Friday, October 3, 2008

Are You Waiting At The Station?

It's chugging along just fine, and will be arriving soon. Me, I'm anxiously waiting at the station, hoping this time they get it right.

It's Chungking Express I'm talking about, and Wong Kar-wai's masterpiece is getting the Criterion treatment. Finally!

This isn't exactly news anymore, but through all the excitement and bits and bytes we've been getting, there's still one thing I'm not so clear on.

But first, as usual with Criterion, the cover design is exceptionally beautiful. Criterion always chooses less iconic or familiar images for its covers. Like for The Ice Storm, it's the red jacket seen through the frozen window. And for Vampyr, it's a missing scene from the movie with the shadow of a scythe over a sleeping girl. And the most lovely thing about the Chungking Express cover, if you notice, is how the "C" logo gets integrated into "Chungking."

Unfortunately, while the film is getting the Criterion treatment, it's not the royal treatment as we would expect. No box set, and only one disc. The extras sound good though (even if you're sick of Tony Rayns appearing everywhere):

- Audio commentary by noted Asian cinema critic Tony Rayns
- U.S. theatrical trailer
- Episode excerpt from the BBC Television series Moving Pictures, featuring Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Amy Taubin

And the specs:

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack supervised by director Wong Kar-wai

I really hope Christopher Doyle is drunk during that interview; that would be interesting.

But like I said, there's still one thing unclear about this release, and that mainly is: which version of the film will it be?

Over the years, there've been several versions, and the original Hong Kong cut, theatrically released in Asia when it first came out, has long disappeared. I don't remember how long the original cut was, and neither do any of my friends. But later, there was the ridiculous "Quentin Tarantino presents" version from Rolling Thunder, where, as far as I know, some alterations were done to the film, namely there's a song or two missing from the soundtrack.

There's also a R2 DVD from Ica Projects from 1995, and another from the same period from Artificial Eye. The Artificial Eye version you see on Amazon UK has Takeshi Kaneshiro and Brigitte Lin on the cover, while the copy I own features Faye Wong, but I should think both DVDs are essentially the same.

And now, there's a newly remastered R3 DVD out now in Hong Kong.

The funny thing is, all these versions are clocked in at 100 or 102 minutes. And I'm told the UK and US versions are one and the same cut. I can't explain all the differences or possible differences in the original cut and the later ones, because I've never seen the HK version. Very unfortunate. But friends who have tell me there definitely are differences. What's more, there's even rumour of a bootleg version that has a longer cut.

Whatever it is, I hope Criterion will let us know which version it's releasing. I would think it's the original HK cut as intended by WKW because he supervised the remaster of the soundtrack.

Anyone out there knows?

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