February 1, 2009

Wong Kar-Wai

Happy Chinese New Year! Born in Kowloon, Hong Kong, and moving to the States when I was just a young child, I was always happy to retain some of my ability to speak and understand Cantonese. It certainly helps when ordering authentic Chinese cuisine or buying local groceries. New York however, was and of course continues to be a tough place to fit in (for anyone), but especially so if you're a first generation immigrant who didn't speak any English. Let's just say people can be cruel. I remember always looking for something to grasp on to, something to make sense out of this crazy world I carefully kept one foot in and one foot out of.

The Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, and his lush, colorful, and invariably romantic films first came to my attention in the 90s. His Hong Kong reminded me of my Hong Kong from the 70s, and of course what I always imagined my parents' Hong Kong from the 50s and 60s to have been like. Finding hope and possibly love in a beautiful and chaotic sea of people. Of course, it's all just the movies, but Wong Kar-Wai's "Days of Being Wild" from 1990 hit me the moment I heard the phrase "friends for one minute", and saw the image of palm trees swaying to the sounds of "Maria Elena" by Los Indios Tabajaras. It felt like home.

According to Wikipedia, Wong Kar-Wai originally graduated from the Hong Kong Polytechnic College with a graphic design degree. It makes sense, in the way every scene is carefully composed - with colors, costumes, backdrops, and music...all taken into mind. No director has a richer palette in contemporary cinema. In what has to rank as one of my top ten romance films of all time, 1994's "Chungking Express" placed added weight to "California Dreamin" by The Mamas and The Papas, and to "Dreams" by the Cranberries, as reinterpreted by Faye Wong. I was hooked.

So make it a video night and learn more about the artistic side of Hong Kong cinema. As an endnote, take a look at this fantastic compilation of music and footage from 2000's "In the Mood for Love" starring Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung that I found on YouTube as put together by objesguy. Yearning, whether for love, for home, or for something idealized...far away...it's a feeling that Wong Kar-Wai gets...and he gets it beautifully. - PS

In The Mood For Love Music Video compiled by objesguy

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