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'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.