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Wong Kar Wai at Lincoln Center.

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061605_2046At around 8pm, Wong Kar Wai arrived, hand in hand with a woman in a red dress, strolling past two lines of huddled crowds shivering unhappily in summer clothing on an unexpectedly frigid evening, and stopping in front of the small contingent of photographers and news cameras. We’d like to say that, having waited a year longer than the rest of the world to see "2046," three more hours was nothing, but goddamn, it was miserable. "Film Comment"’s screening started at 9pm, to a packed house, with the magazine’s editor Gavin Smith introducing WKW, who in turn introduced his film, and thanked "Film Comment" for never putting him on the cover ("2046" will actually be the cover story for the July/August issue). He’s much taller than we’d thought. The sunglasses stayed on the whole time.

As for the film, it was delicious, an impossibly dense, lush concoction that was almost too much to take in one sitting. "I’m already missing you," Gong Li‘s beautiful, tragic gambler tells Tony Leung‘s Chow Mo Wan before she says goodbye. And in the same way, by halfway through the film we wished we were watching it again. Tropes and characters from Wong’s past films emerge like old friends — certainly one of the high points of our year.

After the jump, some hasty transcriptions from the Q & A Wong did after the film screened. 

A note: these are very rough — garnered as best we could in a noisy room and through his accent. Also, the batteries on our recorder are failing…if we have time to run out and get new ones, we may add a few more on here later in the day.

On the difference between "2046" and "In The Mood for Love."

In fact, I found it very difficult to make a difference between these two films. So at certain point, one of the reasons I wanted to put the number, 2046, on that hotel room was since I wanted to consider these two films as one film in different chapters. So the way we look at "In The Mood for Love" is like observations. It’s about these two people, Maggie and Tony…. But in "2046," it’s more about this man, and Maggie in the film is not a person. She is a man’s image, an idea. He wants to compare all the women around him to that image.

On his reasons for shooting "2046" in CinemaScope.

The main reason is…I wanted to torture Chris Doyle. Chris always claimed he has shot in CinemaScope, and I know it’s not true. He claims
"Hero" was shot in CinemaScope, and it’s not true. And also, because
we’re shooting in a very small space…actually, the hotel in the film is a prison
in Hong Kong, for political prisoners, and we just dressed up the space. But
that space is so small — the room of his is only half this platform, and you
know, to shoot with real CinemaScope, that means the angle is almost 180
degrees, and there’s way he can put the lights! We were shooting with these
antique television cameras, these 1970s cameras, because they were the only
machines that were available at that time, and we wanted to capture that Shaw
brothers feeling. So is it a very big machine. So Chris and his assistant had
to squeeze in the corner of this room, trying to shoot these scenes, and,
because we’d shoot in summertime and also in wintertime, so sometimes it was
extremely hot, and it really smelled, so when you look at all the scenes, it
looks quite nice, but it smelled really bad.

About his working relationship with Chris Doyle.

Chris…we’ve worked together almost ten years, and we know
each other quite well. There are two types of cinematographers. Some of them are
like a soldier, you know, they’re disciplined and they’re stable. And some of
them are like a sailor, which [unintelligible], or they need a break. But
Chris, because, in real life, he started as a sailor, and so, he needs to move.
And in a way, I give him space. But most of the time I decide the filming, the
look. But it doesn’t mean that he works according to what I decide. There will
be a surprise. But most of the time, a good surprise.

About "2046" having more in common, stylistically with
"Days of Being Wild" than with "In The Mood for Love," and
if Tony Leung’s appearance at in the final scene of "Days" was meant
to be the same character as the one he plays in "2046."

I’m very glad you noticed that, because "Days of Being Wild" is a film I made twenty years ago, and at the end of it, we have Tony. He has only one scene, at the end of the film, because the film was supposed to have two parts, but somehow, because the part one didn’t do very well, the producer decided "never mind."

At the end, it’s only three minutes, without any dialog, it’s the introduction of Tony Leung as a gambler. And we liked this scene so much, because it’s brilliant, and it’s one of my favorite endings of all my films, We were trying to make a film about a gambler, but somehow it didn’t work out. So it’s very strange, when we were working on "2046," we shot the film with difference chronologies, in a different chronological order, We shot the part with Gong Li and Tony at the end of the production. So the film opens with Tony…he’s a gambler. The ending of "Days of Being Wild" and "2046" can happen in one night, with a time difference of twenty years, so it’s very strange. I think in "2046", actually, there’s a lot of occasions like this. It’s always like a reunion. Some characters from my previous films, they show up. And you look at them and you see how they have changed.

About the similarities between Gong Li’s character in "2046" and her character in "Eros."

We shot "Eros" first. We shot that film in just seven days. This was during SARS, and we had to let all our crew members go back to their countries. The last few days, we actually shot 48 hours straight. And after that, we thought we should work together soon, because it was a great experience. So I decided to ask Gong Li to do this film. I said, well, there’s a role which I think is quite important, but it’s not a big role. But would she want to consider that. And she said, well, "I’ll try." Because she was fascinated by the idea of a gambler. And because in "Eros," hands are very important, because the title of that film is "The Hand". And in this film, her hand is covered. So it’s a different character, but also it’s somehow related.

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