Wong Kar Wai Argumentative Essay Examples

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INTRODUCTION
Wong Kar-Wai is a director based from Hong Kong, who is hugely respected as not only a director, but an artist who is constantly mentioned by critics and film enthusiasts alike. Although many of his films did not go on to become big as other major films in the Box Office, Wong Kar-Wai's films have begun to be well known for breaking the contemporary style of Hong Kong cinema.
For many years, Hong Kong filmmakers followed a set system of rules in the genre and narrative forms to fit their own personal style; still, they were considered as being nothing more than a product for entertainment. With this culture, the scripts are recycled many times; Hong Kong films are filmed within a couple of weeks; and are usually directed with one or more directors.
Wong Kar-Wai also followed this system in his first directorial debut film, As Tears Goes By (1988), and therefore the film was not a significant representation of his work. Although the system bound Wong Kar-Wai to produce a similar film to other films, Wong Kar-Wai still displayed his unique film techniques, as mentioned by Teo (2005): "where there is none of the temporal and spatial constructions, or the monologic ruminations." Although this film is a conventional one, Wong Kar-Wai had shown early signs of his narrative vision and a number of his visual trademarks, time. This will further be discussed in the "Narrative Fragmentation" section of the report.
After the release of 'Days of Being Wild ' he proved to Asian audience that he is not a contemporary director. His movies became known by critics to be heavily influenced by poetry, filled to the brim with style, his film soundtrack a constant dialogue, and his camera work involves Fast pace with wide angle hand held camera.
Finally, to really be immersed in Wong Kar-Wai's film "Spectators must suspend their beliefs in chronology, time and in many cases, their memories too, in order to fully experience the depth of Wong’s evocative filmic creations." Wong Kar-Wai explains "my film doesn't have a story, the plot is entirely developed from the characters. I feel that the story isn't important. the characters are important."(Teo,2005) This has always been the case to all Wong's film, thus the difficulty for the film to be accepted by normal audience that has grown up watching classical Hollywood cinema.
He consistently employs a signature ‘parallelling’ and ‘intersecting’ rhetoric in which his characters arbitrarily cross paths. (wright,2002)
In this Essay, three of his films will be critically analyzed to show Wong's Depth in filmmaking. Chungking Express (1994), Fallen Angels(1995) and Happy Together (1997) These three films showed the modern sensibilities of Wong Kar-Wai, as well as the evolution of his style and the throughline of his more typical themes. These films will be analyzed in chronological order, so as to show just how Wong develops his unique vision, and how his themes build upon each other.
CHUNGKING EXPRESS
Chungking Express (1994) tells two love stories from the perspective of two cops. Wong Kar Wai explained that both stories are " about people in the city who share the common trait of being unable to channel their feelings to suitable partner" (Teo,2005)
Wong Kar-Wai's work is heavily influenced by poetry and literature. His major inspiration for Chungking Express, Fallen Angels and Happy Together originated from the writers, Haruki Murakami, Emmanuel Puig and Cortazar. The main inspiration for his work Chungking Express, according to Teo (2005), revolves around a Japanese short story titled 'On seeing the 100% Perfect girl one beautiful April morning' by Haruki Murakami, the idea of coincidental chance meeting becomes a motif in the film when Takeshi Kaneshiro's voice over starts with "you brush shoulders with strangers every day, some you may never know anything about, but others might become your friend someday." and the freeze frame when Takeshi accidentally brushing Brigitte lin's shoulder, in relevance to murakami's novel, although the characters life touches, "but they never interpenetrate"(Teo,2005). Take an example from Chungking express, takeshi meets with Brigitte in a pub without realizing their first encounter, they exchange conversation and stayed in a hotel, but takeshi ended up eating chefs salads and fries before cleaning Brigitte's shoes which is the most intimate gesture towards her. The story never really develop into something else, nor did takes audience to another narrative path, all Wong gave us are hints that both of them resolves each of their own problems, Takeshi gets a message from his pager on his birthday, and Brigitte killing her drug boss. another example can be seen when Tony finds out his items has been altered by his secret admirer Faye, when tony decided to finally throw away his ex's belongings and ask Faye out, she leaves for California leaving only an envelope which tony refuses to open. In the world of Wong Kar- Wai each character is an individual. the world they live in feeds these individual with choices that show their characteristics to the audience. "Wong Kar-Wai's fiction films are less stories than crossroads of stories."(Lalanne,1997)
Another theme in Murakami's novel that Wong Kar-Wai employed to the movie is memory, It haunts both takeshi kaneshiro and Tony alike. Takeshi eats cans of pineapple that expires before the 1st of may, whilst Tony talks to a bar of soap, a piece of old cloth and Valerie's Uniform. It tells the characters are trying not to forget the memories they had with their ex lovers. Takeshi gets angry at a shop owner for throwing away pineapples that are near expiry date, it reveals takeshi's unwillingness to forget a dying memory. and Wong Kar- Wai Obsession of these ideas governs the whole theme of Chungking Express and will be continued further later in Fallen Angels(1995). David Bordwell suggested on planet Hong Kong that "Wong's film center on isolated characters hanging out, usually to the accompaniments of soulful music."
