Understanding China: Five films
(1994, directed by Wong Kar-wai, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung, Faye Wong, & Valerie Chow)
Built around two narratively unrelated love stories, the film is filled with symbols expressing the emotions of loss, anxiety, uncertainty and loneliness of Hong Kong on the eve of return to China.
By incorporating elements of popular culture from outside China – the sound track includes the Mamas and the Papas’ California Dreaming and Spanish music – the film emphasises the lack of roots and prevailing sense of uncertainty and alienation in the ultramodern Hong Kong. Considered Wong Kar-wai’s best film, it mixes the elements of an art house movie and a popular film by using a cast of Chinese superstars in unconventional ways.
The film reveals the extreme diversity to Hong Kong’s multicultural society – paying close attention to the constant shifts in language among multiple varieties of both Chinese and English dialects. If you haven’t ventured outside Central or the normal tourist spots, this movie will introduce you to a much broader view of Hong Kong by showing the everyday life of ordinary people, from local markets to cramped apartment life. Dazzlingly shot and beautifully evocative, there’s no better introduction to Hong Kong’s efforts to find a place for itself in modern China and the world.