Combustible Celluloid

World of Wong Kar Wai (2020)

A Great Big 'Hand' for Wong

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Despite a recent slowdown in productivity, with only two feature films made in the last fifteen years, the Chinese-born Hong Kong-located filmmaker Wong Kar Wai is still unquestionably one of the best working today. I and many others discovered him in 1996 when Quentin Tarantino used his sadly short-lived Rolling Thunder Pictures to release Chungking Express in American theaters. Wong's work is elegant and sometimes mysterious, and somehow manages to capture a kind of unquenched desire in visual ways. His In the Mood for Love sits atop the list of the best films of the 21st Century at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?, and also ranks at #44 on the all-time list, with four other films in the all-time top 1000 (Chungking Express, Days of Being Wild, Happy Together, and 2046).

Now the Lincoln Center offers the World of Wong Kar Wai, a virtual program of six features, restored in 4K, as well as the never-before-seen director's cut of The Hand, which was Wong's entry in the 2004 anthology film Eros. (Steven Soderbergh and the late Michelangelo Antonioni contributed the other two.) The previous version ran 43 minutes, and the new cut is a luxurious 56 minutes, telling the story of expensive prostitute Miss Hua (Gong Li), and an apprentice dressmaker, Zhang (Chang Chen). Hearing her having sex with a client, he becomes rapt with desire, and she performs a simple act so that he can know her body and better perform his job. Through the years, he expresses his adoration for her through his creations, captured exquisitely by the great Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle. In 2005, I wrote: "Wong takes his fetish for form-fitting dresses to new heights, delighting in the delicate sighs of human hands on silky cloth."

Along with The Hand, the other films in the series include: As Tears Go By (1988), Days of Being Wild (1990), Chungking Express (1994), Fallen Angels (1995), Happy Together (1997), and In the Mood for Love (2000). They are available through the Lincoln Center on Friday, December 4, and will expand to other virtual cinemas, including the Bay Area's Roxie Theater on December 11. I hope viewers will take time to re-examine Fallen Angels, which is arguably the least-appreciated of the bunch, but which has continued to haunt me since I first saw it at the Roxie in the 1990s.

December 4, 2020

Movies Unlimtied