Camera Dynamics in Chungking Express (1994)

by Gabriela Horwath, Wyn Veiga, Tomas Pacheco, Mimi Taylor, Joon Choi

Focus Blur – Gabriela: 

Specifically analyzing the first that appears blurry to the audience, the use of pan, tilt, and zoom creates a fast paced shot that allows the film to achieve a dramaticized appearance of the characters in action. In one of the first shots of the film where He Qiwu is chasing an assailant, the image produced by the movements of the camera are shown as blurry. When He Qiwu is first walking through a crowd, the skillful panning tracks him and shows the crowd around him passing by; this further highlights that it is a busy shot. In addition, pan is used as the camera moves alongside He Qiwu while he is running. This effect puts an emphasis on how fast he is running as well as the distance he is traveling.

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The Expiration of Time and Love: Analyzing Speed of Motion in Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express


by Meagan Johnson, Emily Nagler, Dylan Kanaan, Joalda Morancy, and Haina Lu

California Dreamin’-The Mama’s and the Papa’s (to supplement your reading)

The context in which Wong Kar-Wai actually made Chungking Express is interesting to note as it relates to the techniques he uses to alter speed of motion in the film. According to Quentin Tarantino, Wong Kar-Wai was actually working on a different/epic movie, he had been editing for multiple years but had felt stalled in the process. Just as a writer needs to take breaks at times to look at their work with an objective lense, he felt he needed to step away for a bit, and decided to use the time to put out a quickly produced / quick hitting film, which would become Chungking Express. The context in which he made the film – moving from editing a film that was long, slower paced in time, to producing a film that was quick paced in time, and then returning back to the slower paced one – is in various ways actually reflected in his treatment of time in Chungking Express. As the remainder of this post will discuss in different ways, Wong Kar-Wai manipulates time through film techniques that alter the speed of motion. This manipulation of time is not meaningless however, the ways in which he does so is to reflect how time moves differently for different characters/situations, connecting us closer to their stories– instilling empathy in many respects. While Hong Kong films, at least at the time, were known for their fast paced approach, Wong Kar-Wai created a film in Chungking Express that is both fast and slow. And perhaps, his approach and reason to this was in-part to reflect how he perceives time as moving at different speeds within his own career.

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Lesson Plan: Basic Terms of Cinema Studies + Their Relevance for Avant-Garde Cinema


Ian here—

I suspect that every cinema studies teacher has their own favorite examples to use when teaching key vocabulary terms, and I would not be so presumptuous as to prescribe my own favorites! Nevertheless, though, it’s an important part of the job, so I wanted to share my own approach here.

Over the past couple of years, I have gotten used to teaching these terms in a very specific context. At the School of the Art Institute, I teach first-year seminar courses. They are courses designed so that all students have some basis in college-level writing as they go through their time at SAIC. Instructors are given enormous freedom to teach whatever they like. This makes it a great venue for testing out new and interesting course ideas, but the flip side of that is that your courses never have prerequisites, and there’s no telling the level of expertise students who enroll will actually have.

What I do, then, is devote one day early on in the semester to a quick-and-dirty Intro to Film in a single lecture. I take a lot of the examples and explanations I first started using when I taught Intro to Film at U Chicago in 2015, but I condense them down into something that can fit into an hour or so. It’s potent stuff.

You can access my go-to presentation here. I’ve set the privacy and sharing settings to their most open, so if you’re a Prezi user you should feel free to copy it if you like it, subbing in your own preferred definitions and clips as you feel necessary! I’m here to share, and not here to impose.

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Assignment: Brendon Chung’s Thirty Flights of Loving and Cinematic Language


Ian here—

Playing like a pint-sized mashup of Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels and Gaspar Noë’s Enter the Void, Bendon Chung’s Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games, 2012) packs more scintillating and beguiling details about its characters and their world into its hallucinatory, hyper-concentrated ten minutes of gameplay than most games manage in 30 hours. Bootleggers, an airport, a rooftop party, shootouts, memories, regrets, a violent end … or several? A love affair … a betrayal? All of this and much more (including a highly educational demonstration of Bernoulli’s principle) jostle together wildly in this tantalizing gem of a short.

Okay, I’ll step out of “breathless, enraptured critic” mode. Thirty Flights of Loving is an interesting game for many reasons. One of these reasons is that it steals quite a lot cinematic language—including some very interesting and unusual applications of the forms of cinema, like first-person cutting. Quick example of what this actually looks like below the jump:

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Silhouettes, Shadows, & Smoke: Lighting in In the Mood for Love

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Sherlock Ziauddin

Wong Kar-wei’s In the Mood For Love depicts the story of a man (Chow) and a woman (Su) who, both suspecting that their spouses are involved in extramarital affairs, become close companions to each other in their loneliness. As the story progresses, however, their platonic friendship spills over and they begin to fall in love.

Their story unfolds in carefully controlled sequences that are almost dreamlike in nature as, together, they fabricate a fantasy world for themselves in which they pretend to be in love as their spouses are – and then continue, even when the façade of romantic affection becomes a reality. One of the most obvious visual cues in the mise-en-scène that indicate the portrayal of these moments is in the lighting. In all of these sequences, the lighting is more dramatic: it is low-key, sharp, and almost always artificial, as these scenes overwhelmingly take place under cover of night. This type of lighting is fundamental in setting the mood in these sequences; the subtle expression of emotion and the tension of physical bodies is highlighted, literally, by its use.

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Dressing up for Noodles: Costume Design in In the Mood for Love


Wei Yi Ow

In the Mood for Love (2000) is a beautiful study in restraint. Set in 1960s Hong Kong, the film details the intimate relationship that develops between two lonely neighbours, Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung). Neglected and later betrayed by their spouses, they foster a special kinship which social mores dictate must be concealed. This is a society that operates not by brute force but by much more subtle ways; through its institutions, through the eyes and ears of one’s neighbors, through the personal values individuals feel compelled to uphold, and the dark desires they actively repress.

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