The Criterion Collection has a new feature called UNDER THE INFLUENCE… which, as you can imagine if it is from Criterion, is a smart and compelling discussion of what films have influenced en vogue or stalwart film auteurs.
Barry Jenkins, director of the knockout MOONLIGHT, discusses his thoughts and feelings on the two WKW films Criterion has the license for – CHUNGKING EXPRESS (this is now out of print) and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.
WKW is one of my favorite directors, his films are like intimate visual novels with great expanses of poetry interspersed within the scintillating narrative.
WKW has a working method that most filmmakers would find maddening, and it obviously reduces his potential output… he really embraces that adage David Fincher coined about filmmaking: we sculpt light, time, and performance.
Jenkins points out how mind-expanding WKW’s films can be for US audiences, and when he gave a Q&A at the WGA screening for MOONLIGHT last October, he discussed how he wanted to take cues from the foreign films he now has an affinity for.
It’s funny that in film school so many students gravitate toward foreign cinema as means of exploration and artistic investigation, yet it is rare to see those xeno-aesthetics and methods make their way into the director’s toolbox of American directors. Could be the pressure of the dollar or it could be the lack of bravery? The jury will always be out.
In the wake of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, which rocked everyone’s world at Cannes that year, WKW followed it up with an instalment in the BMW FILMS series. His chapter, THE FOLLOW, might be the most lyrical and incisive.
It’s easy to see why Jenkins has his mind blown by WKW; his work almost defies description… you’re going to need your 1000 words to describe any number of impact images WKW’s films are filled to the brim with.
WKW’s follow-up was 2046; dubbed a science fiction film, it’s a time travel tale that sort of picks up, thematically, where IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE left off… but even that doesn’t seem like an apt description. And that’s why his films are must-sees… he captures inner states like few others; he uses music in a singular fashion, and he breaks the so-called narrative “rules” like any of your favorite mavericks.
WKW is currently working on a film (whatever synopsis or logline we’ve heard, probably won’t be appropriate when the film eventually gets a release), and the question I’m curious to know is if he’s shooting on 35mm (or 65mm) film stock or has he made the leap to digital cinema. A great of the visual flourishes WKW and long-time collaborator DP Christopher Doyle developed stretch the analog nature of the film camera in ways I’ve yet to see effectively replicated with an Alexa or Red.
I would love to see Criterion do the international version of THE GRANDMASTER, but searching for an international, region-free Blu-ray is probably what we’ll have to settle on as The Weinstein Company has the US license to the film, and Harvey loves to chop up international films so they can be “more easily digested” by the US audience. Which is a shame considering art films are rarely seen in the cinema these days, and find their audiences on home video or streaming services, where the audience has no qualms about running time or narrative diversions.
Barry Jenkins is adapting the award-winning novel UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead for Amazon Prime as his next project, and I’m curious see if he still draws up WKW…