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Forever in the mood for Leung

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:00 pm    Post subject: Forever in the mood for Leung Reply with quote

Forever in the mood for Leung
Authors: Philippa Hawker
Source: Age, The (Melbourne). 01/11/2008.
Edition: First, Section: Entertainment Guide, pg. 8

FOUR PHOTOS: Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi in a scene from Wong Kar Wai's 2046.; Leung is attracted to his neighbour, played by Maggie Cheung, in In the Mood For Love.; Leung plays a romantic figure with a sadistic edge in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution.; Wong Kar Wai film 2046.

The power of Tony Leung's gaze says it all, writes Philippa Hawker.

ON SCREEN, no one's mastered the art of losing better than Tony Leung. Renunciation, disappointment, rejection, betrayal: he has experienced them all. If you concentrate on some of his best-known roles - in In the Mood for Love, Happy Together, Infernal Affairs, Hero - he can look like the patron saint of unrequited love, the epitome of repressed emotion.

He is the most eloquently undemonstrative of performers. The power of restraint was something the jury recognised at Cannes, when he won the 2000 best actor award for In the Mood For Love, a movie that is all about unacknowledged, unspoken, unacted-upon desire. But he's far more than a virtuoso of melancholy and repression. In a lightweight, funny spy spoof titled Tokyo Raiders, Leung is a deadpan master of get-out-of-a-jam gadgets and hasty aerial getaways: he has also starred in knockabout comedies, period dramas, martial arts spectacles and thrillers.

Now 45, he was a crucial part of Hong Kong cinema's Golden Age in the late '80s and early '90s, and he has made movies outside Hong Kong with art house masters such as Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-hsien and Vietnam's Tran Anh-hung. He has been offered Hollywood roles but they've never been, he says, the right script or the right film.

And in the new Ang Lee feature, Lust, Caution, a tale of espionage and intrigue set in World War II Shanghai, he has added another string to his bow: in a sexually explicit movie, he's a romantic figure with a sadistic edge.

He carries his beauty, his romantic good looks, with diffidence, with a kind of carelessness. But whatever roles directors cast him in, whatever kinds of films they make, they are drawn inevitably to the Leung gaze, and its power to compel the camera.

In 1992's Hard Boiled, one of John Woo's most exhilarating, over-the-top action movies, Woo frequently returns, amid feverish, explosive mayhem, to the contemplation of Leung's face. He plays a sharp, cool underworld figure, a well-dressed man who drives a red convertible and lives on a yacht. He's a cold-blooded killer, a man without attachments. He's an enigma: can he really be who he seems?

On several occasions, Woo positions Leung in the foreground with his back to other characters, and brings the camera in tight on the actor's face. The audience has a privileged view of what the figures behind Leung cannot see: the play of his expressions. Even so, what we witness is little more than a flicker: he's still a man wrestling to keep his emotions hidden. Ten years later, Leung played a similar kind of role in Infernal Affairs (2002), the huge Hong Kong hit on which Scorsese's The Departed is based.

It's a cat-and-mouse story of concealment and deception, with Leung as an undercover cop who infiltrated the triads 10 years earlier and Andy Lau as a police officer who was a triad plant from the start.

This time, there's nothing debonair about Leung's character: he's defined by weariness, by a sense of resigned anguish. On this occasion, we feel what his character has lost by his immersion in his undercover role.

Even at his most charming and light-hearted, there's almost always the shadow of introspection in Leung's characters. It's evident in Chungking Express, Wong Kar-wai's lovely, rich, multi-layered movie about brief encounters and missed opportunities, Leung plays a police officer who has broken up with his girlfriend. He's in a state of cautious detachment, unsure of how he should be responding to the aggressive yet oblique interest another young woman is showing him. He prefers, in the meantime, to communicate with inanimate objects: he talks to his dishcloth, he counsels a cake of soap. For many other actors, this would be a parade of whimsy - but Leung gives these scenes a quick, rueful, playful poignancy.

When Leung talks in interviews about acting, he often refers to his childhood, to the fact that his parents argued frequently and that his father left the family when Leung was six. His response, he has said, was to shut down his emotions. When he discovered acting, he was able to express himself through the characters he played. Yet it's clear he's not a Method actor: he locates his characters through physical detail, concrete, tangible elements and inhabits them with great intensity.

There's an intriguing Leung scene - his only appearance in the film - in Wong Kar-wai's haunting evocation of the '60s, Days of Being Wild (1991) that encapsulates this. It's a fleeting, wordless memorable appearance right at the end of the movie. His character appears unheralded, unnamed. He's a dapper man, confined to a cramped room, preparing to go out and assembling what he needs. So many items: cigarettes, jacket, money, cards, a handkerchief carefully folded, a look in the mirror and a gesture of preening and self-presentation. The scene also suggests, in an oblique way, the nature of performance. It is, among other things, a demonstration of the assembling of a character, of preparing a persona to meet the personas that you meet.

