World of Wong Kar Wai

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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dwk
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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#226 Post by dwk » Wed Dec 02, 2020 2:16 pm

Orlac wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 11:58 am
From memory, the Tatis went OOP a while before the boxset, due to Criterion losing their Canal+ licenses.
Kind of. Trafic was the only one licensed from StudioCanal. Playtime, M Hulot's Holiday and Mon Oncle were all licensed from the Tati estate.

Looking at the packaging, despite the StudioCanal logo, it appears that all the films in the box set are now licensed from the estate.

mhofmann
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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#227 Post by mhofmann » Wed Dec 02, 2020 4:33 pm

Regarding having to cut material from Happy Together, I don't believe that a single bit.

These are the restoration notes for Criterion's 'The Apu Trilogy' release:
"Using fine-grain masters and duplicate negatives preserved by the Academy Film Archive, the Harvard Film Archive, and the BFI National Archive, excellent replacements were found for the unusable or missing sections of the original negatives."

These are films from India shot throughout the 1950s, and yet there are multiple secondary materials available!
If that's possible for films that were way over 50 years old at the time of their restoration, then it's definitely possible to find these other sources for Happy Together, a substantial and celebrated work of the late '90s.

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willoneill
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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#228 Post by willoneill » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:12 pm

On the other hand, Matt Zoller Seitz tweeted that he loves "the philosophy behind a lot of this" [WKW's changes].

Tangentially, in the response thread someone asked about 2046 being included in the box set, and another responder tweeted that it's guaranteed to be, because "Sony owns Janus." That's not true, is it?

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soundchaser
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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#229 Post by soundchaser » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:21 pm

willoneill wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:12 pm
On the other hand, Matt Zoller Seitz tweeted that he loves "the philosophy behind a lot of this" [WKW's changes].

Tangentially, in the response thread someone asked about 2046 being included in the box set, and another responder tweeted that it's guaranteed to be, because "Sony owns Janus." That's not true, is it?
Counter-counterpoint: the philosophy is fundamentally incoherent and insulting.

More factually: that second part is not true in the slightest. Sony distributes Criterion releases in the US (or did as of a few years ago), but that doesn't mean it owns the company. And Janus is a separate entity from Criterion, even though they've worked together for ages.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#230 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:50 pm

Once a creator has released a work to the world, he (or she) should not be free to "erase" that work and replace it with another -- of course, they should have the right to revise the earlier work as much and as often as they like (as long as they don't try to rub the first version out of existence or otherwise make it unavailable).

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#231 Post by tenia » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:51 pm

I'm surprised that people like him are still confused by the role of a distributor. Warner used to be the main distributor for many indie labels in France, but of course they never owned them ! The "reverse" is true too : it doesn't mean their catalogue was licenced to those labels.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#232 Post by Drucker » Wed Dec 02, 2020 6:06 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:50 pm
Once a creator has released a work to the world, he (or she) should not be free to "erase" that work and replace it with another -- of course, they should have the right to revise the earlier work as much and as often as they like (as long as they don't try to rub the first version out of existence or otherwise make it unavailable).
Agreed. And everything we're kvetching about applies to music as well! How many remasters overseen by musicians sound terrible? (Many!)

Suggested thread split title: Cutting the Director's Cuts

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#233 Post by Luke M » Wed Dec 02, 2020 8:09 pm

willoneill wrote:On the other hand, Matt Zoller Seitz tweeted that he loves "the philosophy behind a lot of this" [WKW's changes].

Tangentially, in the response thread someone asked about 2046 being included in the box set, and another responder tweeted that it's guaranteed to be, because "Sony owns Janus." That's not true, is it?
MZS has some opinions that are... not great.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#234 Post by jwd5275 » Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:23 pm

Has anyone checked out Happy Together or Fallen Angels on the Criterion Channel to see if they're new versions?
Last edited by jwd5275 on Thu Dec 03, 2020 2:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#235 Post by ftsoh » Wed Dec 02, 2020 9:25 pm

Had any member here contacted Criterion about the worry of the "restored" versions and if they can include the original versions in the box? After all, Happy Together, Chungking Express, and Fallen Angels are streaming in HD on their channel.

