Few Chinese auteurs have visualized the way in which loneliness can rip the fabric of the soul more blatantly than Wong Kar-wai, a maverick Hong Kong art-house filmmaker. Loneliness — its misery, its narratives, its antidotes, its eventual confrontation — permeates his movies.

Whether in a room flooded with neon-lit giant ads in the densely populated Hong Kong, or a grungy apartment in Buenos Aires, Wong captures not only the nocturnality in Edward Hopper’s paintings but the illuminating insight into the universal human experience amidst its acme of 21st-century urban loneliness.

Days of being wild (1990)

Movie Pick: How Wong Kar-wai visualizes urban loneliness

The movie centers on the life of Yuddy, starred by Leslie Cheung —— a womanizer who attempts to explore the meaning of life through transient relationships and searching for his biological mother. Set in the backdrop of 1960s, Yuddy’s story also acts as a metaphor to Hong Kong which was drifted in exile by the UK and meanwhile to homecoming by China before the 1997 handover.

Chungking Express (1994)

Movie Pick: How Wong Kar-wai visualizes urban loneliness

In Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express, urban alienation is magnified under the lens of the love-sick characters. Against the backdrop of densely populated Hong Kong, the film wades through the city and the characters who have been paralyzed by the bone-deep loneliness and heartbreaks. Would the urban loneliness paradoxically become an invitation of aliveness in life? The movie might have the answer.

Fallen Angels (1995)

Movie Pick: How Wong Kar-wai visualizes urban loneliness

Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels is a crime drama that traces the lives of a hitman, hoping to get out of the business, and his elusive female partner who he hardly knows and rarely sees. As a sequel of Chungking Express, the movie expands on the surreal Hong Kong urban setting and showcases the episodic romances. The ephemeral and wispy visual style and seductive music selection are considered by some critics as the quintessential films of Wong Kar-wai.

Happy Together (1997)

Movie Pick: How Wong Kar-wai visualizes urban loneliness

Inspired by the novel Buenos Aires Affair by Argentine novelist Manuel Puig, the film is a gay romance which the couple’ lives have drifted apart during a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. As the movie seems to stay still when the pair dance chest-to-chest and move in silent embrace with melody of Astor Piazzolla’s Tango Apasionado, the spectacular view of the fabled Iguazu Falls brings the audience back to the heart-breaking ending.

In the mood for Love (2000)

Movie Pick: How Wong Kar-wai visualizes urban loneliness

The movie speaks itself with the gaze, melancholy, unsaid words and passion between the two married neighbors that —— after suspecting extramarital affairs of their spouses, they gradually develop their own platonic romance. The finale ends in Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, where the male protagonist whispers his regrets into a stone. Quizas, quizas, quizas.


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