HONG KONG – Wong Kar-wai’s francophile credentials were given another boost on Sunday as he was awarded one of the French government’s highest cultural accolades.
At a ceremony in Wong’s hometown, Hong Kong, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius — who was in town for a two-day visit — appointed the director a Commander of France’s Order of Arts and Letters, the highest of three possible ranks in a honor-roll presided over by the French cultural ministry.
The auteur was accompanied at the ceremony by his wife, the staff of his production company Jet Tone Films, and his long-running collaborators Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Chang Chen, who both starred in his latest film The Grandmaster.
The award was the latest in a long line of awards Wong has secured in France ever since he made his debut on the film-festival circuit in 1988 when he brought his directorial debut, As Tears Go By, to the Critics’ Week sidebar at Cannes.
Having garnered a large fanbase in France — he has been a darling on the Croisette, winning the Best Director title in 1997 with Happy Together, and having his 2004 film, 2046, selected for competition even though it didn’t yet have a confirmed title at the time — Wong was already made a Knight of France’s National Order of the Legion of Honor in 2006, shortly before he went on to preside over the Cannes jury that year.
Already holding the honorary Bronze Bauhinia Medal for cultural accomplishment in Hong Kong, Wong’s French Commander title adds to another tribute award he received at the Deauville Asian Film Festival in France in March.
The Grandmaster, which was premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, will open in North America in August. Speaking to the local press after the ceremony — which was staged at the official residence of the French consul-general to Hong Kong — Wong said he and his lead actress Zhang Ziyi will be embarking on extensive promotional tours in Europe and the U.S. in the next few months. He added that he has no set plans about what his next project will be.