Born in 1958 in Shanghai China, Wong pursued graphic design at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University prior to enrolling in the training programs provided by the local television station. He started his career as the screenwriter, initially in television, then in the movies, and established his debut as a director with the 1988 film As Tears Go By, in the prime of Hong Kong movies (Yeh 6). The movie, which had a gangster theme, joined genre conventions with the infrequent visual skill, representing the gift of the formal experimentation, which was still evident in the succeeding work—earning him places among the extreme living auteurs. Wong Kar-wai is broadly identified as the main character in the modern Hong Kong film. Wong’s movies have been observed in several crucial lenses: as the auteurist artwork; as innovative films, and as the highly political text reacting openly to the 1997 abdication. As such, the aim of this paper is exploring Wong Kar-wai’s position to create the gangster movies and examining the numerous ways that the movies have been signified throughout Wong Kar-wai’s career.
According to Tsui, Hong Kong cinema and Wong Kar-wai have close affinity, with Wong observed as “the child of the Hong Kong gangster genre film” (15). Before directing his first film, Wong was a screenwriter for close to six years, working together with the popular directors and producing genre movies from romances, ghost stories to action movies. In addition, Wong elaborated Hong Kong’s the production environment during that period because the producers and directors often pre-sell their movies to obtain finance, they require promising to produce prevalent genre movies, usually action movies (Tsui 16). Based on Tsui’s sentiments, Wong is “profoundly appreciative of popular tradition” and “regardless of how idiosyncratic Wong’s movies appear to be, they adopt popular norms as their departure points” (17).
Apart from genre, Tsui finds the connection between world cinema and Wong’s movies: the mysterization of daily life in the movies is compared with Krzysztof Kieslowski’s movies; the aspects of gangsters are associated with several Hollywood movies dating back to the 1930s. There are several ways in which Wong’s artistic hybridity is exhibited in his movies: “where else can a person Alain Resnais and Akira Kurosawa to a similar movie to The Seven Samurai at Marienbad 9?” several critics define the bold mixture of diverse cinematic culture in Ashes of Time within the setting of the hybridity and inclusivity of Hong Kong cinema (Yeh 8). Regardless of his contract with the propositions of Wong being the “child of Hong Kong gangster genre movies”, Tsui investigated the links to world literature of movies done by Wong. Tsui establishes that the Latin American authors like Julio Cortazar and Manuel Puig influence Wong. In addition, Haruki Murakami, who is a Japanese author and Jin Yong and Liu Yichang, who are both local, are a big influence to Wong’s works (Tsui 36). Summing up every arguments presented, Wong’s movies are widely linked to the genres that are part of traditional Hong Kong, Hong Kong New Wave, multinational and local literatures, and mainstream and non-mainstream world films. Nonetheless, such opinions are related yet preventive in the research on Wong’s movies: they specify the diversity in culture linked to his pieces but concurrently restrict their discussion to auteurism and art creation.
The unconventional film style implemented by Wong made the preliminary effects on Hong Kong’s gangster movie genre when his initial movie, As Tears Go By, debuted in 1988. The ensuing projects establish the increased trend towards genre subversion. His interests in modifying and analyzing genre is equivalent to Wong’s aesthetic-philosophical reflection on history, memory, and time. Slow motion is among Wong’s preferred visual tactics, which is utilized not to get a clear image of the action but problematizing and disturbing the view of movement and speed. To Abbas, Wong is an excellent director in the local cinema’s aesthetics of “deja disparu,” or “dis-appearance,” which Wong contrasts with Paris of “love at last sight” of Walter Benjamin. As a result, the general impact is the breakdown of images into blurred pieces and not the acceleration of speed and action. The strategy implemented by Wong of deconstructing speed and distorting motion, in Hong Kong film’s context is decolonial. This is based on the logic that the images in Wong’s movies are a crucial practice where any rational visions of the cosmopolitan city are disintegrated into affective disconnection and inconstancy images. The decolonializing of images by Wong is manifested in his consideration of nostalgia, memory, and time.
During the “1960s series,” his strategy of deconstructing nostalgia ends with the last installments, 2046. Based on the movie, Wong, being uncustomary, utilizes the political pun, which is centered in the film’s naming: “2046” denotes, initially, to the hotel room number reminding us of the narration of lovelorn lovers of the prelude, In the Mood for Love, and also the place that one could recover the lost memory, since “2046” is an imaginary endpoint of the science fiction narration that is a product of Chow Mo-wan as the film’s writer. Extratextually, 2046 happens to be the year marking the demise of Deng Xiaoping’s political promises to the people of Hong Kong: the capitalistic “way of life” of the colonial city is maintained for five decades after 1997.
