Cin­ema le­gends talk craft, ex­change ku­dos

Scors­ese, Wong ex­plore mu­tual influences, more

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By KELLY CHUNG DAW­SON in New York kdaw­son@chi­nadai­

Fol­low­ing a spe­cial screen­ing of Wong Kar Wai’s The Grand­mas­ter at New York’s Light­house In­ter­na­tional The­ater this week, film leg­end Martin Scors­ese hosted a dis­cus­sion with the Chi­nese di­rec­tor about the process of re­al­iz­ing a three-year pro­duc­tion that re­quired stars Zhang Ziyi and Tony Le­ung to train in hand-to-hand com­bat for two years.

“It’s a great honor to be here with my hero, and he’s very gra­cious to join us in light of his ter­ri­ble sched­ule,” Wong said of Scors­ese, who is cur­rently pro­mot­ing The Wolf of Wall Street.

He ad­mit­ted that The Grand­mas­ter, which is an ode to Bruce Lee’s men­tor Ip Man, was deeply in­spired by ac­tion se­quences in Scors­ese’s 1980 film Rag­ing Bull, point­ing to Scors­ese’s use of noth­ing more than the move­ment of his ac­tors cap­tured on cam­era. He re­counted show­ing the se­quences to his ac­tion chore­og­ra­pher, Yuen Woo-ping, the man re­spon­si­ble for mar­tial arts clas­sics in­clud­ing Drunken Mas­ter and Crouching Tiger, Hid­den Dragon.

“I’m an ana­log guy,” Wong said to Scors­ese. “I looked at your se­crets in Rag­ing Bull be­cause it’s one of the best ac­tion se­quences made in the his­tory of cin­ema. It’s a cin­e­matic tour, a cin­e­matic jour­ney.”

Scors­ese, who lent the film his Martin Scors­ese Presents brand and is credited as a pro­ducer, was vis­i­bly flat­tered by Wong’s ad­mis­sion. He called The Grand­mas­ter “an ex­tra­or­di­nary achieve­ment”, ex­press­ing ad­mi­ra­tion for Wong’s work.

“I al­ways say about Wong Kar Wai’s films: There’s just some­thing about it, where it can only be a film,” he said. “It’s the essence of cin­ema.”

The Chi­nese di­rec­tor was also in­spired by Scors­ese’s habit of play­ing mu­sic dur­ing shoot­ing, he said. Dur­ing var­i­ous fight scenes in The Grand­mas­ter he played two tracks from the spaghetti Western film Once Upon a Time in Amer­ica in ho­mage to the Ital­ian film di­rec­tor Ser­gio Leone and the com­poser En­nio Mor­ri­cone, both songs of which he was even­tu­ally able to pro­cure for the film.

“I learned from you,” Wong said. “I think it’s the most ef­fi­cient way. I think the mu­sic on set gives a sense of the rhythm for the cam­era for the block­ing and for the move­ment of ac­tors. I fall in love with the mu­sic.”

The two di­rec­tors traded anec­dotes about fall­ing in love with songs dur­ing the film­ing of other pic­tures, only to be forced to find sub­sti­tutes as a re­sult of high li­cens­ing fees.

Scors­ese asked Wong about an in­ter­view with Tony Le­ung in which the ac­tor said he had told Wong dur­ing film­ing that he thought he might die. “And you said, ‘We must go on,’” Scors­ese re­counted with laugh­ter.

Both Zhang and Le­ung, who broke his arm twice dur­ing film­ing, ded­i­cated them­selves to the task, Wong said. The ac­tors trained with kung fu mas­ters, who also con­sulted dur­ing film­ing. True to the plot of the movie, which pits dif­fer­ent schools of kung fu against each other, ev­ery sin­gle move was care­fully in­cluded to rep­re­sent the tra­di­tion of each school, he said.

“Nor­mally when you’re shoot­ing a scene, the ac­tors look to the di­rec­tor af­ter­ward, but on our set all the mas­ters from dif­fer­ent schools were stand­ing be­hind us,” he said. “Af­ter ev­ery take, the ac­tors would not look at us but at them for their OK. Some­times the mas­ters would say, ‘No, if they are re­ally that good, they wouldn’t have to fight for three min­utes. One punch would be enough, so fast you wouldn’t even see it.’ And I said, ‘Well, that doesn’t re­ally work for a movie.’”

The two took ques­tions from au­di­ence mem­bers, one of whom ex­pressed ex­cite­ment at hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to see both of them in per­son: “I am so hon­ored to be with you guys,” she said. “Who needs film school?”


Chi­nese di­rec­tor Wong Kar Wai speaks with Martin Scors­ese, film icon and Wong’s role model, af­ter a screen­ing of TheGrand­mas­ter in New York Wed­nes­day.

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