Wong Kar-wai: Myths in Motion
The first half of The Grandmaster is set in a period that’s new to Wong’s cinema: China before the revolution. (I am excepting the setting of Ashes, more mythic than historical.) This is not the decadent, Westernized jazz age Republic, but a world steeped in centuries-old continuities, a 1936 where the imperial past is still not really past.
Made at the turn of the 1990s, the film both anticipates Hong Kong’s handover from British rule to mainland China in 1997, and evokes the past, specifically the 1960s; Days thus bears feelings of both longing nostalgia and reckless exuberance, personal displacement and political tumult.
Do the queer romances at the film’s center become one-to-one matches for their straight counterparts elsewhere in Wong’s oeuvre, or does this brief encounter between recognizable directorial vision and atypical topic tweak the inner workings of Wong’s style?
There’s no strict design to the film: one gets the sense that there could have been an infinite number of other versions of Chungking Express—with just a slight turn, the camera may have alighted on a different lonely soul and begun an entirely new story.