Getting lost in the works of Wong Kar Wai

GFT Youth Board member, Sofia is over the moon that the films of Wong Kar Wai are returning to GFT's screens throughout July and August. Here she shares what she loves about his films and why she can't wait to see them on the big screen.

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Lockdown has been filled with gloom as I’ve had to watch films in the most claustrophobic sense by huddling up to my laptop, or huffing post battle for the television remote. I’ve sighed and sighed, moped about, wishing to see good films back in a dark theatre, on an impossibly big screen once again in my lifetime (this was in my more dramatic and dire moments). When I found out that Wong Kar Wai’s films were going to be brought back in stunning 4K to the cinema, I ran, danced, and thought, 'Finally, something is looking up!' I’m excited. I’m thrilled. And I’ll probably be at every screening possible at the GFT.

Some of the most popular filmmakers within this generation are ones that stand out in style (the likes of Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, being first on most minds) but no one’s work exudes style in the true sense as lusciously as Wong Kar Wai, in my humble opinion. The Hong Kong film director’s filmography starts all the way back to 1988 (rather vintage for my young age) with his debut film As Tears Go By, running all the way to his most recent, the 2013 hit The Grandmaster. His visually grandiose taste exceeds mere aesthetic and translates to filmic expressions of lost love, moody melancholy, and quirky comedy. He builds gorgeous worlds for both his audience and characters to get lost in.

Arguably, his most acclaimed and favoured film, In the Mood for Love (2000) is copiously hailed as one of the greatest films of the 21st century. It’s one of his most effective films, in that it embodies everything his work is loved for; gorgeous cinematography, dreamy reality, framing that is both beautiful and contemplative, and characters that sound poetic both in silence and internal monologue. The score is atmospheric and instantly recognisable – it’s as striking as his visuals. I first watched the film in my living room (with family interruptions galore) and I’m counting the days until I get to sit quietly in the GFT and get truly lost within it once more.

Wong is also known for giving his films a thread and a shared world. Chungking Express (1994) and Fallen Angels (1995) are films I love for their blend of sadness, wistfulness, romance, and comedy. Wong Kar Wai himself has commented that they should be watched together as a double bill, one after the other – Chungking Express followed by Fallen Angels. They are stylistically two very different movies with differing atmospheres. The latter is dark and moody while the former is brighter with an optimistic colour palette. Wong describes their core similarity and link being the city, Hong Kong; 'Chungking Express and Fallen Angels together are the bright and dark of Hong Kong,' he said in an interview.

Another tip for a deeper understanding of his works is to know that Wong has put three of his films into an informal trilogy as so: Days of Being Wild (1990), In the Mood for Love (2001), and 2046 (2004). With recurring stars such as Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, Wong has created what could be described as sequels or alternate worlds for his characters.

The personal touch and handwriting lent to his works can only make him an auteur, and a key one at that. He’s versatile, going from crime dramas to sci-fi all the way to martial arts action. His impressive filmography is always underlined by his constant recognition of the beauty cinema has to offer. He uses the art of visual storytelling to its fullest capacity and makes cinema an event as well a story.

And so it will be in the cinema that I will be to watch his newly restored works come back to life.

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