CANNES — For some helmers, filmmaking is an artistic aspiration. For others it is just a job. For Wong Kar-wai, who heads the Cannes competition jury, it seems closer to a way of life.
Thanks to his idiosyncratic method of snatching a few shots here and there over prolonged periods — years in the case of “2046” — and sometimes baffling thesps as to which of his projects their perfs will end up in, Wong’s ways are enough to establish him as a world-class enigma.
So does he need the old-school sunglasses that he permanently sports? Why the reluctance to explain the meanings that can be read into his work? What about the constant questions as to his whereabouts?
Variety caught him midway through a quick trip to Gotham — before he starts his jury duty — where he will shoot his next movie, “My Blueberry Nights,” this summer.
But if being at the eye of the Cannes storm and a rare commitment to a schedule for his next two movies opens his self-constructed curtain, behind it he’s balanced and positive.
“I am mentally prepared and looking forward to seeing many wonderful films during the upcoming two weeks,” he said. “On the other hand, I do not wish to come in with too many expectations or premeditations. I hope to have an open mind and to react to the films directly and honestly.”
He plans to enjoy “meeting with my peers, watching the latest works of established and new talents… and participating in a side of Cannes that I have never experienced.”
This is his fourth Cannes festival and it reunites him with “2046” star Ziyi Zhang. He said he hopes to get out, explore the city and “maybe even take in a party or two.”
Asked whether he will try to direct the jury or let it find its own modus operandi, the Shanghai-born, Hong Konger said simply, “there will be no rules.”
Too simple? “When I watch a film I don’t impose my background as a filmmaker. I come as audience and react as one.”
He said he can switch off any notion of origin, budget, reputation or positive discrimination.
And he neatly deflected criticism that the fest has cynically picked a paparazzi-friendly jury long on thesps. “They are actresses by profession and filmmakers by nature,” he added.
Wong is down to earth about the impact of his fortnight in the spotlight.
“Individually and collectively we are responsible for our choices — especially not to make a bad choice,” he said. “But I don’t think a festival can change the destiny of a film. Yes, in the short term, a festival may help a film’s profile and its immediate commercial success, but as to a film’s long-term artistic merit, history will be a better judge.”
History is at the heart of Wong’s treatise on auteurship.
“Will globalization and bigger budgets endanger new talent and will the emergence of new technology empower them? For me, auteurship means a persistence of personality. History has revealed to us numerous examples of those I consider auteurs, like Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford working within, and not being diminished by, the studio system. Its a matter of resources and access to resources.
“Those guys’ personalities and unique talents still come across in spite of whatever system. New technology sometimes may help but does not necessarily create another Hitchcock.”
Sounds optimistic, so what’s with the dark glasses? “They help me imagine the world brighter than what I have seen.”