Sound
soundtracks chosen in a Wong Kar-wai film are not only used to carry the scene, or to amplify the emotion. as an auteur, he pairs music with powerful images to tell a story that a dialogue won't be able to execute. The individual in Wong's films are unique in their own ways, Wong separates his character by having specific sound track for each of them. Faye Wong in Chungking Express listens to California Dreaming by Mamas and Papas, dreaming of one day leaving for California.
"Above all, love is food."It's heaven when you/find romance on your menu," sings dinah Washington" food is a metaphor for love in Chungking express, 223 stuffs himself with near expired pineapples that he had collected during his one month denial of being dumped. Symbolizing the true end of the love. Then he gorges himself with four Chef Salads and fries during her overnight stay with Brigitte. In Officer 633's case, he is persuaded by the shop owner of Midnight express to change his usual order of Chef Salad to fish and chips or pizza or hotdog. Chef Salad being Valerie Chow (Officer 633's girlfriend). The midnight express owner is trying to explain Officer 633 unwillingness to move on and try other love.
FALLEN ANGELS
Fallen Angels continues Wong Kar-Wai 's stylistic storytelling of individual people who comes out only at nights in the big city of Hong Kong. Not only does the film shares the same narrative form as Chungking Express (1994) it brings some references from the prequel to the table, for example, "a woman cleans up a man's apartment as a way of feeling close up him; a character becomes mute after eating an out-of-date can of pineapples; a girl dyes her hair blonde." The film was originally intended to be the final act of Chungking Express; however, the tone of the act seemed to be too different from the rest of the film, and so Wong spun it off into its own film. This explains some of the narrative and stylistic similarities.
However "To describe the plot is to miss the point"Fallen Angels" takes the material of the plot--the characterless and what they do--and assembles them like a photo montage." Like a Wong Kar-Wai movie, the feeling of longing, memory, nostalgia and self reflection surrounds the film, just like a photo album.
In Fallen Angels(1995) The theme of memory is the strongest; many of the characters, including the protagonist Leon, continually struggle to escape their pasts to no avail. After his first killing, Leon unexpectedly runs into an old friend from high school. “Everyone has a past, even when you’re a killer. They always ask you the same questions.” Leon thinks this when the old classmate badgers him with questions; he barely responds, as he wishes for the friend to go away. It is a cold reminder to Leon about how much time passes, and how this man who used to be his best friend, is now a stranger to him. The shot indicates this, as the entire conversation is viewed with Leon in the foreground, with a blank, but slightly softening expression, and the friend yammering away at him in the background. While the man is just behind him, the fisheye lens gives it a depth of field that makes him seem farther away, which shows how distant Leon feels towards this former classmate.
There is no purely emotional relationship in the film – people want something from each other, and this is indicated by Michelle and Leon’s hitman/arranger relationship, and Mute and Charlie’s attempts to get things from people, like change for a phone or people to con out of their business. This is mostly done out of a realization that all relationships will end; most characters realize this, and so they are emotionally prepared by remaining distant with each other. While Mute does fall in love with Charlie, he equates it to being a store, Charlie being a customer. While she is only there to get something from him, he does not mind, and hopes that she continues to shop there.
With this realization, characters attempt to shy away from nostalgia and live in the moment as much as possible. At the same time, this is shown to be unfulfilling, especially through Michelle’s lust for Leon, and Mute’s love for Charlie. They both want something that is more than just a mere transaction, but it does not happen. The closest glimmer of hope is at the end of the movie, when Michelle gets on the bike with Mute – we do not see where they will go, but Michelle remarks that she “hasn’t been so close to a man for a while. The road isn’t that long, and I know I’m getting off soon. But I’m feeling such warmth this very moment.” She knows the relationship will expire, as most do; however, she wishes to finally enjoy it while it lasts.
Cinematography
For many years, filmmakers have been developing techniques and skills in order to deliver their stories more effectively, such as using the lighting to create mood, decorating sets with well structured production design, and one of the most important elements of storytelling, choosing the lens to best deliver the scene.
