At this point
I began to suspect that maybe these dropped calls were not entirely accidental.
Maybe he was getting defensive or even angry. Judging from his response when I
finally called back, the comparison to “In the Mood for Love” seemed to touch a
nerve. However, when I got into more sensitive areas, like whether the hard
core sex in the film might drive first time actress Wei Tang into the loony
bin, as was the case with Maria Schneider in “Last Tango in Paris,” there were
no more disruptions (the static was still pretty bad and, let’s face it, the
guy’s English isn’t as fluent as his filmmaking). So here’s the remainder of
the interview, which proceeded without further interruption, supplemented
though with editorial insertions.
PK: We were
talking about “In the Mood for Love” and repressed sexuality. Did that movie
play into your mind at all when you were casting?
AL: No, not
at all. Actually, I tried everything to avoid it.
PK: You did?
AL: Yeah. The
one scene where she seduces him into the apartment — the way they walk, it
reminds him [Leung] of that movie. He was very upset because he wanted it to be
different. I knew the movie was going to be different, so I wasn’t really
paying much attention to being in those shoes. But that was the second scene he
shot, so when I saw that reaction I knew I had work even harder to get away
from that movie, just to get him to function.
PK: Did you
try to get away from other movies that are similar? You know, like “Last Tango in Paris” or “In the Realm
of the Senses.”
AL: Those are
great movies. But sexually, I think “Last Tango in Paris” is nowhere near what
we do, even though I’m a great admirer of “Last Tango in Paris.” “In the Realm
of the Senses” -- there are some similarities. Sexually, there are some
similarities: [in both]they exhaust each
other. But the movie is very different.
set in the same period.
AL: Yes, they
are of the same period. Other than the sexual part, though, I don’t see a lot
of the similarities.
mentioned “Notorious” and “Dishonored” as inspirations in another interview.
AL: Yeah, not so much me, but for Eileen
Chang [when she wrote]this story, which is kind of written like a movie. She
uses intercutting and such technique. “Notorious” -- I think the plot is very
similar, except the end. At the end of German movie there is honor. I think “Casablanca”
might have something to do with this and might have played in Shanghai at that
time [when the story takes place]. They have a similar kind of mood. For me, I
check out quite a bit of old film noir for references. I really like the
romantic mood they put in towards the end — one of sophistication that I very
much admire, the unpredictability which has sort of been lost over the years.
But there are no movies that I directly wanted to influence this movie.
PK: You have
a couple of snippets from “Intermezzo” and “Penny Serenade,” but they seem to
be totally different movies from the one you’re making..
AL: Right, at
one point I tried to use “Suspicion,” which was the biggest hit in Shanghai
that year. At one point I put a poster in, but finally I decided not to use it,
because it was too on the nose for female anxiety. Usually, the way I’ll pick a
reference is through the music because a movie should try to avoid too much on
the nose. But somehow reference is how movies function that we try to see. For
her, Ingrid Bergman is definitely an
actress to aspire to. After all, she’s an actress always trying to pick up
attitudes and ways of behavior.
PK: Are you
in the movie? There’s an early scene where I though I might have seen you.
AL: No, no.
Not at all.
PK: I thought
it might have been a Hitchcock moment.
AL: No, I
really just wanted to identify with the girl. So I kind of just shot the stage
[in a way recalling] how I felt when I first stood on stage.
discussed that this film is more about acting and the theater than it is about
love and sex and war.
AL: Yes, and
in some ways, movies as well. [a bad connection here: audible are fragments
sounding like “It’s kind of an existential question” and “The reality is sort
of the opposite of truth” and “who’s the real thing?”] Pretending can be more
truthful. So that’s kind of the exercise.
similar to “Brokeback Mountain” in that they’re playing a role that’s supposed
to be their real lives but they’re true selves are completely different.
what you wish for and what you pretend in your fantasies. There’s more truth to
Oscar, I guess, makes a lot of things possible for you. I was surprised,
however, that after the success of “Brokeback,” there weren’t more films made
with gay themes. Were you surprised by that?
AL: Yeah, I
was. I don’t have an explanation. Maybe they’re waiting for a good script. I
don’t really check with the studios. Can you tell why?
off-the-cuff long-winded bullshit] Let’s not get too off topic, though. In some
of the other films, like Last Tango, where young actresses are included in a
very graphic sexual relationship, they’ve had problems afterwards. I know Maria
Schneider ended up in a mental institution a few years later. I spoke to Kerry Fox [for “Intimacy”] and she had problems. Do you fear the
same fate will befall the young actress in your movie?
AL: Oh gosh,
I hope not. I try everything to protect the actors—and not just the sexual
scenes, but a whole career thing. Before she was nothing and now she’s getting
so much attention. I try every step of the way to protect her and educate
her—make sure she’s going on the right path. I helped her find her next
project. I do the best I can. I have not sent any young actor in my career to a
mental institution. Even though she has many sex scenes, I do my best to make
sure she’s comfortable and walking in the right path. Take care of her as much
as I can. So far, there has been praise for her performance. She
believes in each role like a child. That’s the beauty.