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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Archive for the ‘Wong Kar-Wai’ Category

An Odyssey Worth Taking

Faye Wong

While crossing over to Genting, Malaysia during a Singaporean vacation a summer or two ago, I picked up a number of affordably-priced Hong Kong DVDs, including Police Story 3: Supercop, For Bad Boys Only, and the TVB series, EU. Amongst the plethora of films I purchased for bargain basement prices was Jeff Lau’s Lunar New Year Comedy, Chinese Odyssey 2002, a comedic follow-up of sorts to the Lau-directed, Stephen Chow-led Monkey King movies, A Chinese Odyssey Part 1: Pandora’s Box and A Chinese Odyssey Part 2: Cinderella. I’d seen the movie previously and enjoyed it, but I only owned the VCD so I figured it was about time for an upgrade.

Although not directly connected to the two previous films I mentioned, the tone of Chinese Odyssey 2002 is quite similar. Mixing equal parts lowbrow comedy,  (self-)parody, and heartfelt romance, the film makes for quite a mishmash of genres. Narratively, Chinese Odyssey 2002 centers on Tony Leung Chiu-Wai’s Ah Long (aka “Bully the Kid” in the English subtitles), the local village hooligan whose frequent shenanigans have jeopardized the marriage prospects of his cute, prone to cross-dressing sister, Feng (a mesmerizing Vicki Zhao). As fate would have it, the Princess Wushuang (Faye Wong) has fled the palace in search of –well, I’m not sure. A genuine experience of the outside world? A newfound sense of freedom? A way to avoid an inevitable arranged marriage? One imagines it’s some combination of the three and then some.

Tony Leung 01

Stay strong, Little Tony. Stay strong.

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Great Moments in Hong Kong Cinema #5: Reader’s Choice — AS TEARS GO BY

As Tears Go By 01

Round 1, Fight! Alex Man vs. Jacky Cheung in As Tears Go By

[Periodically, Ronin on Empty will be taking a look back at some Hong Kong cinema classics, albeit with a specific emphasis on “Great Moments” — i.e. classic scenes that no Hong Kong cinema fan (old or new) should miss. Of course, “classic” will not only entail super-cool, gobsmacking moments, but also the downright ridiculous stuff, too. The numbers — #1, #2, etc. — are not indicators of ranking, but merely a way to keep a running tally of how many “great moments” we can list here. Readers are welcome to send in their own fave scenes as well.]

From Ronin on Empty reader “Jason” comes a personal film pick that he wants to add to my ongoing “Great Moments in Hong Kong Cinema” column. Jason writes:

The confrontation between Tony (Alex Man) and Fly (Jacky Cheung) at the end of Wong Kar Wai’s “As Tears Goes By” deserves to be the next greatest moment. The movie also marked the directorial debut of one of the greatest HK director, and the rare collaboration of two of the biggest “teen wong” of HK.

Ask, and ye shall receive.

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My Top Hong Kong Films of the 1990s — WKW is A-OK

Chungking Express

Lesson learned from watching Chungking Express and Amelie: stalking is totally okay…if you’re a doe-eyed cutie

I’d wager vital parts of my anatomy that Chungking Express is probably the first Wong Kar-Wai film that most Americans saw. It took the top slot in the Reader’s Poll, and although I didn’t vote it #1, I probably would’ve if you’d asked me ten or eleven years ago. When I first saw this flick via Quentin Tarantino’s now defunct Rolling Thunder label (The fact that they never released Rolling Thunder itself  boggles the mind), and I honestly didn’t know what to think of the movie once I’d finished it. Confused, challenged, yet strangely exhilarated, Chungking Express was like no Hong Kong movie I’d seen before — and that’s actually saying something if you think about how weird, wild, and downright nutty Hong Kong cinema can get. Interestingly enough, it was an experience that I would have repeatedly when watching other Wong Kar-Wai films.

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My Top Hong Kong Films of the 1990s

 LoveAndy

With the official LoveHKFilm.com reader poll on the Top Hong Kong Films of the 1990s now complete, I thought I might as well share my own top choices with everyone. The moment this poll was announced, I scribbled down what amounted to about  twenty-five or so 90s era Hong Kong films that I absolutely loved or really, really liked. After consulting our archive and recommendation lists to make sure a really wonderful movie hadn’t completely slipped my mind, I whittled the list down to twenty choices and sent them in to Kozo. Of course, there are so many films to choose from, so even personal faves like Lost and Found and Rave Fever got cut out in the process. Before I begin, let me be clear about one thing, I had ZERO desire to create a list that would be considered as “representative” of the decade. That’s a tactic  we often see in random magazine and website top ten lists (I’m looking at you, Entertainment Weekly), as a few “respectable choices” are mindlessly tacked on to add some air of legitimacy. Well, NONE of my choices were made because I thought I should fulfill somebody else’s expectations of what a top ten (or twenty in my case) list should look like. I went with my head, my heart, and my gut.