In Fallen Angels (1995) the whole film was shot almost entirely with the 'Super Wide Angle 9.8mm'. According to Teo (2005), Wong Kar-Wai called this lens the 'the standard'. Back in the time where only wide angle lens were available, the camera
After development of other lenses, such as telephoto lenses , Wong Kar-Wai went back in time to using only the wide lens. He does this to
The opening shot of the film is very indicative of the theme of the movie as a whole. Two characters (Leon the hitman, and Michelle the partner) are in an elevator, one smoking in the foreground, one looking pensive in the background. The film stock, unlike the rest of the movie, is grainy and black-and-white, indicating a heightened reality.
Many of the shots in the film feature the main characters at a Dutch angle, from far away, lost in their own thoughts. This helps to showcase just how many of the characters are in their own heads. The camera is often either very far away from them or right in their face, in extreme close up. A fisheye lens is also used for the extreme close-ups to create a dreamlike feel to the film, demonstrating just how lost the characters are in thought. Often, the characters have the same blank, emotionless expression on their faces, as they cannot bring themselves to get close to each other.
In Fallen Angels (1995) the whole film was shot almost entirely with the 'Super Wide Angle 9.8mm'. Wong Kar-Wai chose to do this so the audience can feel the alienation the characters feel. The wide angle lens allows the audience to focus more on the city itself than the characters; as the wide angle allows him to capture more aspects of the city. In addition, when a character is captured using a wide angle they tend to fill the frame, isolating them from the world around them. Wong Kar-Wai wanted to depict that characters are 'physically close, but mentally apart' (Teo, 2005).
The lens is the eye of the audience, which affects heavily on how they perceive and interpret the scene. The filmmaker's choice of lens affects heavily how they perceive the objective of the scene. Therefore, choosing the right lens is equivalent to choosing the right words to write in the language of cinema. A telephoto lens may create distance between two or more subjects, or to isolate a subject from the background; Wide angle lens creates the feeling of being there with the characters, and when working with character blocking hand in hand can be used to capture the story in real time, or create stronger suspense when revealing.
In Fallen Angels (1995), the whole film was planned to be shot almost entirely with the Super Wide Angle 9.8mm. "He called it a 'standard lens' of the film" (Teo,2005). After years of development in the film industry, we go back to the start of filmmaking using only wide angle lenses. However, how can a director equipped only with one wide angle lens compete in storytelling with other directors? In the case of Wong, it can be argued that the use of this super wide angle lens is a return to form; it indicates not an abandonment of filmmaking advancements, but the need to convey something old, grainy and gritty. The old-fashioned look given to a modern city grants his films a timeless quality; the dreamlike feel of Wong's films is helped by the unconventional lenses used in his work.
Space
Wong Kar-Wai employs the idea of space heavily in his Cinematography. As seen in Figure 3. a, the audience may assume the relationship between two characters from their distance between each other. As Vivella (2011) puts it "Here, space is calculated in centimeters, not metres, and romance grows not in leaps and bounds but tiny increments, through the smallest of gestures, and the pauses between gestures." This technique may be over done in movies, specifically the romance genre. However, Wong amplifies and refreshes it by adding time lapse, freeze frames. Using the Super Wide angle lens, "a distortion of space conveying a sense of distance in closeness, of being near and yet far away".
Characters maybe surrounded by really mobile people or are placed along in very narrow corridors, tight spaces where people constantly run into each other, and like Chungking Express, Takeshi Kaneshiro's line "you rub shoulders with a lot of people everyday" echoes from his previous role, just like the sense of space from Chungking Express. Full of people and dirty shops, It also express the feeling of Hong Kong being a third world or developing country. Wong Kar-Wai uses Shallow depth of field in wide angle lens, to isolate the characters in a big city(Pic 3.B.)
Sound In Fallen Angels (1995)
In Fallen angels, The killer, Leon Lai and his agent Michelle Reiss, seldom meet with each other. And when they need to give each other briefing of the target or the mission, they communicate using phone messages, fax machine, through a liaison. Communication was brief, on the mark and without emotion. But everything changes when Leon Lai ask the barkeeper to instruct reiss to play song numbered 1818 on the juke box, a Canto-pop song 'Forget him' by Shirley Kwan. This can be considered the peak of emotion in their professional relationship. Upon listening, reiss starts to contemplate the possibility of losing her partner and possibly her lover. Being alone Reiss is able express and cry her heart out and show her pain, this could very much intended by Leon, as he too treats this as more than just a business partnership. The music continues on when Leon engages in a brief lustful connection with Karen Mok (Blondie). But before anything, Leon made it clear to Karen that he just wanted company, clearly showing his sense of loss. Reiss on the other hand, deals with her loss by masturbating, but she breaks into a tearful end as her orgasm subsides. both 'fallen angels' settles their emotion through sexual activity. The music helps clarify that sex is just an activity to numb their loss, not to move on.