Edit: Just checked that Fallen Angel is 1.85:1 and Chungking Express is 1.66:1 on the channel. Seems original to me.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#236 Post by feihong » Thu Dec 03, 2020 2:14 am

I e-mailed Mulvaney just to pre-emptively complain about this idea of making a box of these altered films (at the time I was only talking about Fallen Angels, and comparing it with Ashes of Time Redux). I didn't get any response, but in all fairness, I was pretty upset, having just seen the "World of WKW" trailer, and I think it probably made its way into the tone of my somewhat lengthy message. There was just a lot of disappointment, which as you can see in this thread I am still getting off my chest. So I don't really expect a response? And I haven't received one. Also, I was writing with the assumption that the box will only include the new remasters––and I still believe that's the only possibility here. It's true Criterion released Andrei Rublev with the two different cuts, but the second was released unrestored and this was I think partly because Criterion had already released Andrei Rublev with the 2 cuts years prior, so it was something of a legacy. Also, the two cuts are hugely different in terms of narrative and scene structure, with a lot of footage present or absent depending. The WKW changes are less narrative, discounting Ashes of Time, which we aren't sure will even be included. But I think including an original cut of Fallen Angels or Happy Together is going to be a pipe dream.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#237 Post by yoshimori » Thu Dec 03, 2020 3:14 am

Drucker wrote:
Wed Dec 02, 2020 6:06 pm
Agreed. And everything we're kvetching about applies to music as well! How many remasters overseen by musicians sound terrible? (Many!)
I'm sure we can all think of examples of the kind thing you're complaining about.

On the other hand, who prefers to listen to the original versions of Bruckner symphonies these days? I'm glad we have them and all, and that we can access them relatively easily, but I'm considerably more happy they're not the only versions we have.

WKW may be no Bruckner, but why not give him a listen? [After which we can all double down on our original positions!] [[Though, even I, who very much liked the new Fallen Angels trailer, will admit that juke box shot linked above was a bit distressing.]]

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#238 Post by swo17 » Thu Dec 03, 2020 4:12 am

Again, I would welcome with curiosity any changes WKW wants to make to his films now, so long as it's not to the detriment of the availability of the original versions

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#239 Post by feihong » Thu Dec 03, 2020 7:22 am

I go a bit further than swo17 here; I think it's not Wong's business to change his films at this point. He is, as he says in his notes on the restoration, a different filmmaker now. I don't want to see the current filmmaker that is WKW recut his previous films any more than I want to see Lars Von Trier recut a WKW film. What value would that really have, beyond wacky experiment? Let's have Dos Passos edit a James Joyce novel after this; it'll be scintillating, rather than purposeless. The biggest problem as I see it is that there are two Wong Kar Wais; two separate auteurs. One is back in the 90s, making these films. The other is in 2020, remaking these same movies with the same materials and a host of post-processing effects. He is older, and his world has moved on from the concerns we saw in these films when they were being released. This second auteur seems somewhat insecure about what he had made previously. It's all going to be restored and made available for a new generation of fans. If this second Wong wants to prove his skill now, he can certainly make a new movie, or remake what he had made before––really reconceptualize and rewrite and recast and reshoot it––if he really has a new take on the film for us. But as swo17 pointed out, it's potentially to the detriment of the availability of the original versions––this is almost definitely the case. These restorations aren't restorations of all available footage, subsequently arranged into the new cut Wong wants. It's restoration of the footage Wong wants for the new cuts, arranged in the way he wants it. It's highly unlikely there's going to be multiple assemblies made with restored footage. The language of Wong's notes on the restorations goes very far to suggest these will be the versions of the films available in the future––the only cuts he supports.

