Monday, 2 May 2011

Liquid Atmospherics: On the cinema of Wong Kar-wai

ENVOI (2011) from Elaine Castillo on Vimeo. The above video is a ficto-biographical essay-film taking two looped scenes from two Wong Kar-wai films (HAPPY TOGETHER and DAYS OF BEING WILD) as its point of departure, arrival (also: non-departure, non-arrival). On grief, migration, the romantic, hyper-specificity, sentimental time, queer space, Asian celebrity gossip, fantasies involving Maggie Cheung, covers and translations, the writing body, the filmmaking body, readability, speakability.
Almost devoid of irony, Wong’s films, like classic rock and roll, take seriously all the crushes, the posturing, and the stubborn capriciousness of young angst. They rejoice in manic expenditures of energy. They celebrate the momentary heartbreak of glimpsing a stranger who might be interesting to love. The best comparison is surely not with Godard, whose romantic streak has a bitter edge. In Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong may have its Truffaut, the director who in Tirez sur le pianiste and Jules et Jim concentrated on not-quite-grown- up characters brooding on eternally missed chances. In any case, Wong stands out from his peers by abandoning the kinetics of comedies and action movies in favor of more liquid atmospherics. He dissolves crisp emotions into vaporous moods. For all his sophistication, his unembarrassed effort to capture powerful, pleasantly adolescent feelings confirms his commitment to the Hong Kong popular tradition.
David Bordwell, 'Avant-Pop Cinema Romance on Your Menu: Chungking Express' in Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment (Second edition: e-book; Wisconsin: Irvington Way Institute Press Madison, 2011), pp. 178-179

Today, Film Studies For Free massively updates its existing entry on the cinema of Wong Kar-wai

There are two compelling reasons for this: the first is there are lots more scholarly resources available, or discoverable, now on this filmmaker's work that are worth listing, including some great items on video. 

The second is that this is the first of two posts in celebration of the online publication, as a PDF, of a full colour, second edition of the peerless David Bordwell's book Planet Hong Kong, an opus well worth its $15 pricetag, in FSFF's humble and, usually, frugal opinion.
FSFF doesn't normally celebrate, or promote, pay-to-own resources. But, apart from the fact that this is a highly interesting development in online Film Studies publishing in its own right, no one has given so generously online, either of his already published work or of his ongoing scholarly work, as David Bordwell. 

What is more, Bordwell's PHK chapter entitled 'Avant-Pop Cinema', with its lyrical and beautifully illustrated section on Wong's work: 'Romance on Your Menu: Chungking Express', is worth the download price alone. If you need to save up to purchase Planet Hong Kong first, you can enjoy, in the meantime, several excellent posts at Observations on Film Art on Wong's work, including 'Ashes to Ashes (Redux)' and 'Years of being obscure'.

Video material:
Written material:

No comments: