When many folks speak of the revolutions that shaped contemporary cinema, they are more likely to default historically to the French New Wave or the New Hollywood era. Arguably less widely discussed stateside are the First and Second Waves of Hong Kong cinema. Like its western world counterparts, these movements are typically characterized by a collection of zealous film school wunderkinds who brought to the table a grittier, more explosive approach to moviemaking and the subjects they tackled. Of those Hong Kong directors, perhaps none has garnered as much international acclaim as the second-wave prince Wong Kar-Wai.
While many of us at Film Misery are not intimately familiar with his complete filmography, Wong’s reputation certainly precedes him.
Wong has directed a total of nine films since his 1988 debut feature As Tears Go By, which clearly drew inspiration from Scorsese’s Mean Streets. After producing some smaller films – and following the disastrous production of the box office flop Ashes of Time – he finally gained international notoriety upon winning the best director prize at Cannes for his 1997 gay love story Happy Together. Since his breakthrough on the global scene, critics and followers of East Asian cinema have anticipated each of his new films with great fanfare. Sight & Sound named Wong one of the third greatest film director of modern times in 2002, the last time the magazine released such a list. His tenth feature, a Wuxia epic called The Grandmasters, is slated for stateside release in 2012.
Generally known for his ambitious pacing and his gritty yet vibrant style, the ability to wring deeply raw emotions with astounding restraint defines much of Wong’s work. He also surrounds himself with a fairly insular pool of talent, frequently enlisting popular actors like Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Leslie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi. He also regularly enlists the talents of Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle and editor William Chang.
Through the month of November, Film Misery plans to discuss each of Wong’s nine films in mostly chronological order. We plan to cap the marathon with a discussion of his “unofficial trilogy” as well as ranking all nine of his films. In addition to reviewing each of his films on their own terms, we hope to explore what those individual films say about the auteur’s relationship with his key collaborators and about his development from Second Wave enfant terrible to international powerhouse.
Below is the list of the Wong Kar-Wai films we plan on discussing (films marked with an asterisk denotes availability on Netflix Instant Watch):
- As Tears Go By (1988)*
- Chungking Express (1994)
- Ashes of Time (1994)*
- Fallen Angels (1995)*
- Happy Together (1997)*
- My Blueberry Nights (2007)
- Wong’s Unofficial Trilogy: Days of Being Wild (1990)*, In the Mood for Love (2000), 2046 (2004)
We are really excited to begin this Marathon, and we hope you take the time this month to follow it as well!