Wong Kar-wai

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feihong
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Re: Forthcoming: Discussion and Random Speculation Volume 7

#51 Post by feihong » Fri Dec 23, 2016 4:38 pm

Well in Hong Kong they do throw out the trims, I believe. Didn't they discard part 2 of Kung Fu Cult Master in its entirety, or was that just a legend of sorts? I would imagine Warner Bros keeps absolutely everything. But I wonder if the day of the director's cut special edition is waning a little. So few of these alternate cuts of movies are proving to be really significantly different films. Some of them, like the director's cut of Donnie Darko, actually ruin the film, to my eyes. And it seems like a kind of torture to have to wade through director's cuts of BvS: DOJ or Suicide Squad.
Shrew wrote: I fear a lot of repertories (or interns filling in program details off imdb) just aren't aware of the differences.
This part is really scary. Growing up in film with the emergence of Wong Kar-Wai, it never occurred to me that there would be people who didn't go through that same experience, who didn't know which films he made and what they were like. His used to be one of the simplest filmographies to be a completist on. But I think the original Ashes of Time is gone, to a large extent, and nobody knows the difference. The Redux is an absolute misery as far as I'm concerned, while the original cut was a really exciting movie. A huge part of the difference was the score, which was tarted up with "class" for the Redux in the absolute worst way possible. But you can see the film itself being made "classy" in the Redux in terms of editing. Whereas the abrupt, jarring editing of the original version made the material come alive. Still, I suppose this is the least accessible of Wong's films for audience cultures outside of China––not knowing anything about Jin Yong's writing stands in the way of enjoying the film fully. And yet, I loved the movie when I first saw it, knowing next to nothing about it. But irregardless, that original cut of the film, available only on VHS, Laserdisc and a non-anamorphic, very out-of-print Mei Ah DVD (the quality of which is terrible, by the way), is really far out of circulation at this point. A lot of people haven't seen it, or been able to see it. It's too bad, really.

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Never Cursed
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Re: Forthcoming: Discussion and Random Speculation Volume 7

#52 Post by Never Cursed » Fri Dec 23, 2016 6:18 pm

feihong wrote:Well in Hong Kong they do throw out the trims, I believe. Didn't they discard part 2 of Kung Fu Cult Master in its entirety, or was that just a legend of sorts? I would imagine Warner Bros keeps absolutely everything. But I wonder if the day of the director's cut special edition is waning a little. So few of these alternate cuts of movies are proving to be really significantly different films. Some of them, like the director's cut of Donnie Darko, actually ruin the film, to my eyes. And it seems like a kind of torture to have to wade through director's cuts of BvS: DOJ or Suicide Squad.
That's disturbing, though I did some research on Kung Fu Cult Master, and from what I can ascertain, Part 2 was simply never shot. There was even some sort of April Fool's joke about it, some 15 years later.

I wish that it wasn't an industry standard to just junk trims, or even complete negatives. This has more or less killed the prospect of one of my favorite concert films, Pink Floyd: Live At Pompeii, ever getting a good high-def presentation, as the negative and 548 cans of trims were burned to make space without the director knowing, and the next best sources are several generations away from the negatives.

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feihong
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Re: Forthcoming: Discussion and Random Speculation Volume 7

#53 Post by feihong » Fri Dec 23, 2016 11:12 pm

There are also Mandarin and Cantonese cuts in Hong Kong film that have different edits of the picture. Full Contact and It's Now Are Never are films I've seen in considerably different cuts depending on the dub language. But what of that cutting process is saved is really up in the air. Not a whole lot is my guess.

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Re: Forthcoming: Discussion and Random Speculation Volume 7

#54 Post by whaleallright » Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:17 pm

David Bordwell discusses some of the differences among the various versions (pre- and post-Redux) of Ashes of Time here.

