There are few working filmmakers today so near and dear to the art house film crowd as Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai ( 王家卫 or Wang Jia Wei in Mandarin pinyin). For those who enjoy Wong’s poetic (he often collaborates with noted cinematographer Christopher Doyle) and elliptical (Wong shoots scriptless, relying on the flexibility of actors’ improvisations and moments of inspiration) films, Wong is one of the world’s most original directors, an auteur of the first rank.
If you read Chinese or like spending money on books full of movie stills that you cannot otherwise read, Shanghaiist recommends 王家卫的映画世界 (Wang Jia Wei De Ying Hua Shi Jie or Wang Jia Wei’s Cinematic), a book of film essays and criticism that dissects pretty much every aspect of Wong’s films, from the portrayal of homosexuality in 春光乍泄 (Chun Guang Zha Xie or Happy Together) to his use of music in films, to how he subverts (because auteurs are inherently subversive) certain widely accepted film conventions, like eyeline matching. Want to read interviews with all major long-term Wong collaborators, including his cinematographer, art director, editor, producer and actor/sensitive guy Tony Leung and ponder the symbolism of the qipao in In The Mood For Love? Then this is your book. Heck, there’s even a Wong Kar-Wai glossary in the back, in case you’re wondering about the significance of Chungking Mansions in Wong’s film universe. Hard core!
The abundance of full page color movie stills partially explains the book’s price: 58 yuan, which is a bit more than the average price for a 350 page Chinese book. Caveat emptor: this is not merely an average film buff’s book — this is 350 pages of Wong Kar-Wai, so be forewarned, for even those who have acquired the acquired taste for Wong’s films, it can be a bit much. Some of the essays, from a number of contributors, can be slightly academic, but on the whole the essays are not the longish and often torturing works of academic cant foisted on unsuspecting video-store-junkies-turned-newly-declared-university-film-majors. Not that anyone at Shanghaiist would have been dumb enough to fall into that trap …
Wang Jia Wei De Ying Hua Shi Jie, Pan Guoling, Li Shaoxing, ed. Bai Hua Wen Publishing, May 2005.
Price: RMB 58
Available at most decent bookshops around town
At Dang Dang for RMB 40.5 (not including shipping)
At Joyo for RMB 40.5 (not including shipping)
Wong Kar-Wai Fan Site