The plot of the movie establishes that “2046” is a point of no return for travelers. As such, one identify Hamlet’s dialogue with death–the final “destiny” unidentified by and mysterious to the living. Figuratively, such texts plays exhaust the sense of the promises of remaining “unchanged” for five decades is living in “changeless times.” Therefore, “2046” is a destination that cannot be reached, a mythological future equilibrium. According to the movie, “2046” is mostly concerned with the past instead of the future: the unpleasant memories of the writer regarding lost love are proposed into the fictional land in which the past is viewed as the enigma that is concealed in the unidentified future. Furthermore, “2046” is the overdetermined signifier, and the indirectness of the meaning does not lead anywhere–or nowhere compared to where one began. The rise of the circularity as the movie progresses towards “nowhere” impishly undermines the linear sense of advanced time profoundly entrenched within the colonial modernism, and passionately incorporated currently by the nation-state.
Across the trilogy, the director recurrently uses additional locations that are outside Hong Kong in a historical footnote form. The main character in the movie Days of Being Wild, a handsome playboy travels to the Philippines and kills himself when his mother rejects his requests for a meeting with him. In 2046 and Mood, the Singaporean Chinese diaspora beseeches the translocal, regional spaces of migration bearing the Western imperialism imprint. Towards the end of the movie Mood, Chow Mo-wan is observed putting his memories into the wall-hole within the Angkor Wat ruins. The spatial extension of the movie to additional colonial spaces within the Asian region is only feebly driven by the story’s requirement; the association of such sites thus works more in resituating the colonial history of Hong Kong, thus, the postcolonial present, in a broader historical frame of Asia’s Euro-American imperialism and the modern complications. If 2046 is the haunting narration regarding the ending of a period that pushes the historical subjects into “unchanging period,” thus, the fascination with the past which is dematerialized into visual effects, the movie wants viewers to observe past the predetermined national and colonial time-spaces so as to envisage and link with additional images and memories. In the event that nostalgia is the method of postmodern “consumptions” of historical events and the type of escapism, the nostalgic exhaustion in Wong’s movies is directed towards the historical agency’s exhaustion in nostalgia. For a feasible future imagination, which is, for the “changeless time” to not be accomplished, the true implications of the former have to be recovered from the nostalgic impression and reorganized in the multifaceted uncertainties of the present.
Wong's movies have sudden surprises. Ineptness is closey associated with the setting, neighborhood and space in his movies. In Fallen Angels, Wong utilizes the space that is restricted to martial arts’ the post-modern environment, with a sword changed into a gun. Acted in the conventional public housing estate in Kowloon (denoting the robust link to the Kowloon Walled City is recommended and, even though there lacks a register, it must be observed as the place that is interesting to Wong). Purposely placing comical figures in the Fallen Angels like the insurance agent, the bearded guy, or the father of the mute boy, Fallen Angels provides the contradictory messages on consumption of spaces to audiences (Tsui 47). Set in the typical Hong Kong public regions like McDonald's, MTR station platform, and the grocery store, the movie concerns the daily life of the most usual individuals, but has an unusual setting.
Even though the professional killer is not viewed as being a part of daily life, where they live is a commonplace. Intentionally facing the MTR which moves at high speed, Reis and Lai seemingly inhabit the nearby units even though they are strangers, and actually, Reis ends up sharing a room with the speechless boy. Through the use of the contradiction of space theory by Lefebvre, the small rooms inhabited by Reis and Lai, the restaurants specializing in Chinese delicacies are Hong Kong’s most accessible venues, it appears normal to the audience but the moment the camera is moving to the pork stall, hair salon or ice-cream van, there is a clear representation of consumption of space. As stated by Yeh, "there are regions that are exploited for purposes of and by means of production of consumer goods, and regions exploited for the purpose of and by means of the consumption of space” (14).
Regarding American cinema passion entrenched in Wong Kar-wai’s works, he incorporates in his movies a clear reflection on the 60s, located in the memories he has of Hong Kong. For instance, a reconfiguration of the 1960s period is shown in the movie Days of Being Wild , but it signifies the reconfiguration of the reflection of East Asia concerning the Rebel without a Cause period. Wong’s initial two movies as director, Days of Being Wild and As Tears go By, depicts the fixation with youth and rebels tear ways. In both of Wong’s movies, the male protagonists adheres to the iconography of the period, frequently smoking cigarettes so as to improve their rebellious James Dean image.
Certainly, Wong has established himself as more of a popular director as he has originated trends through his unique style. The trend is observed in Hong Kong during the 1990s, where there was an entire group of “Wong wannabes” who implemented the cinematic styles of Wong, which included the utilization of camera angles, monologues, and the uneven storylines. Internationally, there are numerous directors who have been influenced by Wong which include, Austrian director Tommy Tykwer, the Korean director Lee Myung-se, and the Chinese director Lou Ye. As such, it can be established that the masculinity crisis in the movies directed by Wong Kar-wai signifies the cinematic changes under pressure from specific political situations and from the international trend of the revision of ideas concerning masculinity.
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Yeh, Emilie Yueh-yu, and Lake Wang Hu. "Transcultural Sounds: Music, Identity, and the
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