I saw what Bordwell calls the "standard international version" projected a few times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, in Chicago and Boston. The film circulated pretty widely in this version, so I imagine there are a handful of warts-and-all release prints out there from which someone could make a scan—almost like what some folks have done with early prints of Star Wars. (Funny story: when I saw it in Boston, the projectionist switched two of the reels up. But it didn't really make the film's narrative any less comprehensible! That doesn't mean I don't love it.)

Am I just making this up, or do I recall reading that Redux was prepared digitally in less than 1080p, so no true HD version could ever be assembled? At the least, there is a certain cheapness to the digital retooling that undermines what feihong refers to as Wong's attempt to "class" the film up.

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feihong
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Re: Forthcoming: Discussion and Random Speculation Volume 7

#55 Post by feihong » Tue Dec 27, 2016 5:13 am

I can't recall where but I heard something similar about the Redux version: that the "restoration" part of the process was done very poorly, and that the result was, I believe less that full hi-def. I also at one point had heard that the color shifts in the redux were in some cases masking significant color alteration of the original negative that they couldn't clean up, for one reason or another. There was also a time issue––as Bordwell mentions, the previously restored Happy Together was meant to be the first of a series of retrospective restorations of Wong's films undertaken by Jet Tone. The box that the restored Happy Together DVD came in was meant to house DVDs of later restorations, I believe. That never came to pass, but I think it was still on board as a merchandising hook when they began trying to restore Ashes of Time. I think that they felt pressure to have this one done so the next one could be done as well––at that time people were clamoring for a more eminently watchable version of Days of Being Wild, especially, and that restoration was meant to come afterwards, I think. So I wouldn't write off the pressure of a time crunch being responsible for some of the decisions which let to the overall poor quality of the Redux restoration.

I don't feel as upbeat about the Redux as Bordwell is on his blog. Perhaps because I've watched mostly that international print for decades. The Frankie Chan score is pretty much a classic for me––the Redux score is genuinely miserable, with Yoyo Ma's tepid cello standing in for Chan's very intense electric guitar (for the record, I don't hate the cello; just that infuriating, omnipresent cellist), throat singing, distorted harp, and soul-inflected spaghetti western choir. The Redux soundtrack was also altered in sections by another composer, and those changes replace the swirling, swooning Frankie Chan melodies with clipped, uncomfortable and unresolved revamped melodies––they begin sounding like the Chan melodies and then change by the end into something with a lot less in every department. The changes make a score that very adeptly underscored the action of the film into something that noodles around as background accompaniment. The importance of the assertive, modern-sounding score in the film as a contrast to the film's rather vague attempts at period recreation shouldn't go unremarked; the Frankie Chan score is not over-emphasizing the drama of the film, but rather, I think, reaching for an ur-text underpinning the feelings of characters, the general feelings of and context for scenes, underlining the strangely ironic fate that descends on figure after figure and swooping up to indicate the cosmic, or at least universal meaning of a hand on someone else's sleeve, for example. The drama is mostly very underplayed in Ashes of Time; it's the score that provides most definitive evidence of its presence. But the Redux score is a disappointingly traditional, conservative recourse––what you do when you have to have a score but you don't actually want it there.

I should also add here that by underlining the characters motivations and emotions, the Frankie Chan score is doing something that other Wong Kar Wai movies of the period also did very well; the soundtracks to Days of Being Wild, Chungking Express and Fallen Angels especially use songs to convey emotion when the characters are for the most part hiding their true feelings. This is true of later Wong Kar Wai movies as well, but the Redux of Ashes mortgages this technique away in favor of a "classy sound."

