On His Birthday, Admire the Love & Longing of Wong Kar-wai with 20 of His Best Scenes

Watching a Wong Kar-wai film can be an overwhelming experience. Of course there’s the technical mastery and his beautiful storytelling, but there’s also an atmosphere he creates—a tone and texture that weighs heavy on his films and hits directly in the heart. Between the brilliant actors like Tony Leung, Faye Wong, and Maggie Cheung that populate his films, the incomparable skill for soundtracking his films, and the signature and striking cinematography throughout his oeuvre, there’s so much to love and so much emotion to be experienced with each of his films. Whether it’s his early features like Happy Together and Fallen Angels, or his classic duo In the Mood for Love and 2046, the existential romantic yearnings, desires, and the thwarted passion evoked from his work occupy the same internal space, residing in the warmest corners of your heart, filling you with an inevitable sense of sorrow but also an ineffable joy and pleasure in the arduous nature of excruciating love.

As today marks the director’s 57th birthday, let’s take a look back on some of his most cinematically brilliant, emotional, brutal, and stunning moments.

California Dreamin’, Chungking Express

I Don’t Care If You Love Me or Not, I’ll Love You Anyways, 2046 

Do You Have a Mistress?, In the Mood for Love

Dreams, Chungking Express

Expired Love, Chungking Express

Bar Scene, Fallen Angels 

I’ll Be Your Tree, 2046

Wherever You Want to Go, Chungking Express

Part 1, Fallen Angels

Mambo Dance, Days of Being Wild

Languid Passing, In the Mood for Love 

Dancing Scene, Happy Together 

Final Scene, Days of Being Wild

The End, In the Mood for Love

Take my Breath Away, As Tears Go By

In the Mood for Love Deleted Scene

Part 1, Happy Together

In the Mood for Love‘s Final Sequence

Soon We’ll Know, Happy Together 

We Shouldn’t Have Panicked, In the Mood for Love

Running Back To the Romance of ‘Chungking Express’ With Quentin Tarantino

If you weave your way through director Wong Kar-wai’s stunning oeuvre, you’ll find that his films are wont to be populated with wistful, forsaken characters plagued by their own specific existential romantic yearning. Whether it’s his early films like Happy Together and Fallen Angels, or his classic duo In the Mood for Love and 2046, the trail of tears and emotions of his work occupy the same internal space, residing in the warmest corners of your heart, filling you with an inevitable sense of sorrrow but also an ineffable joy and pleasure in the arduous nature of love.

And one of his most acclaimed films, 1994’s Chungking Express is a dizzyingly beautiful picture, packed with incredibly well-shot moments—thanks in large part to cinematographer Christopher Doyle’s phenomenal eye. The film’s colorful world swirls around the screen like a melting impressionist painting, illuminated by the The Cranberries’ “Dreams,” the Mama’s and the Papa’s “California Dreamin,” and the rest of it’s perfectly curated soundtrack. The camera waltzes about its characters, always in motion to tell the story a lovestruck tale that proves desire doesn’t always have an expiration date.

Roger Ebert wrote about his experience watching the kinetic and enchanting film back in 1996, saying:

At UCLA last summer, Quentin Tarantino introduced a screening of “Chungking Express” and confessed that while watching it on video, “I just started crying.” He cried not because the movie was sad, he said, but because “I’m just so happy to love a movie this much.” I didn’t have to take out my handkerchief a single time during the film, and I didn’t love it nearly as much as he did, but I know what he meant: This is the kind of movie you’ll relate to if you love film itself, rather than its surface aspects such as story and stars. It’s not a movie for casual audiences, and it may not reveal all its secrets the first time through, but it announces Wong Kar-Wai, its Hong Kong-based director, as a filmmaker in the tradition of Jean-Luc Godard.

And it’s true, no one loves this movie more than Quentin Tarantino. And if you haven’t seen him geek out about it, you’re going to need to. In the clip below he introduces the film, expressing his love for Wong Kar-wai’s previous work, before going in depth about the female characters in Chungking and about the infectious nature of cinema and how loving movies is enough to be able to make a good movie yourself.

So check out Tarantino gushing about Chungking Express below and let’s take a walk through the film’s wonderful soundtrack because lifeis short and “a person may like pineapple today and something else tomorrow.”

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From Wong Kar-wai to John Waters, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing in New York City This Weekend

If Wong Kar-wai has taught us anything from his films, it’s that love is all a matter of timing. What we hold in the grandest of proportions can be unhinged from the smallest fraction of time, whether we’ve met the right person too late or allowed moments to slip through our fingers in an earlier life. But as tomorrow begins the start to another weekend, you’ll have two days of relaxation to reflect on the myriad ways time has put a expiration date on the many loves that pass in and out of our lives. 

