Passport Series XV: World of Wong Kar Wai

As Tears Go By

Opens Jan 30, 2021

Wong Kar Wai’s scintillating debut feature is a kinetic, hyper-cool crime thriller graced with flashes of the impressionistic, daydream visual style for which he would become renowned. Set amidst Hong Kong’s ruthless, neon-lit gangland underworld, this operatic saga of ambition, honor, and revenge stars Andy Lau as a small-time mob enforcer who finds himself torn between a burgeoning romance with his ailing cousin (Maggie Cheung, in the first of her iconic collaborations with the director) and his loyalty to his loose cannon partner in crime (Jacky Cheung) whose reckless attempts to make a name for himself unleash a spiral of violence. Marrying the pulp pleasures of the gritty Hong Kong action drama with hints of the head-rush romanticism Wong would push to intoxicating heights throughout the 1990s, As Tears Go By was a box office smash that heralded the arrival of one of contemporary cinema’s most electrifying talents.

As Tears Go By runs January 30 - February 4 (with Fallen Angels)


With his lush and sensual visuals, pitch-perfect soundtracks, and soulful romanticism, Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the defining auteurs of contemporary cinema. Joined by such key collaborators as British cinematographer Christopher Doyle; editor and production and costume designer William Chang Suk Ping; and actors Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, Wong has written and directed films that have enraptured audiences and critics worldwide and inspired countless other filmmakers with their poetic moods and music, narrative and stylistic daring, and potent themes of alienation and memory. Whether they're tragically romantic, soaked in blood, or quirkily comedic, the seven films collected here are an invitation into the unique and wistful world of a deeply influential artist.

We present these films in concert with one another, both chronologically (over nearly two decades), and thematically, as the pieces play off of one another. Held together by a unified yearning for emotional connection, Wong's films span generations, as we ping-pong between a hazy nostalgia for the 1960s — Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and, for the first time in its original, extended cut, The Hand — and the turbulent nervous-energy of impending change in the 1990s (on the cusp of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong) — with the whiplash fever dreams of Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, and Happy Together.

Chungking Express, and In the Mood for Love provide the most potent points of entry as their influence is painted all over the last 15 years of cinema. It is Wong's debut feature, 1988's As Tears Go By, a hyper-cool, hard-boiled crime thriller, that best serves to bridge these two styles, while also sticking out as the black sheep of the oeuvre. Fallen Angels returns, however tangentially, to these same Hong Kong Noir roots, while simultaneously forming a singular, hallucinatory slapstick city-symphony and neon-nocturne. Happy Together finds its focus on a complex and empathetic queer relationship as stars Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung traverse Argentina in a shifting visual slate as In the Mood for Love-cinematographer, Christopher Doyle casts the film in stark monochrome and screaming color.

Ultimately, the world of Wong Kar Wai is a luscious, sketchy, digressive, exhilarating and intoxicating one — driven by a universal, tangible yearning for sincere connection.

Restorations provided by Janus Films.