Wai, Wai, tell me why? (2046) Forum Index -> Tony Leung Articles
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:57 pm    Post subject: Wai, Wai, tell me why? (2046)

OCT 13, 2004
Wai, Wai, tell me why?


Arthouse auteur Wong Kar Wai tells why his much-touted film 2046 took five 'tortuous' years to make

By Hong Xinyi

HONG KONG director Wong Kar Wai is known for his finicky, obsessive detail to work. 'Making movies is like loving a very dangerous woman. You have to serve her, make her happy and care for her,' he says with a wry chuckle.

'Or she'll leave you,' he adds thoughtfully during a recent phone interview from his Hong Kong office.

His latest, tortured love affair is now revealed on screen, in the shape of movie 2046.

Shooting, which began in 1999, was halted numerous times due to his capricious creative moods, conflicting cast schedules and the outbreak of Sars in Hong Kong in April last year.

But five years and US$15 million (S$25 million) later, 2046 finally made a last-minute entrance at this year's Cannes film festival. Wong, 46, re-edited it some more before it was officially released in Shanghai last month.

The movie, which stars Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Faye Wong, Zhang Ziyi, Carina Lau and Gong Li opens in Singapore on Thursday. It features Leung's character from Wong's last movie, In The Mood For Love, who has transformed from a sensitive writer into a flirtatious cad.

Fans of Wong's eight previous movies like Chungking Express and Ashes Of Time will find the wistful, brooding yearning in 2046 familiar.

American film studies scholar David Bordwell calls Wong's style 'unashamed romanticism', stained by ambient music and MTV-style visuals and embracing the mood of the 1960s, during which Wong grew up.

The director, who was born in Shanghai in 1958, moved with his family to Hong Kong when he was five years old.

He studied at Hong Kong Polytechnic and joined TVB as a screenwriter in 1980.

In 1988, he released his first feature film As Tears Go By, starring Andy Lau and Maggie Cheung.

The template, which Wong would go on to flesh out in later movies, is already set here. Ordinary characters are caught in situations beyond their control.

There is no clear plot in As Tears Go By and the atmosphere and 'story' are driven by the interplay of the characters.

The movie perhaps was ahead of its time in a Hong Kong besotted by mass-market fodder.

As Tears Go By failed at the box office but as film studies scholar Stephen Teo put it, 'Wong may be said to have brought the Hong Kong new wave into the 1990s by combining postmodern themes with new wave stylistics'.

Although Wong's follow-up films have also never set the box office on fire, he has had better luck at prestigious film festivals.

He won Best Director at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival and has become one of the most iconic Asian film-makers beloved by the West.

But Wong seems blase about being a critic's darling. 'There are only good or bad movies and some arthouse movies are pretty bad, too. These labels are just a marketing strategy.'

BUT critics, and fans, will no doubt once again read too much in 2046 in their attempt to deconstruct Wong's latest thinking.

'I got the idea for 2046 from the promise made by China that when Hong Kong was handed over in 1997, everything would remain the same for 50 years.

'I thought, that's a very interesting promise. What does not changing mean? When we are in love, we always wish that the other party will never change, but it so seldom happens,' he notes.

The work in making 2046, typically in a Wong movie, was not easy.

Asked what he thought of Leung comparing the experience to torture, Wong agrees: 'It's tough to work on my films, that's true. There is a lot of pressure because no one wants to be the weakest link in the cast. All my actors are very strong.'

Asked why he always works with cer tain actors, Wong says he sees special qualities in them. 'Maggie and Tony are two of the best actors in Hong Kong. They've a very special aura, an old-time feel.'

He feels especially proud of Leung's maturation as an actor. 'Tony has developed a lot of confidence in his own method,' he notes of Leung who won Best Actor at Cannes in 2000 for In The Mood For Love.

While he is only too happy to dissect the elusive nature of love on-screen, Wong is tight-lipped about his personal life.

Married for 17 years, he has a nine-year-old son who lives largely in with his wife.

He declines to say if he is a romantic in his marriage but the warm nostalgia for a lost past seems palpable when he talks about Hong Kong.

'Hong Kong changes very quickly. That's why I like to shoot movies set in the 1960s.

'If we don't capture it on film, this period will be lost. There're not many buildings and shops left from that time.'

Now that 2046 is done, he confesses to a sense of loss.

'I guess it's like going on a long journey, meeting someone on the way, and having to say goodbye.'

Coming up in the near future is an action film where Leung will play Bruce Lee's martial arts teacher. This will mark the seventh time Wong and Leung have teamed up.

You ask if there is room for cinematographer Christopher Doyle who reportedly quarrelled with Wong on the 2046 set.

