Wong Kar-wai’s Subtle Battles


Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster was released last Friday. Each of Wong’s previous masterpieces has evoked a kind of romantic longing. Chungking Express, for example, opens with a woman in a blond wig and a trench coat walking through the stalls of Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong. It’s a place where you can buy electronics and food, and it is crowded at night. The woman takes an elevator up to what looks like it might be a tailor shop, though it’s too dark to tell. We follow her down a hallway, and abruptly she turns and looks directly into the camera, the way a beautiful woman would turn to look at a man who was following her too closely. She walks a bit further, into a room with a man in an undershirt sitting on a top bunk, and the title screen comes up. Then, over scenes of white clouds against the blue sky, behind silhouettes of industrial equipment, a young man says in voiceover, “Every day we brush past so many people. People we may never meet or people who may become close friends. I’m a cop, number 223. My name’s He Qiwu.” Now he is chasing someone through Chungking. He brushes past a mannequin wearing a blond wig like the woman’s.

more from Amie Barrodale at Harper’s here.