Wong Kar Wai. Photo is via Wikimedia Commons Wong Kar Wai. Photo is via Wikimedia Commons

Happy birthday Wong Kar Wai

Mon, Jul. 17, 2017
CAIRO- 17 July 2017: Today Marks the 58th birthday of the famous Chinese director Wong Kar Wai, who is unfortunately not famous among Egyptian and Arab audience.

When Cinephiles around the world think of Hong Kong Cinéma d’Auteur the first thought that comes to mind is the renowned name: Wong Kar Wai. Many got to know Wong Kar Wai from his hit-movie ‘In the Mood for Love,’ starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, released in 2000.

What only a few know about him is that in the early 90s Wong Kar Wai was having difficulties financing his movies so he decided to take responsibility and with the help of his fellow Hong Kong 2nd wave cinema moviemakers and screenwriters Jeffrey Lau and Jacky Pang, they established an independent production company and called it 'Jet Tone Movies', until the day of today, Jet Tone Movies keeps producing top hit Hong Kong movies which the audience waits for.

What amazed cinephiles about ’In the Mood for Love’ is this ‘chaotic order, this ‘disciplined mess’ WKW was able to create. All the scenes were composed inside a ‘frame’ and the décor that is supposedly from the 60’s period in Hong Kong was extremely well thought through, every single detail, from the corridors, the rooms and the streets to the objects on the table, the ‘tableaux’, the mirrors, the characters hairstyles and their clothing. Adding to this, an accurate, short dialogue that is used only when needed, WKW knows the importance of silence and the impact it can have on people, so most of the scenes are portrayed through body language, slight glances, hand gestures and slow movements.

Everything about this movie is screaming passion, but what differentiates Wong Kar Wai from the other directors is this feeling of exile, the characters in his movie are not understood, no matter how much we try to get in their minds and understand what they are thinking about, they are unpredictable escapists that rarely show their emotions, seeking refuge in a cold, strong, almost arrogant exterior.

They prefer to stay in their own silent bubble than having to interact with the outside world, which consists of people who cannot really understand or feel them. Another common trait between them is their edgy/rebel style and their strong character. They are all wise, mature, independent characters that are unable to conform to reality. Which makes me think, what if all these characters are actually different parts of WKW that he is trying to bring to life? What if in every character he could find himself, this misunderstood, frustrated, lonely, passionate, devoted, sage soul?

All his movies have an atmosphere of mystery and isolation, Wong Kar Wai was able to create a state of mind that is hard to copy or repeat. Among his biggest hits were: ‘As Tears go By (1988)’, ‘Days of Being Wild (1990)’, ‘Chungking Express (1994)’, ‘Ashes of Time (1994)’, ‘Fallen Angels (1995)’, ‘Happy Together (1997)’, ‘Eros (2004)’, ‘2046 (2004)’, ‘My Blueberry Nights’ (2007), ‘To Each His Own Cinema (2007)’ and ‘The Grandmaster (2013)’. The main actors in his movies (I call them the Hong Kong 2nd Wave Squad) are Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Leslie Cheung, Faye Wong, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Karina Lau, Andy Lau, Leon Lai and Michelle Reis.

WKW feels comfortable working with them and this is why he prefers keeping them in his movies instead of working with new actors, in many interviews he said that in his opinion they were not only the best actors in Hong Kong, but also ones of the best actors on a global scale.

He thought the same about the main cinematographers of his movies: Christopher Doyle, William Chang, Kwan Pun Leung and Mark Lee Ping Bin. So many genius minds gathered together and a consistency in what they presented was what made them one of the greatest movie teams not only in Hong Kong, but in the whole world.

Winning awards from Cannes Festival in France, the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics in Belgium, National Society of Movie Critics and New York Movie Critics in the United States, Argentinian Movie Critics in Argentina, Australian Movie Institute in Australia, BAFTA in the United Kingdom, German Movie Awards in Germany, and many, many more.

They created a new wave of cinema where aesthetics didn’t have to be organised and perfect but could be messy and confusing and still be as beautiful, attractive and more thought through than the typical Hollywood cinema.

The feeling of exile and unfamiliarity Wong Kar Wai had to endure in his personal life after moving from Shanghai, the city where he was born, to Hong Kong and being separated from his father and siblings for 10 years because of the borders during the Cultural Revolution.

This inspired him to create a new wave of cinema and allowed him to become one of the best avant-garde moviemakers in the world. His struggles were the reason behind the creation of many of his characters that keep on inspiring many cinephiles who want to understand how cinema feels and works.

He said in one of his interviews that his only hobby when he was young was going to the cinema with his mother and watching all the possible movies that he could watch, this is how he got his inspiration from hundreds of directors from everywhere around the world. From Alfred Hitchcock, Michelangelo Antonioni and Bernardo Bertolucci to Scorsese, Nolan, Tarantino and Jean-Luc Godard.

His love for Argentina, South America and the Boom authors: Cortazar, Neruda, Vargas Llosa and Marques; was the main element behind ‘Happy Together (1995)’, one of his most popular movies, which was shot in Argentina and had many Argentinean influences, specifically the tango and the milongas.

Wong Kar Wai is a soul always on the lookout of a refuge, a home, a city he could feel accustomed to, a place of familiarity, but always ending up lost and frustrated. Wong Kar Wai is someone that can’t be categorised, who is unable to conform to the reality that surrounds them, he is an exuberant traveller in exile.

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