HAPPY TOGETHER
Happy Together (1997) is based on the theme of exile. In July 1, 1997, Hong Kong, the British colony was planned to be handed over back to China after 150 years. Many citizens of Hong Kong were worried about the coming changes and they questioned whether Hong Kong will remain the same or whether it will undergo a transition. According to Teo (2005), Wong was concerned about the 'handover' day, and questioned the thought about the feelings one was remained to experience after a strong emotion.
Acceptance of gays in British colonies (and in Hong Kong) were contrasted with non acceptance of gays in China. Teo (2005) states Wong was making a point about the socio-political ramifications of 1997. Furthermore, Teo (2005) explains that this was due to the gay community during this time had the 'most to lose' in terms individual and civil liberties. Thus, the 'handover' day can also be depicted in the way characters were placed. Wong presents the story of two gay men, Lai Yiu Fai (Tony Leung) and Ho Po-Wing (Leslie Cheung) moving to the opposite side of Hong Kong, Argentina, to 'start all over again' and find a place where both of them can call home. The phrase 'Start all over again' is highlighted in the film to depict the state of exile that the both characters have.
However, Lai has lost the possibility of settling into a place he can call home when Ho leaves him. This is because Lai feels as though being with Ho, regardless of where he is in the world, is his home. However, unlike Ho, he is only focused on finding his new place to call home in Argentina. But Lie has no place to call home because of many reasons- he feels as though his father does not want to talk to him; he is not able to show his growing emotion towards his co-worker, Chang, near the end of the film about his sexual identity; and the only person he can call 'home' is promiscuous and unfaithful.
The movie can also be viewed as 'finding home' = 'finding yourself'.
This is because in a personal perspective, when one goes through a dramatic transition in life, we tend to be able to look back at ourselves. We are able to introspect on who we are as a person, how we act in certain situations, why we do certain things. Being through such experience, the people and the environment surrounding us is highly unpredictable, and things undergo change frequently. In the end, after going through certain changes, we realize that the most 'stable and predictable in the world, is yourself.
SOUND IN HAPPY TOGETHER
Happy Together(1997) is a film about a relationship that is on a verge of destruction, as an audience we were made to believe that they both will achieve happiness in the end through the title, but for Wong this is a film about a relationship that moves back and forth, but never forward. Tango music are played constantly during the movie. In a scene Ho and Lai dances along with the tune, the music starts when Lai dances with Ho, we cut into a short image of a time lapse shot of a coming storm and then back to both of them falling in love again. they smile and play with each other on every footsteps, they have forgotten the past and seems to 'start over' . The song however accompanied by the time lapse of coming storm, sets the melancholic mood reminding us this is not a romantic story, rather a gut wrenching piece. A storm is coming, it whispers. Their happiness is only temporary The tango music represents their relationship going back and forth without a destination, as tango dancers does the same when dancing, an image audience will encounter throughout the film.
At the end of the movie the song 'Happy Together' was sung by 'the turtles' at the end of Happy together(1997). An ironic twist at the end as the movie is actually about a story of a failed relationship. Notice that the song title is similar with the film itself, it shows how well thought his choices of music are.
Mise en Scene
Auteurs alike, Wong kar-Wai and ozu are both interested in the idea of transience. according to (Bordwell,2000) "Wong fills his films with images of mutability". favors the use of images to capture, the character's deeper emotions during time that has passed or set up the movie theme from the start. Boiling Clouds, Wafting steam, Blood swirling are some of the examples of images he uses. These image puts audience into "a state of passive contemplation, allowing the director to open up a second, purely sensory level of reading." (Martinez,1997) an example of his usage of powerful image, is the helicopter shot of the fall of Iguacu in Happy Together(1997) Soon after the powerful and strong sexual scene, Wong takes us to the nature of their true relationship changing the whole theme of the movie to a less sexual oriented.
