Last Monday on July 22, I attended Academy’s official event “An Academy Salute to Wong Kar Wai,” featuring a dialogue between writer-director Matthew Weiner and Wong about Wong’s filming career and his recent film “The Grandmaster,” which will be released by the Weinstein Company later this month. The dialogue had some awkward moments, and I didn’t know whether Wong intentionally tried to dodge some of the questions or the questions were simply raised inappropriately. To the audience’s surprise, at the end of the dialogue, Wong introduced actress Zhang Ziyi and writer Zou Jingzhi, who were in the audience. It provided some much needed lively air before the screening started.
I am a fan of Wong’s “Chungking Express” (1994), “Happy Together” (1997) and “In the Mood for Love” (2000), but to be honest, I found “The Grandmaster” mediocre and lackluster. It didn’t do justice to Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, the two great talents from Hong Kong and mainland China. The following day, I had a FB chat with a friend of mine about the film, and here are some of my casual comments:
Disliked Wong’s film, too many close-ups… The only memorable scene is the fighting at the train station, and the film will be remembered only for that scene.
Leung was not his usual self. Somehow I was bothered by his perpetual focus on the body parts, the hands, the feet, the faces, the eyes. For some reason, I feel the close-ups in Wong’s other films are more attached to the place, such as the narrow lane in HK, the foreign land in “Happy Together,” etc. Here those close-ups have no attachment to the place at all. Even the space is fragmented, and could be anywhere. This is probably the reason as to why those “historical footage” and information seem to come from nowhere: Nostalgic about the 1950s’ HK? Hardly so. A statement about the collaboration with the Japanese army? Did’t get it.
Wong mentioned that train station scene during the talk and apologized to Zhang Ziyi for keeping her in the cold small town for two months mainly for that sequence (what a luxury!). Seems he was also very proud of that scene. In China, the film was not particularly liked for another reason: the decision to have the two cross-talk comedians (Zhao Benshan and Xiao Shenyang) included in the film, who have little big-screen experience and symbolize low-taste laughter. Wong’s overture to the mainland market?