4 Reasons Why Wong Kar-wai Was the Greatest Director of the 1990s
The 1990s marked a noteworthy period for cinema, characterized by an increase in franchise films, a surge in indie films, and the implementation of more chaotic filmmaking styles. Amidst this landscape of great filmmakers and promising new artists, Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai emerged as an exceptional director with a unique style of filmmaking that defined the decade. The films he produced during this time, including Days of Being Wild, Chunking Express, Fallen Angels, and Happy Together, are each a masterpiece, bearing his iconic style and moving storytelling.
There are several reasons why Wong Kar-wai was the greatest director of the 1990s, as evidenced by his work. Firstly, the cinematography in his films is a standout feature. Working closely with cinematographer Christopher Doyle, the two create images that are supremely moving and unforgettable, with a feeling of controlled chaos that matches the style of the 90s. Their improvisational spirit makes for spontaneous yet powerful images that express so much, and their work is more poetic and meaningful than most other energetic films of the time.
Secondly, the soundtracks in Wong Kar-wai’s films are among the greatest in all of cinema. The emotional impact of each scene is elevated to new heights by the music, and the director’s love of music is evident in the titles of his films. One of the best examples of this is Chungking Express, which features the repeated use of “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas, a song that never gets old and plays an important part in the story.
Thirdly, Wong Kar-wai’s films have some of the most iconic casting of any film. While he often works with frequent collaborators like Tony Leung or Maggie Cheung, he is able to pull incredible performances from them each time. His method of working with improvisation and loose scripts enables the actors to give something of themselves to the role, and this method of filmmaking has led to some of the best performances in cinema.
Finally, Wong Kar-wai’s sense of loneliness is perhaps his greatest strength. He understands the nature of loneliness and how it manifests differently in other people, driving them to do certain things in a certain way. This understanding makes his movies cathartic, as they reach out to the viewer and let them know that they’re not alone. Each film deals with themes of desiring connection and being unable to achieve it, but each feels unique and even revelatory in its own way.
Overall, Wong Kar-wai’s work in the 1990s cements him as one of the greatest artists in filmmaking. His films are a testament to his brilliance, and we can only hope to see more great filmmaking from him in the coming years.
The ’90s were an exciting but strange time for cinema. More franchise films were being made, more chaotic filmmaking styles were being employed, and there was a resurgence in the indie film scene with many promising new artists rising up. Many great movies came out during this period from great filmmakers, but one director had an exceptional run of films that could be considered some of the greatest of the decade. That director is the Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai.
The films made by Kar-wai during this decade would define his unique style of filmmaking and cement him as one of the greatest artists in filmmaking. They include such masterpieces as Days of Being Wild, Chunking Express, Fallen Angels, and Happy Togethereach film bearing his iconic style and moving storytelling. To further prove how important he was to the decade, here are four reasons why Wong Kar-wai was the greatest director of the 1990s.
The cinematography in Wong Kar-wai’s films has always been one of its greatest strengths. This is due in part to his close relationship with cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who has shot almost all of his films, the two creating images that are supremely moving and unforgettable. It could also be said that their work together is very much in tune with the style of the ’90s.
Kar-wai has often said his style was less a result of intentionality and more a product of budgetary restrictions. This can be seen with the films having a feeling of controlled chaos with an improvisational spirit, making for spontaneous yet powerful images that express so much. This matches the wild tastes of many films from the decade, but Kar-wai and Doyle create something that is more poetic and meaningful than most of the other energetic films. They’re still some of the best films ever shot, with no other films matching their incredible style quite as perfectly.
Soundtracks to Die For
If you don’t leave a Wong Kar-wai film thinking of the cinematography, you definitely will leave thinking of the music. The soundtracks in Kar-wai’s films are among the greatest in all cinema, elevating the emotion of each scene to heights beyond what just the images alone could accomplish. The director’s love of music can even be seen in the titles of his films, like Happy Together and In the Mood for Love.
While there are plenty of brilliant directors that use soundtracks to great effect, Kar-wai is on another level entirely. This is maybe best shown in Chungking Express with the use of “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas which is played over and over again in the movie, yet it never gets old and plays an important part in the story. It’s hard to say why this works so well, but whatever the reason, Kar-wai knew how to use it, and he makes it legendary.
You can’t make a great movie without a great cast, Wong Kar-wai’s films have some of the most perfect casting of any film. While his casts often have frequent collaborators like Tony Leung or Maggie Cheung, Kar-wai is able to pull incredible performances from them each time that they are always able to disappear into. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen them in other films, or if they’re not American movie stars, they feel iconic almost instantly.
One of the ways Kar-wai is able to pull so much from his actors is his great trust in them. He has always worked with improvisation, writing loose scripts and finding the characters with the actors on set. This method of filmmaking opens the doors for the actors to create and give something of themselves to the role to a greater degree than what could be done with a detailed, pre-planned idea. It’s why so many actors love working with him, and another reason he’s one of the best to ever do it.
What might be Wong Kar-wai’s greatest strength is his sense of loneliness. He seems to understand better than anyone ever has the nature of loneliness and how it manifests differently in other people, driving them to do certain things a certain way. It makes his movies have a cathartic nature to them that reach out to the viewer and let them know that they’re okay because someone out there feels just the same as they do.
His understanding of this is best shown in how each film deals with these themes of desiring connection and being unable to achieve it, but each feels unique and even revelatory in its own way. The way Fallen Angels tackles loneliness is different from Chungking Express or Days of Being Wild. It all serves as proof of the brilliance that is Wong Kar-wai that made him one of the best working in the 90s. We can only hope to see more great filmmaking from him sooner rather than later in the coming years.