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  • Amber Shan

The Art of Wong Kai-war

In a dark alley in Hong Kong, she ran into him. They looked into each other’s eyes as if they had fallen into each other’s world. Her crimson Qipao stole all of the attention, while his black suit camouflaged him in the night of Hong Kong. This moment was considered a classic in “In the Mood for Love” by Wong Kai-wai. Wong has a key characteristic of his photography, because he does not capture the features of the characters, but their emotions. 


"In the Mood for Love"

Recently, Wong's TV series “Fan Hua” went viral. The story was set in 1992 Shanghai when China began to open up its borders to do business with merchants from other countries. Opportunities flourished, and people flooded into Shanghai, looking for opportunities. Merchants gathered in Shanghai’s Huanghe Road and they stayed there from sunrise to sunset. Among them, the most prosperous businessman was A Bao, and he partnered with Lili, who is the owner of the most famous restaurant—Zhizhenyuan. Their realm of business covered from fashion to mechanics, and even finance. A Bao was caught in a complicated relationship between two other women, Ms.Wang and Lingzi. However, this story is not a typical “women falling head over the heels for men” situation. Those female characters define “Fan Hua”. 


Wong has a specific way of portraying each character. Ms.Wang is a bright woman, thus the light always follows her around in each movie scene. Ms.Wang’s voice is always heard first and he later appears before the camera. I still remember the scene when she received an unexpected gift from A Bao: in that suspended moment, delicate beams of light highlighted her silhouette, a flush appeared on her cheeks, and tears twinkled. Lili is the opposite of Ms.Wang. She is mysterious and full of aggressiveness, as the netizens commented that she is “that woman in the painting.” Wong always dresses her in black wavy hair, bright red lips, and animal-patterned clothes. She is always standing above the camera, which causes her to look over the person she is speaking to. Half of her body hides in the shadow, and her red lips part just enough to release a breath of whispered secrets into the waiting air. I especially love the scene when she was having a conversation with her manager in front of a giant oil painting. The light shined on Lili’s back, but hid the woman in the painting. At that moment, she became part of the oil painting: she can only be seen, and can not be touched. When Lingzi appeared in the movie, she reminded me of an “a-niang” (auntie) who lives right below you, does housekeeping work for her husband, and never talks back to him. She is storyless because her whole life is only about A Bao. Wong adds a dimension to her, by putting on the Jing opera whenever she is silent. The opera speaks for herself. I especially like the scene where she parted with A Bao, the opera sang “柳暗花明休啼笑” which means “at one’s darkest hour, there will always be a glimmer of hope.” 



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