I'm also, I guess, a lot less of an auteurist than Bordwell; I am more and more of the feeling that directors aren't always great judges of their own work. Another way of saying this might be that I value the communicative quality of a film above the sanctity of an individual creator's intentions. There was something very electric and complete-feeling about the international cut of Ashes, as there was about the Hong Kong cut of Mad Detective––the one before Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai decided their film would be better if the story made less sense and they colored everything blue. I feel that the ghosts the producer demanded--leaving Lau Ching-Wan's body at the end of Victim--are additive to the meaning of that film, recapitulating both the question of supernatural presence in the film and the idea of another time and mindset possessing someone, all to a quite enriching effect. Ringo Lam may have wanted the bleaker version of the shot with no effect in it, but unlike Ringo I don't feel that the ghosts in the shot make the film feel any more patently "mystical" or coldly "actual" in tone. But auteurist cineastes out there put a lot of pressure on us to watch films only "the way the director intended it," rather than predominantly from the perspective from which we're seeing it. Bordwell isn't going over-the-top here (he never does, I don't think), but I don't necessarily see it as a case of Wong having wrested control of his work back. A long time has passed since Ashes was filmed, and Wong has become middle-aged in the interim. His outlook and his aesthetics are different from when he shot the movie. He's become a filmmaker on the world stage; when he made Ashes he was a hotshot--or at least a new flavor--strictly in Hong Kong. He has success now, and he's achieved it in ways his younger self might not have recognized, or even respected. And, as Bordwell indicates, Hong Kong film has changed since the era when Ashes of Time was made. For that matter, world cinema has different values and aesthetics. And I have to recognize and admit that I prefer the aesthetics of the era when Ashes of Time first appeared to the sort of filmmaking we see now. Films could look rougher and stranger back then. It seemed as if they could have odder and more unique narrative strategies. They seemed to be able to have more complicated themes. So my own bias sways quite naturally to the version of the film I saw at that time.

Now I have the TF1 disc, and I've watched that version. The image quality is far greater than on the Mei Ah disc, but I don't think the film on that disc is as involving as the international cut on the Mei Ah version. Honestly, when those fight sequences are removed, I have to say the picture loses more than a little interest. It's not just that the fight scenes add another dimension to the drama of the film; they also are the main times you see the background of the film––in other words, the action scenes stand in for establishing shots. In both the Redux and the TF1 cut, it's far harder to tell what is happening where and when––we jump from closeup of one character to closeup of another, and we don't realize until later that we've moved to a different scene––or the shift never becomes clear. The fight scenes at the end wrap up the picture far more cleanly than the other endings in other versions, which have wrap-ups that hardly feel at all like conclusions. The litany of different warriors frozen in violent motion really establishes the way in which the characters are trapped in the violent worlds they've made for themselves. Fading out on Ouyang Feng doesn't do the trick. It isn't Ouyang Feng's movie, really––he isn't a protagonist with a story yet to be told when this movie begins. He doesn't have the agency and potential Chow Mo-Wan has, or Yuddy has. Rather, Ouyang Feng is a collector of the stories who relates to us what he learns of other people––and those people are the protagonists of the film. Seeing them all at the end is a more fitting conclusion, as I see it. The other endings do not feel substantial.

