to his hope
that "we could all be happy together after 1997".
In the Mood For Love
In the Mood For Love is set two years after Days of Being Wild,
and in both films Maggie Cheung's character is named Su Li-zhen.
* ^ The Chinese government stated in 1997 that for 50 years Hong
Kong was guaranteed to stay the same and keep its capitalist economy.
Wong said: "2046 is the last year of this promise and I thought it
would be interesting to use these numbers to make a film about
* ^ Jones had never acted before, but Wong had a history of casting
singers in his films and said it felt "very natural". He also liked
"the idea of this being her first movie and my first movie in English,
which made us equals." Wong insisted that she not take acting
* ^ Wong began the project when there had not been any other Ip Man
biopics, but in the time it took him to make The Grandmaster three
others were released first:
Ip Man (2008),
Ip Man 2 (2010), and The
Legend Is Born:
Ip Man (2010).
* ^ Wong has said that he was obliged to keep the film under two
hours for the US release, but "I didn't want to do it just by cutting
the film shorter ... I just wanted to tell the story in a different
way." He restructured the material, making it more linear and
focussing more on the character of Ip Man, and included new scenes not
seen in the Chinese version. Some critics have argued that the US
version is inferior.
* ^ Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, David (2010). Film History: An
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* Dissanayake, Wimal (2003). Wong Kar-wai's Ashes of Time. Hong
Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 978-9622095847 .
* Kemp, Philip (ed.) (2011). Cinema: The Whole Story. London: Thames
& Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28947-1 . CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list
* Khoo, Olivia; Metzger, Sean (2009). Futures of Chinese Cinema:
Technologies and Temporalities in Chinese Screen Cultures. Chicago:
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* Martin, Daniel (2014). "Body of Action, Face of Authenticity:
Symbolic Stars in the Transnational Marketing and Reception of East
Asian Cinema". In Leung, Wing-fai; Willis, Andy. East Asian Film
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* Nochimson, Martha P. (2010). World on Film. Chichester: John Wiley
& Sons. ISBN 978-1405139786 .
* Schneider, Steven Jay (ed.) (2009). 1001 Movies You Must See
Before You Die . London: Quintessence. ISBN 978-1-84403-680-6 . CS1
maint: Extra text: authors list (link )
* Stokes, Lisa Odham; Hoover, Michael (1999). City on Fire: Hong
Kong Cinema. London: Verso. ISBN 1-85984-203-8 .
* Stringer, Julian (2002). "Wong Kar-wai". In Tasker, Yvonne. Fifty
Contemporary Filmmakers. London: Routledge. pp. 395–402. ISBN
* Tambling, Jeremy (2003). Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together. Hong Kong:
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* Teo, Stephen (2005). Wong Kar-wai. London: British Film Institute.
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