Or, if you’re looking for a more productive and pleasurable way to spend your time, you can head down to the cinema and dive headfirst into Kar-wai’s world with two of his best films as well as his latest. But if you’re looking for something more, there’s plenty of classics invading our cinemas this weekend—from British psychodramas to sci-fi thrillers and chillers. And alongside, we’d got some of the best premieres of the summer that show just how amazing some of independent cinema’s new talent truly is. So whatever your film fancy, peruse our list, find yourself a king size bag of candy and curl up in a darkened theater tomorrow night. Enjoy.  

 

Film Forum

The Servant
The Patience Stone
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The Fearless Vampire Killers
Blacula
Creature From the Black Lagoon
The Incredible Shrinking Man

IFC Center

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
The Canyons
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
El Topo
The Happy Sad
Prince Avalanche
A Perfect World
Una Noche
Devil’s Pass
Frances Ha

BAM

Blue Jasmine
Odds Against Tomorrow
Black Natchez
Fruitvale Station
The Spectacular Now
The World’s End
Nothing But a Man
Two Thousand Maniacs!
A Raisin in the Sun

Nitehawk

The Jerk
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Fruitvale Station
In a World…
Caddy Shack
New York Ripper
It

Film Linc

Pink Flamingos
Short Term 12
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Game Change
Therese
The 17th Parallel
Blackfish
La Commune
The Pirate
Attica 

MoMA

Shadows
Old Cats
The Student

Museum of the Moving Image

2046
In the Mood for Love
Midnight Cowboy
Coogan’s Bluff
The French Connection
Across 110th Street

Landmark Sunshine

Drinking Buddies
Cutie and the Boxer
In a World…
The Spectacular Now
Short Term 12
Footloose

Angelika Film Center

The Grandmaster
Therese
Lovelace
Austenland
Blue Jasmine

Diving Into the World of ‘The Grandmaster’ With Wong Kar-wai

It’s a restless moment. Wong Kar-wai keeps his head lowered…to give me a chance to stay away. But I could not, for too much interest. He turns, takes off his sunglasses, and tells me he hates me. It’s a bizarre and memorable first encounter between me and the beloved director, but in time, he pats my backpack and reveals that he was only joking—he doesn’t hate me. I can once again breathe. We continue.

But if there’s anyone you wouldn’t mind sharing an unusual moment with, it’s the man who has crafted some of the most achingly beautiful and imaginative films—love stories that have eternally stained your heart. Whether it’s his kinetic and melting watercolor portrait of love’s longing with Chungking Express or the lurid and languid impossible desire of In the Mood for Love, Kar-wai’s oeuvre paints a delicate balance between the elegant and the sensual, filled with still moments that reverberate with the soul’s cry for that which it cannot obtain. 
 
As an obsessive and meticulous filmmaker, we inhabit the world’s of his films as if being absorbed into their presence, offering us a portal into a very specific place and time that not only oozes with emotion but the sounds and textures of his characters’ existence. And with his latest film, the decade-spanning kung fu epic, The Grandmaster, we see Kar-wai venture back into Ashes of Time territory, but with a far more powerful and impassioned look at not simply one man’s journey but the legacy of an artform.
 
Telling the story of legendary master of Wing Chun and the mentor of Bruce Lee, Ip Man, The Grandmaster is a film six years in the making—and as it has been cut from it’s original Chinese version to meet US requirements—may continue to evolve with time. Inspired by the life and times of Ip Man, the film takes us through the golden age of Chinese martial arts. Played by the brilliant Tony Leung, whose career has become synonymous with Kar-wai’s, we see him fully embody Ip Man with precision, stepping into a role unlike any we’ve seen him take on before. 
 
Last week, I got the chance to sit down with Kar-wai to discuss his attraction to the world of martial arts, diving headfirst into the unknown, and capturing the essence of the past.
 
This film is an obvious departure from your most recent films yet still feels right at home with your work. Was martial arts always a subject of fascination for you?

I wanted to do something very different from what I’ve been doing. I’ve always been fascinated with Chinese martial arts, but actually I never had the chance to practice. I always saw on the streets people going to martial arts school, but in those days parents didn’t encourage kids to practice kung fu. So at the end of the film there’s a scene with the kids standing in front of the Ip Man school, and in the film it’s Bruce Lee, but it could be me. I was always thinking, what’s so mysterious about this king fu and are they really that great? I think because of this film, I can walk through this door and find out exactly what is this world of martial arts.
 