In its paring away, the Redux also provides a greater remove from the source material, and I think that the way Wong has adapted "The Eagle Shooting Heroes" is one of the things that makes the international cut of the picture really interesting. The Shaw Brothers' Brave Archer series retells the same story in a much more thorough, albeit conventional way (spread across 3 films, with a 4th as the sort of useless expansion and addendum that would bring a tear to George Lucas' eye). I have a good deal of fun watching the series, but it also makes for a good comparison with Ashes. The Evil East and Malicious West characters in the Brave Archer films are tyrant hermits, keeping their clans at war and at bay from their seclusion, while the Tartars look upon the clans' divisions and prepare to conquer. Hong Qi, the Beggar King, is another major character in what turns out to be a "Romeo-and-Juliet"-style saga, of which Evil East and Malicious West are the key poles. Their consent will unite the clans, their dissent ensures the continuing strife between both sides. Hong Qi ends up taking a middle road; one which helps unite Evil East and Malicious West's children and mend the conflict between the two of them. In Ashes we see this relationship replicated in the introductory battle scenes, contrasting closeups where the figures stand staring at one another's faces, then appear separated from one another by a chasm. Over the course of the film, Wong writes the early days of these characters, illuminating and creating motivations for their later struggles in the full saga. But Ashes of Time jumps further as well, and in the international cut there is a fight where we see a mustache-less Ouyang Feng battling a horde of beggars. At the end of the film the scene is recapitulated, and we discover that Hong Qi is there, alarmed to see Ouyang Feng as his opponent. Earlier titles on screen have insisted that Hong Qi and Ouyang Feng will kill each other in their duel, and we realize at the end of the film that this almost wraparound scene is the moment before their deaths. The fights are integral to the Brave Archer films––the feats of strength, cunning, ingenuity and naked power on display are the moments where we discover what the wandering characters of the story have become. In the international cut of Ashes the martial displays give us a sense of the inner power or potentials of the potent central figures. The "Brave Archer" of the Shaw Brother's series' title learns the styles of both Eastern and Western clans, and is able to unite them because he merges the two styles in his own. The characters we see in Ashes of Time are raging against such union--they are coming apart from one another, creating the divisions that will keep them in conflict for decades and set up the story, which Brave Archer goes on to tell. Ashes of Time, at least in the international cut, tells the story of people caught up in a life of strife, with no view of a solution. In their martial world, love is as contentious a situation as a financial transaction or a supposedly "friendly" rivalry. Reputation is the commodity these warriors trade in, but the only way they get that reputation is by murdering each other. The only way they can prepare themselves to kill, it seems, is to be heartbroken, at least according to the younger Wong Kar-wai who made this picture. But all of the comparisons between the two texts are lost on most international audiences of the here and now; as is any analysis you can derive from such comparisons. I'm not naive enough that I can't see why this might be. But the idealist in me wants people to just wiki the stuff they don't know about and adapt to a really dynamic way of telling stories they did in another country, in the 90s. Find out why it's good! The reasons are there waiting for you.

I think there are a lot of reasons the Redux was made, and while the film negative may have been damaged beyond repair––or at least beyond the repairs their particular restoration crew were capable of doing at the time––the retooling of the movie was definitely a product of a different, older filmmaker, speaking no longer to just a Hong Kong audience, but to an international one. Also, Wong had become a filmmaker who spent much more time fussing over pictures in the intervening years. If the international cut was a result of producers demanding more fighting, my own feeling is that the producers made a good call. The fights help the film grow in your mind. The Wong who cut the Redux seems like a filmmaker years out of touch with the footage he shot, and I think the cut he seems to prefer reduces the scope of the film and the meanings that can be read from it. I really hope someone can find a way to make a version of the international cut from prints. Part of the charm of the international cut on VHS and DVD was that the film stock looked like it had been left out in the desert. The color-timing of shots did not match up well, and that did make the movie visually rather captivating––if anything, if enhanced the rawness of the arid emotional landscape Wong seemed to enjoy portraying, warts and all. I don't think a higher-def version from flawed sources would be any less fun, in that regard.

Also...not to dismiss Bordwell's perspective on the different versions of the film entirely, but I have to mention how much the international cut of the film corresponds in style and feeling to Wong's other films of the era––that version of the film has the jarring, elliptical cutting strategy of Days of Being Wild, the same approach to action as Fallen Angels, and it has a lot of the look and feel of Chungking Express (especially the first and more abrupt section of Chungking Express). It does not depart from that aesthetic in any way I can see––whereas the Redux definitely swims toward the classier waters of In the Mood for Love and The Grandmaster. Conversely, the TF1 DVD cut feels like the international cut with key material lopped off. The footage seemed almost as if it were removed by accident, or for censorship reasons––it distorts the editing progression so awkwardly.

