10. King Kong (Peter Jackson)
B-side: 2046 (Wong Kar-wai)
One’s a mega-budget remake of a legendary effects extravaganza. The other’s an enigmatic semi-sequel to arthouse hit IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. What could they possibly have in common? Not a lot on the surface, but if you look past the superficial differences it’s easy to see that both films are clearly the work of cinema-drunk directors, jumping off from their inspirations in inspired directions.
Jackson has long stated that the 1933 version of KING KONG is the film that made him want to become a filmmaker, and his new take on the story reflects this. The film, at three hours, is roughly twice as long as the original, and Jackson packs the expanded running time with spectacle and flights of fancy. In other words, he geeks out, using the seemingly unlimited studio resources afforded him by his LORD OF THE RINGS success to bring to the screen the version of KING KONG that has played out in his imagination since he was a child. Some have attacked the film as starting slow and suffering from bloat, but I was enraptured every minute, and even when Kong ends up exactly where he know he’ll end up, Jackson’s retelling works like gangbusters.
Since IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE was released, his follow-up project, 2046, was hotly anticipated by Wong fans but also something of an unknown quantity, and for good reason- one of the magical things about the prior film is how self-contained it was, to the point that it’s hard to imagine much of anything happening after the final fade to black. Where could Wong possibly go from here? While 2046 combines a number of familiar Wong elements- doomed love, awesome cinematography, gorgeous women (Gong Li, Faye Wong, Zhang Ziyi playing a grown-up for once, Carina Lau, fleeting glimpses of Maggie Cheung)- Wong remixes them within the framework of a sci-fi story written by his protagonist, played once again by Tony Leung. The result is intoxicating, a Wong film for Wong lovers, playing out, as all his best work does, less like a story than a one of those old songs he loves so much.