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September 4th, 2002

 

For Lee Wong:
Thanks for everything, pal.

     Though this column is called Life with Kozo, this edition is anything but. Exactly one week before the anniversary of the most infamous recent day in American History, I write this to eulogize reviewer LunaSea. Or, as his friends and I called him: Lee Wong.
     I met Lee back in March of 2002 on the forum at the Asian DVD Guide. Lee was looking for reviewers for a site he was hoping to create, as was I. We traded URLs and ideas, and made tentative plans to maybe write guest reviews for each other's sites.
     Though both of us shared a few common loves (Tsui Hark, Wong Kar-Wai, Shu Qi), our writing styles and modus operandi were as different as possible. I watched everything, including lots of crap disguised as movies. Lee watched primarily the movies that he wanted to see. He went in looking to enjoy the films he had chosen, and more often than not he escaped with much to say about them.
     As the person who edited his reviews, I will say this: Lee liked to talk about movies. A lot. In fact, he loved to talk about movies so much that he abandoned his own website to write only for mine. The ins and outs of layout and web design held apparently no joy for him - he cared mainly about the films and what he found in them. Truthfully, I envied that. After spending countless hours screwing with tables, browser incompatibilities and cascading style sheets, the idea of throwing a DVD on and writing a review can be extremely unattractive. Lee found a way around that: he had me do all that crap, and he got to watch and enjoy the movies. Smart guy.
     Not that I resented that. Not at all. In fact, I was honored that he would even ditch his own web site to contribute to mine. I can't be entirely sure of his reasons, though I hope part of it was that he found this web site something worth contributing to. I believe he did. Besides sending reviews my way, he also suggested, cajoled, and inquired about multiple aspects of the site. He wanted to know who was visiting the site. He wanted to know what they read. He wanted to know if he could review Korean films. And Thai films. And Japanese films. And maybe a Hong Kong film here or there.
     The Pan-Asia section on LoveHKFilm.com was entirely inspired by Lee. It was his knowledge and love of those films that made the decision possible. Though this site was - and still is - a Hong Kong film site, the reality is that Hong Kong has receded while its neighbors have flourished. Lee recognized that, and he made me see that as well. The Pan-Asia section will stay, and will be dedicated to Lee. It was - and always will be - his designated portion of the site.
     Except the Pan-Asia section will suffer greatly without him. I'll try to write some reviews for the section, as will the other reviewers (thanks Jennifer and Calvin). But, I can't imagine the Pan-Asia section beings anywhere near as good without Lee. And by that token, I can't imagine LoveHKFilm.com being anywhere near as good without Lee.
     Lee cared a great deal about LoveHKFilm.com. Even when he traveled to Guangzhou and Korea, he would keep in touch with me and even send reviews of the films he had just seen. When he didn't have a computer handy, he would call his sister and tell her to e-mail me. He was always making suggestions on how to improve or add to the site, and sometimes I simply had to say, "Uh...I don't have enough time to do all that." There were times that I grew tired and annoyed at the site (it's a lot of work), but Lee's constant communication would get me back to work. I had to get back to work, if anything just to deal with the backlog of reviews he had sent.

     Not that it was always a joy. Looking at the copious text, sometimes difficult grammar (English was Lee's second language.), and largely unfamiliar references (Yeah, like I can even pretend to know who all these Korean filmmakers are.) could be extremely daunting and even annoying. But really, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Lee wrote for this site out of love for the cinema, and I can't think of any way I could have asked him to stifle that.
     I was aware that Lee had some health issues, but he largely kept them from me. This sudden event leaves me shocked, but not entirely surprised. He actually e-mailed me a day before he passed away to tell me that he had completed five or six more reviews, but he would hold them back until I finished the other ones (I'm sitting on nine of his reviews) that I hadn't edited yet. Now I don't know if I'll ever get to read them.
     Honestly, there isn't much I can really say. I probably didn't know Lee all that well. After all, can you really know someone you've never seen or spoken to, and have only communicated with via ones and zeroes? Lee lived in Italy. I've been to Italy. Once. And I don't think Lee was even born at that time.
     In the end, I can't really say I knew him all that well. But, I do know that he considered me a friend. And I, most definitely, considered him mine. Sure, now there won't be someone around who cares about this web site as much - or even more - than I do. There won't be a "Pan-Asia Guy" for the site anymore. And there won't be someone who'll bother me about movies I've never even heard of. But really, none of that matters. What does matter is that a friend is gone, and I owe him more than I can possibly ever repay. Perhaps the only thing I can do is resolve to keep this site - and its beloved Pan-Asia section - going as long as I possibly can. I'm pretty sure that Lee would have wanted that.
     Correction: I'm absolutely positive that Lee would have wanted that.
     Thanks for everything, pal. - Kozo 9/04/2002

 
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