Tag Archives: Tony Leung Chiu Wai

In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)

In the Mood for Love runs under a hundred minutes. Its present action is somewhat indeterminate, but less than a year total and a few weeks for the longest continuous sequence. As for the length of that continuous sequence, I’m not sure. There’s such a smoothness to William Chang’s editing. It’s calm and measured. It’s not always slow–it often isn’t, especially in the first half of the film, where director Wong and Chang show time transitions through change in dress. With such a concise runtime–and so many ambitions for the film’s visual narrative (which is somewhat separate from the plot)–Wong has to prepare the viewer for the film.

That preparation involves very tight narrative control–this scene leads to this scene, but Wong is actually building to a reveal. Only, since it’s at the beginning of the film, it’s unclear what reveal is supposed to be the most important reveal. At a certain point, In the Mood for Love should be able to be cut into two pieces. Big reveal, whenever it comes, should split the film. Except Wong’s stylistic approach in that first half, how the camera movements, how the framing of characters, it provides such a strong foundation there’s no split. And by not splitting, Wong’s better able to focus the narrative in the second half. In the Mood for Love is a guided tour of its story, with Wong relying on his actors to break through on another level, the tragic one. The actors create the characters, not the script or even Wong’s visual motifs for shooting them. It’s Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. They’re the ones who get it done.

Great photography, great music. Wong’s got a nostalgic way of being realistic portraying the early sixties setting. The best example is probably how he uses Cheung’s dresses to establish a narrative flow and how he can also use them to disrupt the narrative. It’s all so precise, all so delicately done. The film has these slow motion sequences, but Wong keeps them all entirely separate. The way he’s progressing the visual narrative, he finds different reasons to get to the same technique. It should be complicated, but because of how Wong establishes the visual “language” in the first act, it isn’t.

Everything works–like Lam Siu Ping’s goofy sidekick for Leung or Rebecca Pan’s nosy but nice landlady. Thanks to Wong, his crew–and because of Cheung and Leung–In the Mood for Love achieves something singular. It’s great.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written, produced and directed by Wong Kar-wai; directors of photography, Christopher Doyle, Kwan Pung-leung and Lee Ping-bin; edited by William Chang; music by Michael Galasso and Umebayashi Shigeru; production designer, Chang; released by Block 2 Pictures.

Starring Maggie Cheung (Mrs. Chan), Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Mr. Chow), Siu Ping-Lam (Ah Ping), Kelly Lai Chen (Mr. Ho) and Rebecca Pan (Mrs. Suen).


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The Great Magician (2011, Yee Tung-Shing)

The Great Magician is a madcap romp through rural early twentieth century China. It never says rural–Peking is mentioned a couple times–but it feels rural, where a somewhat dimwitted warlord (Lau Ching-wan) can still be powerful. The time period’s a little confusing too. Moviemaking plays a significant part in Magician and all the example films are silents, but when people are making movies, they’re making talkies.

But those confusing parts are nothing compared to the rest. Magician is a political comedy thriller with a lot of magic, some quests, a love triangle, probably some of things too. Oh, right, it’s occasionally narrated by two townspeople who break the third wall to directly address the audience.

Even though director Yee’s not much for composition–Magician’s shots are adequate, but far too reliant on CG, something Kita Nobuyasu can’t seem to shoot–he does keep the circus together. Especially after Tony Leung Chiu-Wai shows up. Until he arrives, it seems like Magician could go anywhere (and even for a little while after he does). Once the film focuses on its tone, it gets to be a lot of fun to watch.

Leung and Lau are great together. Xun Zhou’s excellent as warlord Lau’s seventh wife who he decides is the one he really wants. Paul Chun’s funny as Lau’s scheming subordinate.

There are some great comedy interchanges; most end up being completely unpredictable.

Leon Ko’s excellent music is another big plus.

Magician is a strange, fun picture.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Yee Tung-Shing; screenplay by Chun Tin Nam, Lau Ho Leung and Yee, based on the novel by Zhang Haifan; director of photography, Kita Nobuyasu; edited by Kwong Chi-Leung; music by Leon Ko; production designer, Yee Chung Man; produced by Peggy Lee and Mandy Law-Huang; released by Emperor Motion Pictures.

Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Chang Hsien), Lau Ching-wan (Bully Lei), Zhou Xun (Liu Yin), Yan Ni (Lei’s third wife), Paul Chun (Liu Wan-Yao), Alex Fung (Chen Kuo), Lam Suet (Li Fengjen), Daniel Wu (Captain Tasi) and Kenya Sawada (Mitearai).


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Fighting for Love (2001, Joe Ma)

Watching Fighting for Love is frustrating. Rapid-fire dialogue–straight out of a Howard Hawks comedy–is difficult to get in subtitles, especially poorly translated ones. Still, the charm of the actors comes through and Fighting for Love is probably the best mediocre romantic comedy I’ve seen in a long time, at least of the recently-made (since 1998) ones. I initially queued the film right after I saw Yesterday Once More and went through Netflix for other Sammi Cheng films. Since Yesterday tried to be serious, it didn’t offer the best precedent for Cheng. She’s charming and funny and touching in a way we don’t have right now in American cinema. As goofy as Fighting for Love gets, Cheng is never otherworldly. Her problems are never two-dimensional, on celluloid. The problem could be–I don’t really think it is, but I’m acknowledging the possibility–with American female actors, we’re a little too aware of their reality and can’t disconnect enough to connect with their films….

Once I had queued Fighting for Love, I realized the Tony Leung it starred. There are two Tony Leungs, Chiu Wai and Ka Fai. I don’t know who had the name first (and I’m too lazy to look it up). Chiu Wai, who appears in Fighting for Love, is the Tony Leung from In the Mood for Love and 2046 and Hard-Boiled. I’m a Tony Leung fan and so I was looking forward to the film. While he’s older than Cheng, their age difference doesn’t really affect the film. He does look rather silly surrounded by all the much younger actors playing his siblings, but I let it pass. The story’s a general romantic triangle (his girlfriend’s out of town and they have to fall in love while she’s gone, yada yada yada). It doesn’t matter. It’s a romantic comedy, the predictability isn’t an issue. There are some nice moments between Leung and Cheng and funny ones too and those scenes are what romantic comedies are about.

The most particular thing about the film–and I wasn’t expecting it–was the quality improvement throughout the second half. It didn’t do anything particularly special, it just laid on those nice scenes. By the end of the film–where, of course, there was a final cute joke–the varnish was nice and shiny.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Ma; written by Ma, Chow Yin Han and Lam Oi Wah; edited by Cheung Ka-Fai; produced by Carl Chang; released by Film Power Company.

Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Veg Cheung), Sammi Cheng (Deborah), Niki Chow (Mindy), Joe Lee (Camel) and Li Fung (Deborah’s mom).


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