It's an odd anticipation, too, of something Wong said later, talking about Leung and one of his most frequent co-stars, Maggie Cheung. He was speaking about their different approaches to acting. Cheung wants to know her motivation, he says. Leung wants to know what his character has in his pockets. Cheung works from inside to out, Leung is the reverse.

There's something about Leung's approach to roles that carries over from one film to another. It's as if, in his screen career, he is exploring different aspects of the self, or aspects that different characters can have in common.

That mysterious unnamed figure from Days of Being Wild was supposed to be more than an enigmatic coda. Wong shot at least two more weeks of material in gambling joints and opium dens but his plans, which included a second film, were abandoned. Thirteen years later, when Wong made 2046, his sixth film with Leung, there was a pang of recognition from many viewers.

It wasn't only that his character, Chow Mo-wan, was another version of the man that Leung played in In the Mood for Love: it was also that he seemed to be a reprise of that enigmatic figure from Days of Being Wild.

In In the Mood for Love, Chow was a yearning, heartfelt figure, folded in on himself, attracted to his neighbour (Maggie Cheung), apparently without realising, or perhaps simply not acknowledging, that his wife was having an affair with her husband. In the disconcerting parallel universe of 2046, Chow is a different kind of man: a player, a heartbreaker and a gambler. This time, he sports a pencil moustache. Leung insisted to the director that he needed a physical marker, a way of defining tangibly for himself that he was playing a character who was the same yet different. Curiously, both aspects of the man reminded Leung, he says, of his father, his memories of a man he had barely seen since early childhood.

His next movie is a much-anticipated project, John Woo's Red Cliff. After many years in Hollywood - and an increasingly dispiriting output - Woo is completing a big-budget, two-part period epic in China, for release this year. There have been plenty of dramas associated with the production, including the abrupt last-minute withdrawal of Woo's best-known long-term collaborator, actor Chow Yun-fat. And Leung turned down a part at one point, only to come back on board in another role, the character who was to have been played by Chow.

Another film , about Bruce Lee's martial arts master, has also been some time on the drawing board. It might remain on the drawing board, or as Leung has observed wryly, it could easily go in another direction. It's a Wong Kar-wai movie, after all, and Leung might find himself, he has told interviewers, walking the streets at night, smoking a cigarette. But as long as he knows what he has in his pockets, he's ready.

Lust, Caution opens on Thursday.

Last edited by Sandy on Wed Jun 04, 2014 11:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:29 pm    Post subject: I'm in the mood for lust Reply with quote

I'm in the mood for lust

Authors: Damon Wise
Source: Times, The (United Kingdom). 10/18/2007.
Section: Features, Film, pg. 12 - Times2

He wooed audiences in In the Mood for Love. Now Tony Leung is set to repel us
in Ang Lee's latest film showing at The Times BFI London Film Festival, reports

Tony Leung has been called the Clark Gable of Asia, and it's not hard to see
why: he's handsome, with the enviable frame of a man who can put on anything
knowing it will both flatter him and fit him. Leung, 45, has been a star in
Hong Kong for a quarter of a century, but he remains most famous outside his
homeland for a string of films with the lyrical maverick Wong Kar Wei. Wong
first cast him in Days of Being Wild (1991) and four collaborations later gave
him the role of his career, in the beautiful Sixties love story In the Mood for
Love (2000).

Leung plays the part like a matinee idol, in chic suits and opencollared
shirts, with a casual slouch that recalls the golden age of Hollywood. Nobody
smokes quite like him -not even the actor himself, who claims he only lights up
at Wong's insistence.

In Wong's films, Leung is always the good guy, so his fans might be somewhat
shocked by his starring role in the latest masterwork by the Taiwanese genius
Ang Lee, set during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in the Second World War.

Titled Lust, Caution and adapted from a short story by the late Eileen Chang,
it's an intense film about revenge and betrayal, starring the newcomer Tang Wei
as Wang Jiazhi, an idealistic drama student who is swept up in a three-year
plot by student radicals to kill Mr Yee (Leung), a collaborator with the
Japanese invaders.

Leung's presence is gentle at first, but this doesn't pan out like the parts
we're using to seeing him play: instead, he rapes, beats and settles into an
affair with Wang in a film that sometimes recalls the once-scandalous In the
Realm of the Senses.

These scenes are all the more surprising given that Leung claims to be,
intrinsically, a shy person. He became an actor at 19, after selling home
appliances, and saw drama school as a way to deal with his chronic shyness.

Abandoned by his father as a child, he was raised by his mother. "I was
embarrassed to come from a broken family," he says. "I stopped trying to
communicate. I dared not talk about my family, I didn't want to tell my
classmates that I didn't have a father."

His private life today is similarly under wraps, and the unmarried actor's on
off 18-year relationship with the Hong Kong actress Carina Lau is something he
refuses to discuss, most likely because Lau was kidnapped in 1990 and subjected
to humiliating sexual abuse by Triad gangsters, allegedly as retribution for
reneging on a film deal.

Leung is shy and soft-spoken, speaking semi-fluent English with an easy manner
that belies Yee's savagery. "I was very excited about this film," he says
slowly, "both because of Ang and because I'd never played this kind of
character before.