Did you also want to tell, not only a personal story, but one about the legacy of martial arts and the effect it’s had on Chinese culture?

Yes, that’s right. There are so many kung fu films made before this, and most of them, it’s about who is the best fighter and about revenge. But most of the time it’s about the hero or the technique, and in a way, I wanted to make a film more than that. I needed to find an angle, and a big part of the Chinese martial arts tradition is about passing on the torch and about the legacy. This is an angle that can give me perspective, which can make this film original or different from the others.
 
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Your films always play with the passing of time in an interesting and fragmented way. Not on in the arc of the story as a whole but in each moment, which lends itself here perfectly. What did you see as this film’s relationship with time?

In most of the films, the characters live for the time. And in most kung fu films, you need to make the hero more heroic—you always have a bad guy, there’s opponents and something they have to fight with and for. But when we look at the story of Ip Man, it’s not about a physical opponent, it’s really about time that he has to deal with. He has to fight with time and he has to fight with ups and downs of his life. When you look at his life story, he was born when China was still in the Imperial time and he went through the early days of the Republic, the civil war and then the Japanese invasions, the second civil war, and later on ended up in Hong Kong. He was born with a silver spoon, but at the end of his life he almost lost everything except the commitment. So it’s an interesting story and it’s something I think will bring a new perspective to the audience. 
 
There’s a gracefulness and lyricalness to your style of filmmaking, and especially in the way people use their bodies. And with this film, that’s taken to the highest degree with the fight choreography. It’s so skillfully done and precise, it feels almost like you’re watching a ballet. Was there a particular way you wanted the fighting to be portrayed aesthetically?

One thing I noticed when I was doing the research—because I spent three years on the road and attended hundreds of demonstrations—with all these great martial artists, no matter if they are 60 years old or a normal person like a teacher or a worker in the train station, when they do the demonstrations it’s always very elegant, it’s a different presence. The Chinese martial arts is more about the balance, not just the balance of the body, but also the internal balance. And when you look at the form, it’s not when they’re moving but when they’re posing, it’s already very elegant. So when you look at the choreography of this film, we wanted all the action to be authentic. It’s not just going to be wire or a show or trick—if Tony plays Ip Man, all his movements should follow the rules. And in a way they’re very beautiful to look at, but in fact, if you know the skill, all these moves are actually very deadly.
 
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Can you tell me about working with Tony on the film? He’s someone you’ve worked with many times now, you’re work very closely linked with one another, so what was the preparation process like?
I think it’s two sides. First of all, I think audiences have seen many films about Ip Man and things in those films, you see Ip Man the fighter, but when you look at his story, he’s not the typical fighter, he’s coming from a very rich background. People who have seen him, and when you’re doing interviews with his students or family, he doesn’t seem like a fighter at all, he’s very elegant and almost like an intellectual or a teacher. So it’s very difficult to cast someone for Ip Man just by casting an action star because you need to have all these layers and this elegance, which I was sure Tony could deliver.
 
But the problem was, can he deliver actions, can he fight? So this is something that, for me, was the biggest challenge for Tony. So when I proposed this role to him, he wanted to do it because he’s never done any action film before and he’s a big fan of Bruce Lee and it was a big opportunity for him to prove himself to be the master of his idol. So in fact he went through three years of training and broke his arm twice. But the thing is, without this training, it’s not really about action. The training is so intense, you have to do it daily for four, five hours and with this training you know the discipline of a martial artist so you know exactly how to sit, how to react, how to move. I think that’s a very, very important process with him.
 
And in having the relationship that you two share, I’m sure that helped in building the trust needed to push himself to where he needed to go as Ip Man.

Of course it’s the trust between us and also it’s something that is a journey for himself. The first time he broke his arm, it was totally by accident in rehearsal and the thing is, he was at his peak at that point because he was fresh from the training and he had full confidence to perform the first action scene. But somehow he broke his arm during the rehearsal yet never thought about quitting. He said that means this journey was something he had to finish, so he had a cast on his arm but he was always on set, he was always going to be there to support the picture. 
 
There’s a meticulous beauty to all of your work and with this film you had to build an entire world. The set design, costumes, everything was so stunning and detailed. Having worked on the film for many years, did you have a wealth of visual references and research that you build from?
When we were doing the research on this film, we realized that basically there’s not a lot of visual references from that time because in those days taking pictures was something that was very expensive. The only archive reference that we have is always about group photos—either family photos or photos from a party or a meeting—very formal. And that’s why when I looked at it, I thought maybe there’s a way to structure his film like photo albums. Every chapter with the group shots, and I said the character of Ip Man, he comes from a very rich family and also like Gong Er is from a very important family. So they actually belong to a class which doesn’t exist today, it’s more like aristocrats. So these people, they are very meticulous about the look and they are very disciplined and elegant and well-educated. I just wanted to make sure that it’s right, because every detail—the costumes, the way they behave, and even the set—I haven’t seen any martial arts films correctly or precisely that capture that essence.
 
