WONG KAR WAI MARATHON: WKW’s Top 5 Films

We finally did it.

A month and a half, nine films and countless words after we began, the Film Misery staff has finally finished our Wong Kar Wai Marathon. It took considerable effort to get through the legendary Hong Kong director’s filmography, but I wouldn’t exactly call our Marathon a chore. Hardly any of us were all that familiar with Wong’s work to begin with, and we came out of the Marathon feeling like we have finally come to understand the work of a deeply gifted storyteller whose stories are consistently flecked with bittersweet truths, profound insight and a deeply-rooted love for cinema. If you didn’t get a chance to follow this Marathon throughout the past few weeks, we strongly urge you to catch up with Wong’s work as soon as you can.

The Film Misery staff took the time to determine our collective five favorite films of Wong Kar Wai’s oeuvre, and ranked them accordingly. You can read our final picks below:

5) Fallen Angels (1995)

The playfulness that Wong Kar Wai establishes in Chungking Express is turned up to eleven for his unofficial sequel, Fallen Angels. Some of the characters return with newly added obstructions, like the former policeman who is now a mute outlaw. Out of all of Kar Wai’s movies, Fallen Angels exhibits some of the best visual flourishes, and one of the best photographic examinations of his beloved Hong Kong. The juxtaposition of a cold blooded hitman mercilessly slaughtering a room full of people with the well-meaning policeman kidnapping a family and forcing them to eat ice cream is riotously funny. Kar Wai is less interested in examining the mystery of love in this film, but it is an essential addition to his canon nonetheless. — Alex Carlson

 4) Happy Together (1997)

Happy Together is less about love than it is about destruction. It is about our fallibility, our inexplicable urge to be with the people we claim to love even if we hurt them and they hurt us in return. Lai and Ho’s relationship is unstable and fiery, and Wong Kar Wai’s gritty cinematography matches their tattered lives. Like Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, Happy Together speaks about urban alienation and the need to find permanence in an ever-changing landscape. This time, the milieu is Buenos Aires, where both Lai and Ho continually try to start over and repair their damaged relationship. But in the end, they might find their redemption not in each other but in liberating themselves from the false sense of security that they feel in each other’s company. Theirs is one of Wong’s most fragile and human relationships, and Happy Together certainly one of his most captivating films. — Vinny Tagle

3) 2046 (2004)

2046 is a frighteningly unique sequel (if it really bears credibility to hold that title) that deftly adds vague notions of science fiction to a previously grounded series. Granted the connections to Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love. The film is seemingly a meditation on the nature of memory, whose distinct opinion is up for interpretation. Much like Wong Kar-Wai’s other films (most specifically My Blueberry Nights), trains are used as a very blatant visual metaphor. It is at once phallic and transient. They seem to be always presents and always in passing without literal transportation or passing as there purpose in the film. 2046 is a film that is easier viewed than described. It has several story arcs, told through three acts. The main plot revolving around a man liiving next to room 2046 in which he encounters many women. It is at once a complicated story and a film lacking centralized narrative. But most importantly, it a is a film told as only Won Kar-Wai can manage. And it is a visual splendor to the eyes. — Davin Lacksonen

2) Chungking Express (1994)

Wong Kar Wai’s first film to gather international acclaim is still viewed by many to be his best. Written and produced during a break on his big budget Ashes of Time, Chungking Express exhibits many of the stylistic flourishes that apparently come natural to Kar Wai – candy colored lighting, intimate camerawork, and a love for American music from the 1960s. The seamless shift between parallel love stories wonderfully reflects his improvisatory style and shows that even in the densely populated urban environment of Hong Kong, there can still be isolation. The words spoken by the characters are unimportant (and easily forgettable) as Chungking Express is all about the imagery that shows us the coy and playful nature of unrequited love. — Alex Carlson

1) In the Mood for Love (2000)

In some ways, Wong’s seventh film is his most anomalous. There are no voiceovers to narrate the characters’ emotions and the frenetic Christopher Doyle camerawork that gave Chungking Express and Fallen Angels their distinctive beauty is nowhere to be found. In other ways, though, In the Mood for Love feels like the moment where so many of the director’s best-defined sensibilities – the deeply emotive framing of his imagery, his ability to mesh romantic nostalgia seamlessly with melancholy and desperation – have been refined to the point that the resulting movie aches with stunning precision and singularity. In the Mood for Love is more than Wong’s deepest, most restrained and most thematically piercing work. It ranks  the very best films to have come out in this still-very-young century. — Justin Jagoe

Wong's 10th film 'The Grandmasters,' starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, is slated for a 2012 release. Rest assured we'll be reviewing it.

The complete list of write-ups in Film Misery’s Wong Kar Wai Marathon:

Did you join the Film Misery staff in this Marathon? If so, what is your favorite of Wong Kar Wai’s films?

, , , , , , ,

  • Josh

    Christopher Doyle was the DP for In the Mood for Love. I’m sure you already know this, but what you wrote makes it sound as if he was not.

Privacy Polcy | Contact Us