Yee is a very dark, very complicated character, and this was all new to me.
I'm used to playing very fragile, good-looking men, but this time Ang said he
wanted to see a new Tony Leung. He wanted me to change a lot of things, even my
expression and my body language."

To do this, Lee put Leung through a boot camp of sorts. "He showed me some
Humphrey Bogart movies," Leung recalls. "I never think I can play masculine
characters, so I think that's why he showed me those films with Bogart, Richard
Burton and Marlon Brando. He wanted me to try to imitate their masculine

The relationship Yee enters into with Wang can safely be described as abusive,
and gives rise to some of the film's most shocking and uncomfortable scenes.
"He doesn't mean to torture her," Leung explains. "But through torturing her he
can assure himself of his own existence.

"I think a guy like him is under a lot of pressure, working as a secret agent.
His job is to kill people every day, sometimes his friends or his colleagues,
so he needs to be selfdenying. He needs to shut down his emotions, and that
kind of man is very stressed, very tense, as I found out from studying the real
history. They didn't even dare to sleep; they were so scared that they might be
killed at any minute.

"What I think is that Mr Yee is a human at the very beginning, but after the
war starts he turns into an animal. That's what Ang emphasised. He said: 'I
don't care how you create the character, but you are a wolf. Just a wolf.' "

The scenes that follow Yee's transformation are explicit, even for this
permissive cinematic age, but Leung shrugs off the controversy. "I'd done some
films with love scenes before, but they weren't that intense, they didn't go
that far. But it's no big deal for professional actors. We're not doing porno,
we're not just trying to show the bodies of the actors, we're trying to explore
the minds of the characters. I don't think that's a big deal; I'm just trying
to do my job."

He says that, as one might imagine, Lee was very precise about the sexual
content, which required a lot of commitment -not to say agility -from his two
leading players. "We rehearsed a lot with just the three of us," says Leung.
"Ang would tell us the position and the camera angle. He was very clear about
what he wanted to express, and what the characters were experiencing. In the
first sex scene, it's like Lee has been looking for something that he has been
missing for three years, but it doesn't go the way he thinks it will, so he's
very angry. She's acting so differently, she's acting so strange, she's not the
innocent girl that he met before, so he's very angry, very violent, and he
rapes her. In the second, we're exploring each other, and the third one is...we
are getting lost."

Lust, Caution took six months of Leung's life to make and though it was
emotionally gruelling he went straight into another exhausting movie, John
Woo's Red Cliff. "We're about halfway through," he sighs, "so I've got to work
for another two or three months. It's a very big production but the situation
is very harsh. The weather is very unstable, so it's really tough.

"It's a historical epic, set around 200-something AD, about the Battle of Red
Cliffs, in China. Physically it's very difficult because we're all wearing
winter costumes, but we were shooting in the summer, in 40C, wearing this
armour that weighs 20lb. There are thousands of people on set every day."

Surely, though, it must be a relief after the psychological pressures of Lust,
Caution? Surprisingly, not. "No, I don't think so," he grins. "I enjoyed Lust,
Caution very much."

Lust, Caution shows at The Times BFI London Film Festival, Odeon West End, on
Saturday at 8pm, and Tuesday at 12.45pm. It goes on general release on January 4
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Title: Lust, Caution.
By: Travers, Peter, Rolling Stone, 0035791X, 10/4/2007, Issue 1036

ANG LEE DOESN'T DIRECT MOVIES According to fashion or the dictates of short attention spans. So leave it to the Taiwanese Oscar winner for Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to craft a Chinese-language film version of Eileen Chang's iconic short story and let it play out for 158 minutes. No matter. A whole world unfolds in those minutes, a fully realized world of Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II, of espionage and carnal power games. The film starts in 1938, when Wong Chia-Chi (Tang Wei), a student and aspiring actress, is recruited by the charismatic Kuang Yu Min (pop star Wang Leehom) to act her most demanding role: seducer of Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). He's a Japanese collaborator these Chinese patriots want dead. It culminates in 1942, at a jewelry shop, where the once plain Wong Chia-Chi now the epitome of fatal allure is about to fulfill her mission. In between, Lee reveals a deft design of politics and betrayal that finds a perfect parallel in the seemingly frivolous mah-jongg games Mrs. Yee (canny Joan Chen never misses a trick) plays with her married lady friends, including her romantic rival. There are no wasted motions. Exquisite beauty and barbarous intent are all caught in the lens of the great cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto. Lee, working with an intricate script by Wang Hui Ling and James Schamus, keeps us constantly off balance. Much has been made of the NC-17 sex scenes. For the reliably idiotic ratings board, it all comes down to pubic hair and pelvic thrusts. For Lee, it goes deeper, into areas of control. Yee approaches sex with the sadistic relish he'd use to torture a suspect, while Wong Chia-Chi acts the role of subservient vessel. When they both drop the masks and yield to grander passions, the effect is devastating. The actors deserve the highest praise. Leung goes places he's never been before as an actor. And newcomer Tang Wei gives a performance that will be talked about for years. Lee is a true master, and his potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break.
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