Saturday, October 11, 2008

Asian Pride: Fashion in Wong Kar-Wai's Films

Wong Kar-Wai, iconic second-new-wave Hong Kong director, is known for his highly stylized films.  In them, he manipulates music, color, shadows, camera movement, and yes, even wardrobe in order to create a world around the audience that is uniquely Wong Kar-Wai.  

Happy Together (1997) tells the story of a couple of Hong Kong expatriates living in Argentina, played by Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung.  The two are essentially wanderers, the former hopping from one job to another and the latter from one boyfriend to the next.  Leung, who, in the start of the film plays some sort of valet at a club, appears to be a rather sharply-dressed valet at that.

check out the flipped coat collar

He rocks the tux!

In his down time, he drops off mail in a cool black and cream leather jacket.  

His lover, played by Leslie, sports quite a covetable fuzzy cardigan...  

...which is much like a pared-down, men's version of Rodarte's "it" cardigan of fall 08.


In terms of entertainment value, I enjoyed Kar-Wai's 1994 film Chungking Express the most.  It stars Takeshi Kaneshiro as (a rather sloppily dressed) cop, Brigitte Lin as woman in blonde wig, and Faye Wong as Faye.  

Woman in blonde wig is such an iconic character, she almost seems like an illustration to me.  Her red-rimmed sunglasses sum up her quirky mystique.  

For the whole time Brigitte Lin (right) appears in the movie, she wears this immensely classic and universally flattering trench dress.  Faye Wong on the left.  

Faye sports an easy, non-overstyled pixie cut that would work as well today as it did back in 1994.  

Saving the best for last, I think In the Mood for Love (2000) presents an overload of fashion inspiration.  It is the Wong Kar-Wai movie that people equate with great style.  Set in 1962, it stars Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung.

Perhaps the most striking among all the fashion shown in the film are Maggie Cheung's cheongsams, or Chinese dresses, of which throughout the entire film, she wears the same style in various fabrics.  They are unlike anything I've seen before, to be honest.  With their movement-inhibitive ultra-high collars, cap sleeves, very close-fitting bodices that taper down into a graceful pencil skirt, they draw a silhouette that is so sensually womanly.  

With minimal accessories and big beehive hair, the effect is not campy 60's retro, but rather very high fashion.  

Tony Leung's character does not disappoint either.  Perhaps my favorite part of his look in this movie (he was in the other two also) is his immaculately slicked-back hair.  

Even in a tank top and dress pants, he looks dressed to kill.

Throughout the film he wears sharp, slim suits with decidedly vintage ties.  

Funny thing about this movie, though, is that the characters played by Tony and Maggie are the only ones dressed like this; others are styled rather ordinarily.  It's as if the two live in their own world of primness and calculated beauty.  Through his use of fashion, Wong Kar-Wai can evoke messages other filmmakers would fail to bring forth, or at least don't communicate in the same way.  

Though they didn't end up together, at least they can look back and say they made quite a stylish couple, don't you think?

Can you think of any films that have greatly influenced your style?  Do share!


Giancinephile said...

Chow Mo Wan certainly is one of WKW's most stylish characters of all time. I'm just disappointed with his Americana project! Jude Law will never have the same effect as Tony Leung on me.

As far as WKW films are concerned, one of his most stylish for me is Fallen Angels. And of course there's In The Mood for Love and 2046!

Other than that there is Le Samourai and Casablanca which made me love trench coats thanks to Alain Delon and Humphuey Bogart.

Godard's films also exude with style. My picks include: Bande of Outsiders, Breathless, and Made in USA.

LenoreNeverM♡re said...

Maggie & Faye r true beauties...
I met Maggie in person before, when I was in Singapore for a shop opening... she is tall & gorgeousss... effortless! You have a lovely weekend dear. Join my 'guessgame'... it's fun! Hope to hear from you again ok! Won Kar Wai is brilliante!!! I'm glad you regconise his talent...unfortunately, many is like huh...who??? Sad....

BJ Pascual said...


Why isn't 2046 in your post? Haha! I love that movie. The flashing platforms are super awesome.

Much credit to editor/costume designer (talk about multi-talented!) William Cheung Suk Ping who did the editing/costumes for many wongkarwai films...

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