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Had the idea to make a film like this been brewing in your mind for a long time, even when working on your previous films?
Yeah, but I knew it was going to be a huge world because you have to rebuild the time. The time has three chapters—one in the south in the 30s, and then 40s in the north, and then the 50s in Hong Kong, so basically it’s an epic film and martial arts is not something that I have done before. So the process is like: you want to have a swim in the winter but you know it’s very cold, it’s freezing so you just walk around the swimming pool and it takes some time, so eventually you just say, okay I’ll jump in.
 
The theme of complex love is something that you’re clearly taken with and something that translates to audiences internationally—everyone understands what it is to yearn for someone or lose their chance at love—but with this film, the themes are more centralized.

In a way, in this film, there are certain things that are very universal. The family values and the responsibilities in front of the most critical feelings, the relationship between daughters and fathers, and family honors—those can be easily understood by everyone. And the relationship between Gong Er and Ip Man, I won’t say it is purely physical or just because they are man and woman. In fact, it’s like a mutual appreciation because they are from the same background, they are like two grandmasters playing chess. And it is something that they feel find in each other and it is a comradeship. At the end of the film when Ip Man has this long goodbye, I don’t think it is only to a friend or a lover or someone you admire, it is also a farewell to his past and the best time of his life.
 
There’s been much discussion about the distinctions between the original Chinese cut of the film and the trimming you had to do for the US. What was that process like and how did you go about finding a way to make it work for you?

The original version of the film is like two hours and ten minutes, but we have an obligation to release the film in the United States within two hours. So for a lot of people, it might be a relatively simple process just to cut it short and trim it and take out some scenes. But I find original, the structure of the original version, is very precise. If I’m going to take things out and simply cut it shorter, the film doesn’t feel right for me. So instead I’m thinking, maybe I should tell the story in a different way. Without doing just the trimming, I replace some of the scenes with unseen footage and to build a story in more focus from the perspective of Ip Man and his time in Hong Kong before the reunion. I think for the US audience, because they have a long history with the genre—besides Chinese audiences the American audience is basically the expert of king fu film—we can just make it more simple with captions and focus more on the meat of the story between these two martial artists.
 
So you’re happy with it then?
I’m very proud of this.

Watch Quentin Tarantino Discuss His Favorite Films From 1992 to 2009

With the release of his latest feature, The Grandmaster, director Wong Kar-wai has critics and audience members scrambling over what to make of his decade-spanning kung fu epic. As a departure from his oeuvre of romantically tangled tales of unattainable yearning and love lost to the past, his new film has been chopped down from its original Chinese version to meet a US set of requirements, which has proved ruinous to some critics, while palatable to others who have only seen the film in its new context.

But before sharing my interview with Kar-wai tomorrow, I was reminded, not only of my own love for his dizzying, melting expressionist painting of a film, Chungking Express, but Quentin Tarantino’s personal gushing over the work, as seen in the movie’s DVD extras. And as a massive fan of both Kar-wai and kung fu films of days past, in looking for what Tarantino had to say about the director’s latest, I stumbled upon a short video of him rattling off his favorite films that were made between 1992 and 2009—he begins with that year specifically because it marks the start of his directorial career with the release of Reservoir Dogs.

In the six-minute video he lists the films alphabetically rather than numerically, save his favorite film that has come out in those seventeen years, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royal—”If there has been any movies that have been made since I have been making movies, it’s that one.” He goes on to list classics such as Dogville, The Blade, Dazed and Confused, Boogie Nights, Lost in Translation, and of course, many more.

Take a look below to see him go through his list with some amusing anecdotes on his favorites.

 

Get Excited for Wong Kar-wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’ With a New US Trailer

Earlier today, we took a look back at the beautifully painful love and longing in director Wong Kar-wai’s films. But with this latest feature we’re given a film that harkens back to his Ashes of Time sensibility with The Grandmaster. Starring the ever-incredible Tony Leung—a true Kar-wai staple—the film tells the story of famed marital arts master Ip Man. 

