World of Wong Kar Wai: Director’s Note


Mar 23, 2021

With the participation of Wong Kar Wai’s production company, Jet Tone Films, and collaborating with L’Immagine Ritrovata and One Cool, the Criterion Collection undertook meticulous restorations of seven of the director’s films, five of which—Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, Happy Together, In the Mood for Love, and 2046—were approved by Wong. The filmmaker originally wrote the note below to accompany a theatrical retrospective of his work that launched in late 2020, so viewers would know about the differences between the restorations and the films’ original versions, and why he was compelled to make those changes. For this online presentation, Wong provided a couple of exclusive illustrative examples to accompany his points. —Curtis Tsui

Director’s Note

During the process of restoring many of the pictures that you are about to watch, we were caught in a dilemma between restoring them to the form in which the audience remembered them and to how I had originally envisioned them.

There was so much that we could change, and I decided to take the second path, as it would represent my most vivid vision of these films.

For that reason, the following changes were made.

Aspect ratios

Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love were shot and released theatrically in 1.66:1, one of my favorite aspect ratios, but they were converted to 1.85:1 on videogram. Since most people experienced these films on videogram, it perpetuated the belief that they were shot in 1.85:1. With these restorations, you will be watching them in their original aspect ratio. 

With Fallen Angels, I have changed the format to CinemaScope, because it was originally what I had intended to release the film in. When we were cutting the film, we accidentally turned the Steenbeck on anamorphic instead of standard. I felt that the film looked much more interesting because the setting enhanced the distance of the characters on top of the extreme wide angle that we shot with. Back then, it was impossible to shoot a film in standard and release it in anamorphic. With this restoration, we have successfully fulfilled this wish.

This clip shows the Steenbeck-viewed switch between the standard, original presentation of Fallen Angels and an anamorphic CinemaScope one that inspired Wong’s decision to present the film in 2.39:1 in the new restoration.
The negative of Happy Together damaged in the fire

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