I don't know. I thought about piecing together a DVD of the international cut of Ashes using the TF1 disc for parts, and upconverting the Mei Ah DVD footage as needed, for my own viewing pleasure. It would probably look like the director's cut of The Wicker Man, and maybe a bit more jarring. But it would be something. It would be nice to watch the old version on a big TV set and feel some of the old fire again. I like the Wong Kar-Wai that made In the Mood for Love and 2046, and even The Grandmaster (the less said about My Blueberry Nights, the better, though). But he really feels like a different filmmaker than the more brash, youthful moviemaker from Wong's Hong Kong heyday. And I think it's a real shame this movie seems to be invisible in the eyes of a lot of newer Wong fans.
Last edited by feihong on Tue Dec 27, 2016 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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tenia
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Re: Forthcoming: Discussion and Random Speculation Volume 7

#56 Post by tenia » Tue Dec 27, 2016 5:53 am

Crap, the TF1 DVD is yet another cut ? I thought there only was 2 cuts available on video : the Redux and the non-Redux cut.

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feihong
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Re: Forthcoming: Discussion and Random Speculation Volume 7

#57 Post by feihong » Tue Dec 27, 2016 4:25 pm

Nope, the TF1 disc features another cut, and Bordwell posits that it might be the version Wong originally previewed to audiences in Hong Kong at midnight screenings. TF1 apparently brags that theirs is the definitive cut of the movie. Personally, it let me down. The film just seems to end without any sense of conclusion.

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#58 Post by Calvin » Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:27 am

Directing "Tong Wars" for Amazon
The streaming service has given a greenlight to “Tong Wars,” an hour-long drama written and executive produced by Paul Attanasio and directed by decorated Hong Kong filmmaker Wong. The series is set against the Tong Wars of 19th century San Francisco and tells a story spanning a significant period of time about Chinese immigrants and the clashes between organized-crime families in the city’s Chinatown.

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#59 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Fri Mar 30, 2018 6:31 pm

I kinda forgot it existed in the first place, but an extended 60-minute version of Wong's segment from Eros will premiere at next month's Beijing International Film Festival.

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#60 Post by nolanoe » Thu Apr 19, 2018 5:47 am

Quickly jumping in: all of the things mentioned about REDUX are true. No audio was available and the print was heavily damaged, color wise. WKW decided with Doyle to go all out and create something more experimental. I am torn on it - it's a unique film, but I've never laid eyes on one of the other versions, of which there are multiple (I believe to recall that essentially any area the film was screened at decided to do a cut of their own).

Also, is WKW really ever directing anything, or turning into the director's version of the Sex Pistols in signing on, cashing in and then having tea? Wasn't he supposed to do one (or two) romantic book adaptations? Lady from Shanghai with Kidman? A crime thriller?

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#61 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:03 pm

The Lady from Shanghai is long dead, Kidman having apparently been unwilling to commit to an open-ended shoot and Wong seeing no point in doing it with another actress. The "romantic book adaptations" you're thinking of are probably The Ferryman (which ended up being nominally directed* by the original author under the English title See You Tomorrow) and Blossoms, a story of Shanghai from the 1960s to the early 2000s that Wong still plans to do someday. The crime thriller might've been an Annapurna production about the murder of Maurizio Gucci, but Wong eventually said he was never attached to this and it was just errant speculation. From all indications, his next project is the aforementioned Tong Wars—there was a casting call for the series late last year, with a listed start date of July 2018.

*I say "nominally" because the film's cinematographer Peter Pau wrote a long postmortem in which he all but described Wong as its ghost director. Its reception was so negative that I haven't been able to bring myself to check it out.

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#62 Post by Rupert Pupkin » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:48 pm

this extended cut of "Eros" WKW sounds very exciting... This was my favorite part of "Eros".

I had bought years ago the DVD release (a Korean one?) at Yesasia...

is there a blu-ray release planned or released somewhere ? (I mean - at least for the original "Eros" (with Steven Soderbergh + M.Antonioni movies) ?
I had been able to find a 720p HD transfer which looks great (the whole "Eros" movie) but with subtitles ingrained (perhaps sourced from iTunes ?). If they could release a blu-ray that would be great!

but my highest hopes are for a blu-ray release of 2046... [-o<
there has been one Blu-Ray (a Korean one ?) two years ago or something like that but an old master almost upscaled...