A few months back we got a glimpse of the film with a domestic trailer but today the full-length theatrical version has been released. With gorgeous cinematography and stunningly choreographed fight sequences, this may not be a languid existential romance but it sure looks incredible. Speaking to the film 
back in January, Variety stated:
Venturing into fresh creative terrain without relinquishing his familiar themes and stylistic flourishes, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai exceeds expectations with "The Grandmaster," fashioning a 1930s action saga into a refined piece of commercial filmmaking. Boasting one of the most propulsive yet ethereal realizations of authentic martial arts onscreen, as well as a merging of physicality and philosophy not attained in Chinese cinema since King Hu’s masterpieces, the hotly anticipated pic is sure to win new converts from the genre camp.
Check out the trailer below and revisit the best of Wong Kar-wai with us HERE.
 

Berlinale Unveils Classics Retrospective Lineup

Sundance may have come to a close this week, but the annual Berlin International Film Festival kicks off Thursday and will host the premiere of a plethora of new films, running until the 17th. And just in, the festival—which shows about 400 films per yearhas announced an expanded retrospective titled, Berlin Classics. With each film presented by a prominent festival guest, the retrospective will screen recently restored classic films, featuring the European premiere of the 3D Dial M for Murder and the world premiere of a new restoration of On the Waterfront. Yesterday we saw the cast of Cabaret reunite on the Today Show, marking the 40th anniversary of Bob Fosse’s masterpiece musical. Some of the films in competition at the festival include the long-awaited Before Midnight, Camille Claudel 1915, Night Train to Lisbon, Prince Avalanche, Child’s Pose, and In the Name of. Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster will be opening the ceremony. 

Here are the five films included in the Berlin Classics. 

cabaret
Cabaret, 1972
Directed by Bob Fosse

waterfront
On the Waterfront, 1954
Directed by Elia Kazan

dial m
Dial M for Murder, 1954
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

fff
Der Student von Prag (The Student of Prague), 1935
Directed by Arthur Robison

tokyostory
Tokyo Story, 1953
Directed by Yasujirô Ozu

Go Behind the Scenes with Wong Kar-wai’s ‘The Grandmaster’

Known for his artfully shot films populated with lonesome characters enduring some form of existential romantic yearning, director Wong Kar-wai last graced us with the mildly-received My Blueberry Nights. But from the director who brought us Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love, and 2046, it’s difficult not to be excited by any project he has his hands in. And with his first feature in six years, Kar-wai looks to be harkening back to his Ashes of Time sense of action with The Grandmaster. Starring Kar-wai film staple Tony Leung, the film tells the story of the famed martial arts master Ip Man who trained Bruce Lee. 

Last week, The Grandmaster had it’s Hong Kong and China premiere, opening to generally well-received reviews across the board. Variety stated:

Venturing into fresh creative terrain without relinquishing his familiar themes and stylistic flourishes, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar Wai exceeds expectations with "The Grandmaster," fashioning a 1930s action saga into a refined piece of commercial filmmaking. Boasting one of the most propulsive yet ethereal realizations of authentic martial arts onscreen, as well as a merging of physicality and philosophy not attained in Chinese cinema since King Hu’s masterpieces, the hotly anticipated pic is sure to win new converts from the genre camp.

Next month, the film will have a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, but in the meantime, Twitch has provided three new behind the scenes featurettes to build on the anticipation for the film. The clips include interviews with the cast and crew, a look at the location and sets of the film, as well as Leung’s training for the role.

Wong Kar-Wai Directs Bukowski-Inspired Makeup Ad

There’s not a lot of money in art; the real cash comes from commerce. That’s what director Wong Kar-Wai must’ve been thinking when he agreed to direct a commercial for Shu Uemura, a Japanese cosmetics company. "I enjoyed working with individuals and brands who know how to appreciate art and perfection," he told Puretrend. "Shu Uemura is one of them," translation being "I like the money and the money likes me." Brands aren’t real, Wong! You can’t work with one!

Joking aside, it’s a perfectly pretty ad — heavy on atmosphere, music, vibrant visuals, beautiful women, just like his movies. Wong also said that the commercial inspired by the Charles Bukowski poem, "Drowning in water, drowning in flames." "This poem by Charles Bukowski is a paradox," he said. "My film explores this contradiction of passion. I thought that the contrast of red and blue, which reflects the opposition between the hot and cold, was ideal." That’s an extreme allusion, but ambition never hurt anyone.

Best case scenario, the money helps fund his next film after next year’s The Grandmasters comes out. Worst case, he stays pai-ai-aiiiiiid and buys himself a nice massage chair to soothe his creative muscles. Because, you see, muscles, creativity, ha ha, yeah. If you like the makeup, go to Macy’s and ask for "the one that makes my room explode full of gold."