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Summarize this content to 100 words The location is tacky beyond anything the most brilliant production designer could have devised: a grimy beauty salon hidden away one floor above street level in a corner of Tsirnshatsui, Hong Kong’s tourist centre. Hard to say if the lurid green walls and coloured light bulbs are authentic 60s tat, or represent a forlorn 70s attempt to catch up with fashion; either way, nothing has been done to mitigate the massive wear and tear of the intervening decades. Wong Kar-Wai and his designer William Chang have chosen this place as a setting for a killing in Wong’s new film Fallen Angels. It’s two o’clock on a hot April night, and the place is crowded with Indian extras: mostly men, but also a few women and one babe-in-arms whose father is fussing around anxiously wondering when they can go to bed. The hitman played by singer Leon Lai bursts in, causing the Indians to scatter in panic before one of them is gunned down. When I ask Wong Kar-Wai about the scene he’s shooting, he grins and says, “Tonight, I’m doing John Woo.” This feature was originally published in our September 1995 issue Two months later I catch up with the unit once again, this time shooting in a decrepit apartment building in the back streets of Wanchai with two of the film’s other stars, Takeshi Kaneshiro (Cop #223 in Chungking Express) and Charlie Young (the mysterious silent girl in Ashes of Time). Young is rampaging through the building in search of someone, bawling threats up and down the fire-escape stairs; Kaneshiro plays her mute sidekick, backing up her anger with guttural noises and gestures of violence. Again it’s in the small hours, and not surprisingly the residents are complaining about the noise. The scene turns out to be a retake of material already shot once; the difference being that the cinematographer this time is the increasingly masterly Chris Doyle, who shot Days of Being Wild, Ashes of Time and most of Chungking Express, but had to stop working on Fallen Angels in April when he was called to Shanghai to resume work on Chen Kaige’s new film. Wong wasn’t satisfied by most of the stuff shot by fill-in cameramen; hence a hastily arranged schedule of retakes. The film is supposed to premiere in Taiwan at the end of July. However Fallen Angels turns out, Wong is already well established alongside Stanley Kwan as one of the few distinctive and original authors in Hong Kong cinema. Public interest in his movies has fluctuated alarmingly (Days of Being Wild was a major flop on first release, Ashes of Time was a financial disappointment relative to cast and cost, Chungking Express was a surprise hit), but his critical standing has risen steadily, as has his international reputation. One obvious reason for his erratic box-office performance is that, like Kwan, he seems more comfortable away from genre than suits the taste of the Hong Kong audience. Another is that his predilection for casting top stars against type or in unusual roles flouts industry wisdom. But stars queue up to work with Wong Kar-Wai. In a film industry notorious for the sketchy and amateurish nature of its training, many actors see Wong as a director who can bring out their best. Chungking Express (Chongqing Senlin, 1994), which tells two separate stories linked more by theme and mood than narrative line, seems the polar opposite of the films which precede and follow it in his filmography, Days of Being Wild (A-Fei Zhengchuan, 1990/91) and Ashes of Time (Dong Xie Xi Du, 1994). The obsessed, embittered, haunted and intermittently hysterical characters of those movies seem a world away from the relatively relaxed modern city types who populate Chungking Express, their neuroses so unremarkable that they’re as normal as you or me. But as he explains in the following interview, Wong sees the difference simply as one of degree. All of his characters are afflicted by the same problems of loneliness, insecurity and inability to commit; it’s just that the ones in Chungking Express have found ways to cope which the others haven’t. Takeshi Kaneshiro and Brigitte Lin in Chungking Express The protagonists of both stories in Chungking Express are lovelorn cops ditched by their girlfriends. In the first story, Plain-Clothes Cop #223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is counting the days since his girlfriend gave him the push, a process which meshes in his mind with the countdown to his next birthday. Chance brings him into contact with a fascinating older woman (Brigitte Lin) with whom he spends a chaste night, unaware that she’s a big-time heroin smuggler who has just shot an absconding drugs courier and will gun down her two-timing supplier next day. In the second story, Uniformed Cop #663 (Tony Leung) mopes at length over the fact that the air hostess he succeeded in seducing at 35,000 feet has discovered choice and left him for another man. He is unaware that he is an object of intense romantic passion for the young woman (Faye Wong) who serves fast-food at the late-night snack bar where he stops for coffee, and even less aware that she is in the habit of entering his apartment while he’s out, to clean and re-decorate it. Both stories mix their romantic melancholy with a great deal of humour. Faye Wong and Tony Leung in Chungking Express Wong turned director in 1988 to film his own script As Tears Go By (Wangjiao Kamen), originally intended as the first part of a trilogy by Patrick Tam. The film is an idiosyncratic riff on the plot and themes of Mean Streets, set in the Triad-ridden backstreets of Mongkok; the protagonist (Andy Lau) is an enigmatic hitman dragged into trouble time and time again, by his excitable ‘disciple’ (Jacky Cheung). It’s Wong’s most generic movie by far, but it’s high-octane visuals and step-printed action climaxes set him several notches higher than the average Hong Kong gangster-movie director. The subsequent films have lifted him to another level entirely: he has become not only a supreme visual stylist but also a poet of the kinds of love that tear people apart… and just occasionally bring them back together again. He is also a poet of time. No other director since the (distant) heyday of Alain Resnais has been so attuned to the effects of time on memory, sensation and emotion. Few other directors have ever imbued their movies with such a meta- physical sense of time at work: dilating, stretching, lurching, dragging, speeding by. In teaming up with Chris Doyle, the Australian-born cinematographer who almost never uses a tripod and is known for his highly physical engagement with the action of the films he shoots, Wong has found the perfect co-conspirator for his adventures with pacing and rhythm. Doyle’s fluid takes lend themselves equally to dynamic jump-cutting (Chungking Express) and moments of stasis (Ashes of Time); they also allow Wong all the leeway he needs for his improvisatory work with actors. And William Chang, Hong Kong’s answer to the late Ferdinanda Scarfiotti, completes the triangle with a design sense that’s completely in tune with Wong’s need for sets and locations which evoke the past, recent or distant, or which testify to the effects of time. Together, the three of them make one of the most charged creative teams in present-day filmmaking. Christopher Doyle and Wong Kar-Wai Wong Kar-Wai has been through three night-long shoots in succession on Fallen Angels when we finally sit down to talk in the coffee-shop of the hotel he’s using as his temporary base. He’s tired, and the interview is an obvious distraction from more urgent matters of script revision and further reshoots. But he’s cheerful and forthcoming…. and insists that he now feels more optimistic than he can ever remember being before. I only wish I could print some of the gossip we shared.
 You studied graphic design at Hong Kong Polytechnic, but you entered the film industry as a scriptwriter. Which is more important to you, the writing or the ‘look’ of a film? My ideas about writing changed as soon as I started directing. As a writer, I wanted my scripts to be perfect and fully formed. As a director, I know there are always factors beyond my control. Many things in any film cannot be planned concretely in advance. The best you can do is…

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