Friday, January 18, 2013

Ashes of Time (東邪西毒) Wong Kar Wai

Whenever I think about Hong Kong I always think of Wong Kar Wai.  It’s his fault not mine.  Boy on the back of a motorcycle racing through an abandoned highway tunnel in the weird green light of night.  Girl on the subway watching the trains pass without moving.  Lovers in the red velvet room, one is on the bed, the other only a reflection in the mirror.

 Whether you've been to Hong Kong or not, the films of Wong Kar Wai stay with you forever.

It’s fitting, leaving Hong Kong and heading to Korea, because that’s where I first saw Wong's work.  Early movies like Chungking Express and In The Mood For Love and the monumental Fallen Angels.  Even movies like Happy Together, which although set in South America shows intricately the violent coupling of Hong Kong and China in bed with one another viciously.  

But it’s the cinematography that dazzles.  The camera angles and the lighting, perhaps dangerously because you then go to Hong Kong and try to capture it yourself, to live in a Wong Kar Wai movie… it’s impossible, yet?

My favorite of Wong's films is the underappreciated Ashes of Time (東邪西毒 Dōng xié xi dú).  It’s adapted from this crazy Jin Yong novel called The Legend of the Condor Heroes and the ebullient hero Leslie Cheung plays the “Venomous West” who banishes himself to the desert, hiring bounty hunters like “The Blind Swordsman” and “Girl with Mule” to enact his revenge.  It’s worth seeking out only because it’s so visually stunning.  You wonder what makes a guy write a movie like Django Unchained… well, you come and watch Ashes of Time, then make up your own mind.

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