Sunday, May 25, 2008

mass-populated and hyperactive spaces: william chang

My final post for the Blog-A-Thon takes us away from Europe and into Asia: we're going to be taking a look at the work of William Chang, Wong Kar-Wai's longtime production designer. All of their collaborations have phenomenal production design—I considered, briefly, trying to tackle their 2004 project 2046—but the one I'd like to look at today is a much earlier one, Chungking Express (1994).

Chungking Express is a pair of love stories set in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is one of the densest cities on Earth, and correspondingly, there's not a shot in the entire film that doesn't take place in some kind of built environment, providing a special challenge for the production designer.

In Chang and Kar-Wai's vision of the city, Hong Kong is strikingly evoked as an elaborate labyrinth of infrastructural space, apartments, shops, corridors, restaurants, clandestine workspaces, and unclassifiable combinations of the above. Behold:

[Much of the distinctive look of this film stems from the choice to film portions of it within the Chungking Mansions, a sprawling building described by Wong Kar-Wai as a "mass-populated and hyperactive place," and a "great metaphor for [Hong Kong] herself." The Chungking Mansion Wikipedia page is absolutely fascinating reading.]

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