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#63 Post by zedz » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:32 am

Rupert Pupkin wrote:this extended cut of "Eros" WKW sounds very exciting... This was my favorite part of "Eros".
Me too, but it didn't exactly have stiff competition!

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#64 Post by Rupert Pupkin » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:39 am

zedz wrote:
Rupert Pupkin wrote:this extended cut of "Eros" WKW sounds very exciting... This was my favorite part of "Eros".
Me too, but it didn't exactly have stiff competition!
who was initially the cineast who was supposed to do one of the 3 short movies ? (I think that this is Soderbergh who replaced him)

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#65 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:49 am

Almodovar

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#66 Post by Rupert Pupkin » Fri Apr 20, 2018 1:46 am

domino harvey wrote:Almodovar
oh yes....too bad! :oops: (not that the Soderbergh is bad (in fact, when I saw it again in 720p I enjoyed it...) but Almodovar would have been a great choice... Bigas Luna too...

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#67 Post by R0lf » Fri Apr 20, 2018 7:43 am

Rupert Pupkin wrote: but my highest hopes are for a blu-ray release of 2046... [-o<
there has been one Blu-Ray (a Korean one ?) two years ago or something like that but an old master almost upscaled...
I owned the Korean 2046 blu ray and it was 100% an SD picture put on to a blu ray disc. It had visible interlacing on the SD picture which the DVD doesn't. I gave it away and have continued to watch the much better DVD.

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#68 Post by JSC » Fri Apr 20, 2018 8:50 am

Me too, but it didn't exactly have stiff competition!
The Soderbergh sequence was a one-joke idea that doesn't really
go anywhere, despite the film-noir pastiche and the actors involved.

But I'll go out on a limb here and put up a limited defense of Antonioni's
The Dangerous Thread of Things, which I think was largely done in
by the decision to use an atrocious English-language soundtrack.

When seen in the context of Antonioni's work as a whole, I don't
believe it to be much of a deviation from Identification of a Woman
or Beyond the Clouds (in fact Beyond the Clouds often feels a
lot more awkward in its overall conception than the short).

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#69 Post by knives » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:07 am

Personally the Soderbergh one was the only I fully enjoyed. It's hilarious and pretty smart.

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domino harvey
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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#70 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:10 am

I think all three segments are awful, but I've grown increasingly unsympathetic to WKW's style in recent years (though his is still the best of the three, which is like declaring you contracted the best venereal disease)

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#71 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:12 am

Rupert Pupkin wrote:
domino harvey wrote:Almodovar
oh yes....too bad! :oops: (not that the Soderbergh is bad (in fact, when I saw it again in 720p I enjoyed it...) but Almodovar would have been a great choice... Bigas Luna too...
Wikipedia claims Almodovar's segment evolved into Bad Education

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JSC
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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#72 Post by JSC » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:48 am

I think all three segments are awful, but I've grown increasingly unsympathetic
to WKW's style in recent years (though his is still the best of the three, which is like
declaring you contracted the best venereal disease)
Oh god, I didn't realize I could catch gonorrhea (or whatever) from watching an
Antonioni short! :shock:

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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#73 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:55 am

Everyone knows chlamydia is the best venereal disease.

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JSC
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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#74 Post by JSC » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:01 pm

Everyone knows chlamydia is the best venereal disease.
Cue Monty Python's Medical Love Song....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfHCxIiZ_4M

Calvin
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Re: Wong Kar-wai

#75 Post by Calvin » Sat Oct 20, 2018 4:49 am

The Hawaii International Film Festival will host Wong Kar-wai next month at a screening of Chungking Express. Happy Together and In the Mood for Love will also be screened.

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