And as far as giving Wong a listen...let me just dispel with the metaphor first, because what you're really saying here is, if I understand you right: we haven't seen the film, and it may end up being a great experience if we go and watch the restoration with an open mind, with the welcoming curiosity swo17 is mentioning in his post previous to this. The issues I have with that premise...well, there are a few. First of all, I think of the first time many of us encountered this auteurist phenomenon, by which I mean, the Star Wars Special Editions. I saw the first of these in my late teens (I think I skipped Empire and Jedi, because when I saw some of the changes later on home video they totally blindsided me). At the time many of us really liked the Special Editions––it was an opportunity to see Star Wars again on the big screen, CGI did not have the bad reputation it has gained in recent years (hence the "amplifying" of effects like explosions seemed pretty cool), and I think many of us were intrigued by the idea sold to us by Lucasfilm that this was finally, in fact, the film Lucas had seen in his head, and that the previous versions released had been oh so compromised by the vicissitudes of filmmaking. Little by little, that enthusiasm eroded. It especially did so when I saw later that Lucas had changed the cheerful Ewok victory song at the end of the movie to Georges Zamfir's panflute medley or whatever. Friends and I used to have private jokes about the song; as kids we could all sing it. And at that time I looked around to find a version of the film that included that original song. One that I could play on my home system, watch good quality picture, hopefully in widescreen––and of course, I didn't have a VCR anymore, because I hadn't needed one in years (I only had a couple of VHS tapes back then; Ildiko Enyedi's Magic Hunter and Mina Shum's Double Happiness, but that's another story). And I found that I couldn't really get another version of Return of the Jedi that didn't have those changes made.

Of course we know now that this was expressly George Lucas' wish for the films; that the later versions replace the earlier ones entirely at some point. And we don't know that to be Wong's wish, since he hasn't announced that. But changes to the way people collect films will naturally make that happen, favoring newer and wider-access versions of films over previous versions as the physical media the previous versions have been released upon become out-of-date and essentially unplayable. Plus, as the old, eventually preferred versions get harder to find, and rarer, they become prohibitively expensive. The Kino blu of Fallen Angels is already out of print. I mean, if you want proof that changing patterns of access make for a gradual favoring of the favored version of the films, you only have to look at Wong's previous venture in this field, Ashes of Time Redux. If I want to watch Ashes of Time on streaming services now, like Amazon Prime, it's the Redux I can watch, not the theatrical release version of the film. Occasionally I'll see a blu ray of Ashes of Time I've never seen before, and I think maybe I've stumbled onto the theatrical cut; nope, it's the Redux. Previous DVDs of the theatrical cut of the film are out-of-print, and they were all non-anamorphic DVDs anyway, so they're actually harder to enjoy now, depending on what type of television you have. They go through periods of being a little more available, and a little cheaper; but in the past I have seen them sell for larger amounts of money, and eventually those poor old discs will be very hard to find, and that will make them very expensive, indeed. Most of the companies that released them are out of business. Anyone wanting to get a new transfer of Ashes of Time (CN Entertainment, which seems to own a lot of the Mei Ah catalog, might want that) has to go through Wong's company, and they'll only get access to the Redux. Wong has claimed that there was irrevocable damage to the original negative, and that is his excuse for keeping the original version of the film out of circulation.

