After a few disappointments, is Wong Kar-Wai ready to make a comeback?

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Originally Posted on [The Playlist] by yours truly.

Nobody, and I do mean nobody, was as hot a director on the foreign circuit as Wong Kar-Wai in the 90's and 00's. During that time he went on a stretch that was one of the greatest in modern cinematic history: "Chungking Express," "Fallen Angels," "Happy Together," and, the peak of it all, "In the Mood For Love." He oddly enough followed the latter up with a mesmerizing sequel entitled "2046," which, as it stands, is the last, industry-shaking, indisputably great movie he's released. You see, the 59-year-old-director has been in a bit of a funk of late, it started with his first foray in English-language features, 2007's misbegotten "My Blueberry Nights," which had, of all people, singer-songwriter Norah Jones as the lead and played like a desperate greatest hits of his better more rewarding features, he followed that with the most un-Wong Kar-Wai movie imaginable, "The Grandmaster," a kung-fu action epic starring Ziyi Zhang. The reviews for the latter were ok, at the very least much better than "My Blueberry Nights," but there was something missing. Gone was the master that we got to know for the better part of two brilliant decades. Wong Kar-Wai seemed lost. It didn't help that his longtime DP Christopher Doyle was sensing that something was indeed off with the director, telling The Guardian "You do realize that you have basically said what you needed to say, so why say more? I think you have to move on." Yikes.

So what does a great director stuck in the situation that Wong is presently in do? How about follow in the footsteps of many noteworthy directors like Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, David LynchJoel and Ethan Coen among many others and take a stab at TV. Television is, after all, being seen these days as the "new novel" and Wong Kar-Wai sees its potential. Amazon unveiled in early September, that it is working on a series entitled "Tang Wars," which was described as combining the history of Chinese immigration to the U.S. with a crime syndicate building up at the same time. The series is to be written by Paul Attanasio (“Quiz Show,” “Donnie Brasco”) and released in 2018.

We didn't know much else about the series beyond those few details. However, speaking at the famed Lumiere theater in Lyon this week, Wong elaborated what he has in mind for this excitingly new venture in his career “The thing that attracted me to this project was the first opportunity to tell the story of the first Chinese-American experience in the most authentic and proper way, because I think there aren’t many films about this experience,” He also mentioned that the story begins in 1905 and concludes in 1971.

Talking about the possibilities that come with television as compared to the cinema, the director went on to say:

“The format of a TV series just provides filmmakers to have a bigger canvas to tell their stories. Of course, I know why there are questions about this because today people are worried about whether this TV series or this kind of storytelling will become a competition to the cinema,” he said. “I don’t think so. They are just the different children of Lumiere. For filmmakers, they are just different canvases to paint their work, to show their ideas and tell their stories.”

He also hasn't quit cinema either, revealing what his next movie would be, an adaptation of Jin Yuchen’s novel “Blossoms.” IndieWire describes the plot as being "the story follows the lives of Shanghai residents from the end of China’s Cultural Revolution in the early ‘60s through the end of the 20th century, with some scenes set in San Francisco." Wong further elaborated his personal connection to that film saying “Shanghai is my hometown and the time that the book describes is the time of my absence from Hong Kong because I went to Hong Kong when I was 19, in ’63, I hadn’t been back to Shanghai until the early nineties. This is my opportunity for me to fill in all the things that I have missed.”

This is incredible and hopeful news for us Wong fans who have been a little down about his last few ventures. Here's hoping he gives us something special with these next few projects, we all know that talent and vision don't go away just like that and that it was only a decade ago he gave us the beautiful, transcendent duo "In the Mood For Love," and its sequel "2046." The saying goes "you can never count an auteur out," especially one as unique and special as Wong Kar-Wai.

[IndieWire]
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