an apology. The title of the LoveHKFilm.com
webmaster column is Life with Kozo, but this
topic is much greater than some silly words from some guy
who happens to watch a lot of Hong Kong movies. I didn't intend
to use this space to cover topics this serious, but when something
like this happens, I find it hard to just let things go with
a four-sentence blurb on the home page. Sometimes you want
to say more. And, sometimes people actually e-mail you and
ask for more than a four-sentence blurb. And really, this
subject deserves more than just four sentences.
On April 1st, 2003, Leslie Cheung
Kwok-Wing died of an apparent suicide. He leapt to his death
from the Mandarin Oriental, a luxury hotel in Hong Kong's
Central district. The reasons why are still unclear. A suicide
note was reportedly found on his body, and the reasons bandied
about by Hong Kong's notorious media include the end of a
17-year relationship, a difficulty reconciling with getting
older, and extreme, acute depression. This event will undoubtedly
be discussed in the weeks ahead, and some, all or none of
the facts will eventually be known. This is the cycle of these
For the Western fan of Hong
Kong Cinema, Leslie Cheung has meant a great deal. He's been
one of the most recognizable (and undeniably attractive) faces,
and many of his films are certifiable Hong Kong Cinema classics.
He's worked with many prominent Hong Kong directors: John
Woo, Tsui Hark, Stanley Kwan, Peter Chan, Wong Kar-Wai. His
career has been synonymous with Hong Kong's recent "Golden
Age" of cinema. A Chinese Ghost Story, A Better
Tomorrow, Rouge, Ashes of Time, Days
of Being Wild, He's a Woman She's a Man, The
Chinese Feast, Happy Togetherthese are more
than just "good movies." To many, these films define
that which made Hong Kong Cinema so special. And Leslie Cheung
was undeniably a huge part of that.
But personally, I cannot eulogize
Leslie Cheung. I didn't know him personally, nor could I have
any claim to knowing much about him. I only knew his movies.
I've seen numerous films of his, and have had varying opinions
on the films and his performances within. Though I cannot
claim to be the biggest fan of Cheung's, I must say that I
always found him to be a charismatic, interesting and above
all powerful. When I think Leslie Cheung, I think Days
of Being Wild. I think Farewell My Concubine. I
think Happy Together. Those were, in my mind, his finest
performances, and in all those films he seemed to possess
a self-destructive edge that was heartbreaking. Perhaps he
found those performances inside his own pain and anguish.
Maybe his selection of roles (his most recent ones have been
disturbingly dark) came from the desperate emotions he was
feeling. Who really can tell? Not me, that's for sure.
Which brings me to this: I don't
think I'm qualified in any way to say anything about Leslie
Cheung's life or death. Even though people have asked me to
say something, I can't even pretend that I'm qualified to
do so. All I can say is how I feel about all of this. Personally,
I feel sad. A little
shocked. Disappointed. Bewildered. Sullen. Puzzled. And even
angry. To live life is a tremendous gift. As hackneyed as
it sounds, I truly believe that. And to throw all that away...it's
just too sad for words.
But who cares how I feel? Basically
I'm nobody, and my views on life and death are incredibly
suspect. I feel however way I feel about Leslie Cheung's passing,
and that is something which I have difficulty putting in words.
The more I try, the more it seems that I'll cheapen what his
life was to so many people out there. And really, his life
was about more than just himself.
Leslie Cheung's death has triggered
a wave of sympathy from fans, media and fellow entertainers
alike. Many, many words can be found all over the web which
fully demonstrate the ways in which Leslie Cheung has touched
other people's lives. There is a beautiful
thread over at the Mobius Asian Film Discussion Boards
where people have taken the time to share just what Leslie
Cheung meant to them. It's clear that he's become more than
just one person. Entertainment legend or superstar are not
the words I'm looking for. It's something else, which I can't
quite put my finger on.
He will be missed, that's for
sure. Find an Asian Cinema board and ask around, and you'll
find enough evidence of that. You'll see that he's meant a
great deal to many, many people all over the world. His films,
his music, and his very presence have influenced people in
ways that one could never have imagined. If you can, find
the time to take a look at what people to have to say. Listen
to the feelings people want to share, about Leslie Cheung
and anything else they might have on their minds. Because
right now, in a world where things are uncertain and turbulent
and just don't make any sense at all, the most important thing
is how people feel.
As for Leslie Cheung, I hope
he's found peace. Hong Kongand indeed the worldhas
lost a fine entertainer, and a truly unique human being. He
deserves to find some measure of the peace he could not find
while alive. And really, that's all I can say.
Farewell, Leslie. Rest in peace.