Wong Kar-wai at the End of Time 

The Movies

Chungking Express

Fallen Angels

As Tears Go By

Final Victory

Days of Being Wild

Happy Together

Special Events

He [Wong Kar-wai] is also a poet of time. No other director since the (distant) heyday of Alain Resnais has been so attuned to the effects of time on memory, sensation and emotion. Few other directors have ever imbued their movies with such a metaphysical sense of time at work: dilating, stretching, lurching, dragging, speeding by."
-- Tony Rayns, in Sight and Sound, upon the release of Chungking Express

Currently susceptible to some sort of millennial craze, Asian Media Access finds it an appropriate time to commemorate and reconsider the work of one of our favorite filmmakers. Intermittently, from January through March, Asian Media Access will be presenting the entire directorial work of Wong Kar-wai, one of the finest Hong Kong filmmakers of the 20th Century and the one whose work we look most forward to in the 21st.

Also, and more apropos, Wong Kar-wai's work is insistently about time. The distinctive style that he and frequent collaborator cinematographer Christopher Doyle have come up with billboards time technically: the insistent use of jump cuts, the use of different film speeds while directing actors to perform at slower paces, and the dazzling use of optical printing to create wonderful blurs of color all present time as a unfixed filmic component. By toying with film time so, they offer time as a constant complication, a dilemma, a factor in need of resolution.

Wong Kar-waiWong's work also insistently presents characters, principally men, as somehow out-of-sync: time becomes a narrative and thematic concern. Paralyzed by memories of loves past and at best indifferent to the future, his characters are temporally lodged elsewhere, mostly just passing their time through the present, counting some other year's days. Obsessed with the story of his birth mother and rumors of his origin, Yuddy in Days of Being Wild just skids through the present as a serial Romeo. (Insistently clock-adorned, this film also features the historicization of a single minute as a landmark date and a train ride of an impossible duration.) Lovelorn swordsmen populate the desert of Ashes of Time, killing their time between their hired killings awash in memories of former loves. And Cop #223 in Chungking Express obsessively collects cans of pineapple, their approaching expiration date an hourglass to mark the end of a relationship and the passing of his 24th year.

However marked by longing, Wong Kar-wai's films recognize the pleasures of the fleeting encounter (sigh), and the stories tend to center around way-station sites of transience (city streets, bars, fast food stands, the night time). His last two films, Fallen Angels and Happy Together, with their introduction of relationships to fathers as a thematic concern, more insistently suggest this in-betweenness as a kind of prolonged adolescence. (They also emphasize that, in Wong's films, time might pass differently for men than women.) Adrift in time's flux, Wong Kar-wai's characters have a remarkable incapacity of maintaining or finding a fixed and stable home.

With all of the counting of days that 1999 promotes, Asian Media Access offers the films of Wong Kar-wai as our contribution to the question mark that is the millennium. But, while we recognize the for-the-ages artistic accomplishment and the thematic significance of his work, we also, frankly, just thoroughly dig these films. With their generous slyness, intoxicating visual surfaces, entrancing music, and deployment of the most attractive of movie stars, these films are, for us, pure movie-going pleasure. In Chungking Express, Faye repeatedly and delightedly plays and replays her favorite song, the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'." We understand the impulse: we'd be happy to project these films over and over, millennium or not.

In this festival, we will present all of Wong Kar-wai's films, including a special double bill of Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, two films originally conceived of as parts of the same story. We will also present his first directorial effort As Tears Go By with Patrick Tam's Final Victory, the film version of what Wong Kar-wai considers to be his best screenplay. The two films are the first and last parts of an at-one-time projected gangsterland trilogy.

We will complement these screenings by presenting films for which Wong Kar-wai served as a screenwriter in our Cinema with Passion series playing at the Riverview and, soon, Oak Street Cinema. And with the CwP presentation of Haunted Cop Shop II, we will offer a rare cameo performance by the director himself.

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