The last time I composed a top ten list, I chose to do a countdown. I did so for at least three reasons: 1) I was modeling it after current AICN and former CHUD.com critic, Jeremy “Mr. Beaks” Smith’s ambitious Top 100 Films of the Decade countdown, 2) a LoveHKFilm.com’s reader’s poll countdown was already under way, and I thought that readers might be interested to know if my picks coincided with their own, in anticipation of the final ten, and 3) it seemed like writing and posting about my choices in piecemeal fashion made a lot more sense than crafting an overlong and unwieldy blog post that nobody would want to read. Sounds logical enough, right?

Well, this time around, I’m going to do things a little differently. Not only is the 90s readers’ poll long over, but I just really don’t have a desire to write about every movie that I chose with the same level of depth. Instead of a countdown, I’m gonna just lay it all out here and then talk about some of the films in separate blog posts.

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Calvin’s #1 Hong Kong Film of the Decade

1. In the Mood for Love (2000)

Mood

Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai are In the Mood for Love

Did you honestly think I would pick My Wife is 18? Well, I didn’t. If it’s any consolation, Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love does deal with a seemingly inappropriate relationship of its own — a budding romance between a man and a woman who just so happen to be married to other people. But then again, their respective spouses are having affairs — with each other, no less – so the line between what’s right and what’s wrong gets more than a little hazy as the story unfolds. The two wounded lovers (played by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Maggie Cheung) end up forming a peculiar sort of friendship, borne out of a mutual pain and a fervent desire to both understand and hopefully come to grips with their spouses’ cruel betrayal. The results of their experiment are nothing less than movie magic. In the Mood for Love is a rare movie romance where entire pages of dialogue can be conveyed in a single look and the “real action” may just reside somewhere between the lines (or edits, as it were).

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Calvin’s Top 10 Hong Kong Films of the Last Decade (7-5)

With the results of the LoveHKFilm.com reader’s poll slowly trickling out, I give you a few more of my personal top ten. Will they in any way reflect the choices of the readers? I have no idea. Let me know what you think!

7. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Kung Fu Hustle

Stephen Chow is all out of bubblegum in Kung Fu Hustle

How great is this movie? Well, let me put it to you this way: Kung Fu Hustle is so great that comic genius-turned-filmmaker extraordinaire Stephen Chow can disappear for long stretches of the narrative, and I didn’t even miss him. Think about that for a second. The star of the film (and likely the singular reason why people bought tickets for the movie in the first place!) occasionally gives up screen time to lesser known actors in an A-budget picture. Sure,  familiar faces like Yuen Wah and Shaolin Soccer alums Chan Kwok-Kwan and Lam Chi-Hung round out the supporting cast, but a lot of the story hinges on the performances of a bunch of relative unknowns — the residents of Pigsty Alley. During my first viewing, I found myself asking, “Who are these guys?” And better still, “Why am I so riveted to what’s happening to them?”

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Rehashes of Time

To my deep dissatisfaction, I missed seeing Ashes of Time Redux on the big screen when it was shown at one of the arthouse theatres here in Santa Cruz. In fact, the damn thing lasted all of ONE WEEK, a turn of events which proved hugely disappointing to me when I looked up showtimes online only to find that the film had been replaced with some piece of crap indie flick. Thankfully, Ashes of Time Redux eventually made its way to DVD on March 3, 2009, and I was pretty stoked on seeing it from the comfort of my own home.

Jacky 01Jacky 02

Ashes of Time (left), Ashes of Time Redux (right)

However, in the midst of a sea of essays to grade, term papers to write, and various assorted responsibilities to attend to, I postponed a viewing of Wong Kar-Wai’s re-edit until my Spring Break vacation. I had the full intention of reviewing the movie for LoveHKFilm.com, but as fate would have it, Kozo beat me to the punch. In some ways, this actually turned out to be a good thing. For one, I agree with pretty much everything Kozo said in his very well-written and insightful review, so it’s not like I had something better to contribute. And two, as I tried to compose my thoughts on the film, I realized that reviewing a restored and/or re-edited film – rather than a wholly original work – is, in some ways, a thankless task. Basically, even if you try to review the film on its own merits, one’s critique eventually breaks down into an exercise in “contrast and compare.” And really, isn’t that what fans of the original movie actually want – What’s different about the new movie? What’s cut out? Did he put anything in? Did Wong Kar-Wai ruin his own movie?

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