As far as giving Wong a chance on this, I would say we already have evidence of what he is interested in doing to his previously-released films; we have the Ashes of Time Redux. This is a genuinely reckless and awful re-tinkering of the movie, with vast changes to the edit, the look of the film, and the sound––which is something like 3/4s new or substantially redone. These changes are drastic, and while that might tickle your fancy as an auteurist viewer...well, there was once a pretty darn good film called just–plain Ashes of Time. I used to recommend it to people. It is much, much harder to do that now. And I think the Redux shows very clearly what Wong is willing to do to his previous movies; he's willing to alter them beyond recognition so that they fit the matrix of what he's doing with film nowadays. Wong's restoration notes basically admit much of the same. He feels free to make changes because he looks at these films as new versions, or variations from what came before. But if he truly thinks of these new versions of the films as creative experiments, wholly separate from the goal of restoration and preservation, then he is very naive in not trying to preserve the initial versions of his films. Certainly he has the example of Ashes of Time Redux before him, to show him how his new version of the movie might completely supplant the previous one. But I don't really believe that hypothetical, that Wong isn't aware he's siloing the original cuts of these films and making them extinct; I think Wong knows exactly what he's doing, and that he wants for the new versions of these films to supplant the previous ones. He uses the same language as Lucas and his supporters did when talking about the special editions. These new versions of the films represent his "true vision" for the movies––a vision he has miraculous access to 25-30 years on. If this is somehow ambiguous, look in Wong's restoration notes at the final section, where he talks about, and essentially admits to the negative reaction fans of Ashes of Time had to the Redux. He is willing to write these people's memories off as those of "pirate copies" of the movie and "sub–optimal" viewings. He is really unconcerned with the half of moviegoing where he is less of a participant; he's not willing to let his movies pass into the popular consciousness unmolested. Instead he's going to seize the films and change them and warp them so that they look the way he later on wishes he had made them. Colorizing the first shot of Fallen Angels is a great example of what he's doing. He had plenty of opportunity at the time he made the movie to shoot that opening bit in color. But your auteur, ladies and gentlemen, chose to shoot the scene in black and white, and now, for some reason, he wants it in color. What a mistake it was at the time. I guess the devil made him do it. A fly, whispering in his ear. That wasn't the true vision he had for the movie all along.

If I'm a little churlish there at the end, it's to point out that Wong's defense of his current choices does not line up across the board. Granted, he may have at some point in the process wanted to have Fallen Angels stretched to a cinemascope aspect ratio, though in his notes he seems to imply he didn't shoot the film with that in mind. In fact, what he describes as his process of discovering the stretching effect sounds more like a whim than an auteurist intention. His description of the changes to Happy Together really rides the line. Here he claims the Ashes of Time excuse, that the negative was damaged and he had to make changes as a result. Lots of people on this thread have talked in eloquent detail about how in restoration one would simply go to the next most optimal source to replicate the missing elements, but Wong also wants us to look at these changes in the same way as the others––this is a new version of the film, with shorter Tony Leung monologues. Were we all waiting to have those shortened? I have to say, I find this whole "original intent" argument suspect from almost every angle. It seems more like an excuse Wong has crafted to make these changes fit into the matrix of auteur–worship he has clearly bought into, to the exclusion of any other frame of consideration. The goal of preserving the films is used pretty harshly in this paradigm, and the part of the film experience that belongs to the viewer is severely compromised as a result. I can hardly go back and show my young niece the Ewoks' song in Return of the Jedi––not in any legal way, certainly––I can no longer invite another person into an attempt to replicate the experience that touched me when I first saw it. I can't do it because George Lucas has a strange complex about his identity as an artist, the commercial value of his movies in a later age, and, up until recently, a controlling interest in what happens to the movies that overrides my experience with the films. And the previous desultory dance in Jabba the Hut's palace has been made insane by lurid, awkward CGI. It's more than my precious memories that are getting the boot here; the new changes are done in exceptional bad taste. That's a move that, of course, Lucas is certainly allowed to make, in the commercial and I suppose in the auteurist sense, but it's a decision that reveals a lot of that bad taste in his more recent attempts to alter his previous work.