Because the project took longer than expected, Doyle pulled out of it at some point to fulfil other commitments. 'Of course, I would not rule out working with him again,' says Wong.

'The friction between us is eternal but he is like my eyes,' he says of Doyle who has shot all of Wong's movies except for As Tears Go By.

Wong also recently completed his contribution to Eros, a collection of three short films about love and sex. Wong's segment, titled La Mano (The Hand), stars Gong Li and Chang Chen and debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last month.

Wong is now working on a script for a project starring Nicole Kidman, tentatively titled The Lady From Shanghai, which begins shooting next year in that city and New York.

He declines to give details, saying only that 'Nicole reminds me of the dangerous women who always show up in Alfred Hitchcock's films'.

So is Wong going West like John Woo?

The answer is uncharacteristically sunny: 'I don't know about that, but this feels like a new chapter of my career.'

2046 opens here on Thursday.
I'm playing myself

TONY LEUNG CHIU WAI is nothing like the heartless flirtatious character he portrays in 2046.

Instead, he is a gentleman when it comes to talking about the actresses who play his lovers in the movie.

Faye Wong 'has very expressive body language. The sparks we generate are always very unusual'.

The two also starred in two other films - Chungking Express (1994), also directed by Wong Kar Wai, and Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002), directed by Jeffrey Lau.

Zhang Ziyi is 'very hardworking' and working with Gong Li was 'very comfortable, not pressurising, even though I'm a big fan of hers'.

Of long-time girlfriend Carina Lau, he says: 'I actually don't like working with her on films. It feels very strange, very fake. Maybe we know each other too well.'

Over the phone from Shanghai where the film was released last month, Leung, 42, sounds slightly tired. Perhaps it is the publicity requirements, or maybe the fact that making 2046 was a convoluted process.

In it, he plays the same character from 2000's In The Mood For Love. 'Previously, the character was gentler, more thoughtful, and serious. But he has changed a lot. It wasn't easy to grasp his rhythm and body language so I asked Wong Kar Wai to give the character a moustache to help me differentiate the two phases,' he says.

'I took on other projects during the five years when we were not shooting, and when I had to get back into the role, I had forgotten a lot of things, like the character's gestures.'

Still, he is accepting of Wong's methods, to which he believes he owes his current status as an acclaimed actor. They first worked together in 1991's Days Of Being Wild, at a time when Leung was feeling bottlenecked as an actor.

'I couldn't find any way to improve, and I was bored with the business. So that was actually a very important film in my career. He discovered a lot of potential in me.'

Today, he has arrived at an acting epiphany of his own. 'Actually, the more I act, the more I feel I'm playing myself. It's my views and emotions filtered through my own experiences.'

Still, Leung professes not to take his job too seriously. 'I've no noble aims. I just think acting is fun. I just want to make people happy and provide some entertainment.'

So there are no directorial ambitions? 'Directing needs talent and a point of view, and I'm much too lazy,' he says. 'I might go into producing films. I like to control things.'

No emotions, like me

FAYE WONG thinks she did well in 2046.

'I wasn't taking notice of my performance, and not thinking with my brain. I think I did have a breakthrough,' the 35-year-old says over the phone from Shanghai.

'The character's story is very tragic, and I had to cry. Both the director and I are very sensitive to music, so he would play music when we were shooting my scenes,' notes the Beijing-born artist who is known for her icy ways.

But over the phone, she is chatty enough, even allowing the barest hint of a chuckle when she talks about her 2046 character. 'She has no facial expressions, and she doesn't feel emotions. I guess some might feel that was like me.'

Despite winning Best Actress at the Stockholm Film Festival for her role in Chungking Express (1994) and being similarly honoured by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society for Chinese Odyssey 2002, she confides that 'I'm not a very confident actress'.

'It's very difficult to leave myself behind. Singing is much more natural.'

Still, working with two of China's most well-known actresses, Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, on 2046 did not faze her one bit. She notes with bemusement: 'Why should I feel pressured?'

Asked how she relates to the theme of cumbersome memories in 2046, her reply almost sparkles with the stardust of optimism.

'I don't want to lose any memories. Everything becomes more perfect in memories, even the very painful things.'

For now, no new films are in the works for her, not even swordplay movies which have lately become all the rage.

'I don't like watching them,' she says dismissively.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Last edited by news on Wed Oct 13, 2004 8:51 am; edited 3 times in total
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Looney Tune

Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Posts: 803
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia / Shanghai

PostPosted: Tue Oct 12, 2004 5:46 pm    Post subject:

Thanks news for the interesting articles. Very Happy
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eliza bennet

Joined: 07 Jul 2003
Posts: 823
Location: Istanbul

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2004 12:07 am    Post subject:

Thanks news!

I like Tony and Faye more when I read this type of articles.
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