Late little brother of the Hong Kong new wave, Wong Kar-wai climbed the steps of the 1990s to establish himself as one of the major signatures of the cinema planet, an artist drunk with melancholy, a great couturier of hemmed images which have woven the visual identity of the decade, until the turn of the millennium, with the consecration of In the Mood for Love (2000).
Eternally dissatisfied, crazy rehasher, accustomed to bogged down shoots, the man with the eternal dark glasses seems to have never finished with his films. Three of them – Chungking Express (1994), Fallen Angels (1995) and Happy Together (1997) – are being released this Wednesday, December 20 in a more than restored version. The opportunity was too good to speak with a sphynx filmmaker with rare interventions and cryptic remarks. Avoiding any comments on the political situation in Hong Kong, careful to respond without saying too much, he proves capable of transforming any exchange into a high-flying exercise.
How much care do you take when restoring your films?
Every restoration confronts me with the same dilemma. Should we restore his films in the form that the public remembers, or as I had initially imagined them? So much can be changed today that I opted for the second route. As the saying goes: “No man bathes in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” » I considered this work as a new work, a different phase of my career. I therefore invite spectators to start from scratch: they are no longer the same films, and we are no longer the same audience.
Watching Chungking Express again today shows to what extent the film draws the visual style of the 1990s. Were you aware of capturing the spirit of the times?
The way we shot Chungking Express, in a very short period of time, on an extremely tight budget, completely determined the visual style of the film. The handheld camera, the on-board filming as in reporting eliminates the “fourth wall” [the screen which comfortably separates the spectator from the representation] , to offer a direct view, and almost a feeling of voyeurism, on the Hong Kong of this era. We were absolutely connected to this ephemeral vibration of the city, which, by the end of filming, was already no longer the same.
The excitement we feel there also resembles that of Hong Kong cinema at the time, three years before the handover of Hong Kong to China. What happened to this once incredibly creative Hong Kong scene?
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