The last thing I'm thinking of in response is that we don't actually have to wait to see what Wong has done to these movies; he's more or less announced it with his restoration notes and his trailers. The Fallen Angels footage doesn't make the figures look further away from one another as Wong insists; it makes you feel the need to get your eyes checked. And the cuts to Happy Together that Wong notes could have easily been avoided. Happy Together is, I think, the best of Wong's 90s movies; It's already rather brief as a film. I do not need it to be any shorter. I don't need Tony Leung to say fewer words in order for it to be good. We've already seen in these sources the callous indifference Wong has to what his films have been in their time; his indifference to what they've meant to the people who have seen them. That indifference is present in the AOT Redux, in the new Fallen Angels footage, and it is complemented quite clearly by Wong's statement of intent for the restorations. It's representative of a kind of auteurism gone to an aberrant extreme––I think most people would recognize that about George Lucas' Star Wars re-education for the youth of tomorrow plan, and Wong is not far off from putting himself in a similar role; the cultural arbiter, telling us what we ought to have seen, demanding that we look at the restorations of his films as new movies, as entirely different experiences. But we ought to respect his genius, I guess. Far be it from us mortals to know or remember how we liked something in the past. And surely the audience appreciating the movie shouldn't be any measure of what to preserve. And who knows? Wong just might make something way more brilliant with his retroactive genius than I am giving him credit for. I'm sure a whole movie stretched horizontally out of proportion is going to be great. It's the product of a genius, I'm told; an auteur.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#240 Post by MichaelB » Thu Dec 03, 2020 7:29 am

See also the Quay Brothers' insistence that Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies and In Absentia be horizontally stretched to 2.35:1. I successfully persuaded them to sanction the inclusion of both versions on the 2006 DVD, but I think the BDs only include the stretched versions.

(Although thankfully in this case that's all they've done, and I have the technical wherewithal to rip them and restore them to their original aspect ratio, albeit with a loss of vertical resolution compared with a native 16:9-or-thereabouts transfer.)

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#241 Post by swo17 » Thu Dec 03, 2020 7:45 am

You're not wrong feihong, but there's clearly no talking WKW out of changing his films at this point, so the best possible outcome is that the different versions be allowed to coexist. Note how no one has a problem with Coppola tinkering with his films, or with there being five cuts of Blade Runner, because they're basically all given equal footing on home video, and people often end up having varied and interesting opinions about which cut is best. In many cases, each viewer will have an ideal version of the film, pulling from the subjectively best parts of the different versions, that exists only in their own heads. Which is kind of cool if you think about it

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#242 Post by MichaelB » Thu Dec 03, 2020 7:56 am

The Shining is an interesting one, because for many years it was only available in the 144-minute version in north America, and only available in the 119-minute version in Europe. In fact, despite it being allegedly Kubrick's preferred version, has the shorter cut ever been officially released in the US? The longer cut premiered on British television circa 1990 (very possibly accidentally), and has since been released on various physical formats - in fact, for various reasons (more by accident than design) I now have both cuts in high definition, so I'm happy.

Of course, there's also the 146-minute cut, which seems to have completely vanished since 1980. Although it doesn't sound as though it was much of a loss - that final shot absolutely didn't need a coda, as Kubrick belatedly realised a couple of weeks into the initial US release.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#243 Post by Finch » Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:28 am

I'm certainly glad I held on to the old Criterion Blu-Rays of Chungking Express and In The Mood For Love. I'm deeply skeptical that Criterion will add the unaltered theatrical cuts of Fallen Angels and Happy Together or even Ashes of Time even though precedents do exist and I'd be happy if WKW would allow for those original edits to be preserved that way.

Spielberg had the good sense to allow the original cut of ET to be released as part of the new releases.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#244 Post by Zot! » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:14 am

I'm covered, as I bought the previous iterations of the BD releases, and they are good enough for me (could have used a proper Ashes of Time though). The sad part is that these WILL become the canonical versions in a few years, the same as Star Wars. Even faster today, because of how the originals can be removed from streaming worldwide overnight, like it never happened. The general public's ambivalence should not be underestimated. As to whether as an artist WKW should be able to alter his films.....for me it comes down to the fact that he was a rarified genius when he made them...and today he's a withered husk. So I would advise against it. I doubt we'd be up in arms about a Blueberry Nights Redux.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#245 Post by willoneill » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:43 am

Finch wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 8:28 am
Spielberg had the good sense to allow the original cut of ET to be released as part of the new releases.
Spielberg is an interesting example, because he seems to have completely changed his mind on his revisions. As far as I can tell, his revised cut (the "walkie talkie cut") was only ever released on DVD. The blu-ray and 4K releases just have the original theatrical cut.