We get to see the destruction of their lust filled relationship. After a brief dialogue scene, showing Po Wing being the more powerful of the couple and the reason for their destruction, we're shown a minute clip of an Aerial shot of Iguacu Falls. The fall is accompanied by a really melancholic theme that slowly dissolves into the picture, lyrics in the song (Cucurrucucu Palomas) indicates that Lai has gone through a rocky break up and that time has passed since they both partways. One of the line in the lyrics reads:
They say that at night all he could do was cry all the time they say he won´t eat all he could do was drink at all times. Wong tells us from his choice of music that a certain emotion developed during their separation period. The image of Iguacu falls suggested an example of their relationship, steam rising up to represent the heat and lust, the only things that are keeping their relationship afloat. But gravity representing the nature of their relationship, pulls the water back down, into the unknown black void. almost as if, it was doomed from the beginning as Ho's Willfulness and disloyalty gets more and more out of control. According to Teo "the texture of the descending water and the vapor rising upwards create an unreal, dreamlike sensation"(Teo,2005) but since they didn't get to see it together, it became a symbol of lost hope.
NARRATIVE FRAGMENTATION SECTION
Discuss his style of telling the story by comparing and contrasting in all 3 films. In all three films being discussed, Chungking Express is the most fragmented of them all, Images are manipulated heavily to tell the story, short clips gives big hints to where the stories are going, or indicate a chance of story development. In his review, Roger Ebert wrote that "His visuals rhythmically switch between ordinary film, video and pixilated images, often in slow motion, as if the very lives of his characters threaten to disintegrate into raw materials of media.". However, as Wong matured as a filmmaker, his films becomes more accessible to the general audience, while still maintaining that dreamlike, gritty yet touching mood that Wong is famous for.
Wong Kar Wai’s Fallen Angels (1995) is a strange, thought-provoking and exciting film about a hitman and his relationship with a cold, alienated partner, a mute, and a girl looking for a former lover. Throughout, we end up seeing just how transient relationships can be, especially within the world of professional killing. The alienation the hitman and the other main characters feel towards the world at large (and each other) provides an interesting perspective that is not normally found in a Hong Kong action film.
The relationship between Leon and his partner, Michelle, is mirrored by another character, Mute, and his relationship with Charlie. Leon and Mute alike both lose each other in their relationships with the other person – Michelle sets up the hits for Leon, making him able to not think about his job at all, whereas Mute takes on Charlie’s quest to look for Blondie, a woman who stole her boyfriend away. As he does this, a bizarre set of blonde hairs grows from him, indicating his appropriation of Charlie’s values. While Mute hopes that, over the course of their quest, Charlie will fall for him, he soon realizes that he is just being used to get her boyfriend back, and he finally makes his own decision to leave, the blond hairs going away once he does that.
This is mirrored by the empty relationship between Leon and Michelle. Despite being partners, Michelle has feelings for Leon which he does not reciprocate. Michelle is forced to masturbate in her Chungking apartment while Leon runs around on hits; they barely, if ever, interact. Instead, Michelle is spent hiding away in her apartment, waiting for him to see her the way she wants to.
There is no purely emotional relationship in the film – people want something from each other, and this is indicated by Michelle and Leon’s hitman/arranger relationship, and Mute and Charlie’s attempts to get things from people, like change for a phone or people to con out of their business. This is mostly done out of a realization that all relationships will end; most characters realize this, and so they are emotionally prepared by remaining distant with each other. While Mute does fall in love with Charlie, he equates it to being a store, Charlie being a customer. While she is only there to get something from him, he does not mind, and hopes that she continues to shop there.
Happy Together (1997) continues this tradition of maintaining a dreamlike narrative that focuses more on characters than story. The film plays as a series of loosely anchored vignettes, as we are taken through a narrative scrapbook of these two people and their tumultuous relationship. Scenes flow together with no real sense of time passing; it is tough to get a handle on the way the narrative is suppose to flow. The image of Iguazu Falls, shown at the start of Happy Together(1997), is the one real narrative thread, a leitmotif for the main characters' relationship. The falls themselves represent happiness and happy memories; despite their best efforts, the couple never quite seems to get there, indicating just how poisonous their relationship turns out to be. It is only when Lai leaves Ho that he can find the strength and the resolve to make it to Iguazu Falls.
CONCLUSION
Wong Kar-Wai is an auteur of the first degree - he carries with him a signature film language of dysjointed narratives, as well as a very stylized use of time, uncertainty, and urban decay. The themes of Wong Kar-Wai's films also include aspects of memory, isolation, loss, and unrequited love Wong, unlike the more plot-driven contemporaries of Hong Kong and world cinema as a whole, focuses mainly on the characters and their relationships. By surrounding his characters with gritty, saturated cinematography, odd, dreamlike editing, and a strange, unconventional mood, Wong can demonstrate just how alien we are to each other, even when we are surrounded by the ones we love, and an entire city of people just like us. The use of these filmmaking techniques to convey these themes is a very powerful way to convey this message, cementing Wong's status as a first-rate artist of film.
References
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