I'm not as much of a purist as some here (not a criticism, just a statement), and I've sold off my existing Fellini blu-rays without hesitance now that I have the Essential set. But WKW's changes are more than a touch bizarre and drastic, so I'm not making any moves yet. I don't like keeping doubles around ... but [tugs on collar]

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#246 Post by MichaelB » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:51 am

Andrzej Wajda's The Promised Land underwent a significant truncation, the nature of which suggested that he'd been stung by grossly unfair criticism that it was anti-Semitic. (Yes, the Jewish characters are vile, but so are the Polish and German ones - the core point of the film being that everyone who was a major entrepreneurial player in turbo-charged turn-of-the-20th-century Polish industrialisation was morally bankrupt.) And for many years that was the only version available on video.

Happily, when it had a full-scale digital restoration under his supervision just before his death, he'd clearly changed his mind, and so the version that's currently in print (on DVD via Second Run, on Blu-ray in Poland) is the original theatrical cut.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#247 Post by andyli » Thu Dec 03, 2020 11:05 am

Wong should learn from Hitch. If you are not satisfied with your work just make it again with the same damn title. Fans won't care a bit about two Fallen Angels and two Happy Togethers. Leave the negs alone!

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#248 Post by PGW » Thu Dec 03, 2020 11:16 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Dec 01, 2020 5:43 pm
I join you in the anger over Fallen Angels specifically. I'm usually cool as a cucumber when this kinda stuff happens, but man, what an invalidating statement that asks the audience to cater to his changes as a filmmaker. I firmly believe that ethically when art is released, it becomes a communal product, where it's as much mine as it is the filmmaker's (which is a big reason why I don't care about consuming media made by a canceled person), and here is WKW asking us to meet him where he's at, rather than engage in a reciprocal, compassionate compromise. I'm glad I hung onto my copy of Chungking Express, but I'm not sure I can support this release.
Anne-Louise Lambert made the same point in the documentary about "Picnic at Hanging Rock" when she talked about Peter Weir cutting 7 minutes from the film - and she's right. To change things to this extent is an insult to the people who have loved those films for generations, just to satisfy the director's ego. I didn't buy ANY of the Chaplin Criterions for just this reason.

The OOP Criterion "Chungking Express," however, has also been futzed with - the soundtrack in particular. "California Dreaming" has had digital reverb added to it, for instance, in a misguided attempt to make it sound more realistic in the space it's in (and I say misguided because in an open take-out such as Chungking Express, there wouldn't BE reverb like that). Of course, you could take it all the way back and say the only REAL version of "Chungking Express" is the original HK edit (which, as far as I know, is only available on the old Ocean Shores DVD), which is several minutes shorter than the international cut.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#249 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Dec 03, 2020 1:21 pm

I should have made this much of a fuss when PT Anderson made some tweaks to There Will Be Blood for home video, namely adding the title card to the beginning of the film and adding a poorly dubbed coda to "you owe the church of the third revelation... five thousand dollars... as part of the agreement that we made!!" during the scene where Daniel drags Eli into the oil puddle and threatens to bury him alive. Both of these things still bug me to this day merely because I saw the film in the theater so many times. Then again, the first time I saw it in the theater the penultimate reel was initially projected upside down, so. All changes are not bad changes, in other words.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wong Kar-wai Box

#250 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Dec 03, 2020 2:33 pm

I never even noticed that, maybe since I've seen the film so many times and know what to expect, but you're giving me flashbacks to going to see this in theatres with my dad for the first time and getting that title card only right after the end, which was total face-slapping catharsis, instead of a foreboding ominous message of things to come (which the opening with Greenwood's anxiety-provoking score takes care of by itself!) - Now I'm irritated and can't unrealise these changes.

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