Wong Kar-Wai Reminisces About Hellish Shoot for 'Ashes of Time'

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Wong Kar-Wai

The Hong Kong filmmaker tells South Korean fans that the 1994 film encouraged him to make "Chungking Express."

SEOUL -- Wong Kar-Wai looked back to a time when he was making a movie "with the determination to die," during a promotional event for the South Korean premiere of Ashes of Time Redux.

Though the 2008 version of the original 1994 Ashes of Time, which included digitally re-mastered audiovisuals as well as new subtitles, narration, and music, was introduced in Korea through local film festivals, it was released in Korean theaters on Dec. 5.

Wong met with local fans for the occasion and reminisced about the tough conditions under which he completed the film.

"I was determined to die after shooting Ashes of Time in the [Gobi] desert," he said in a theater in Seoul. "It was my first time setting the backdrop of a film in the desert instead of a city, as well as in ancient times rather than the present."

He spent two years filming in the desert with great resolve, he said. "There were requests to include heavy martial arts sequences but I made no compromises. I felt very proud about that and learned to trust myself. I felt unafraid to take on any film after shooting Ashes of Time and was able to complete my next project, Chungking Express, in just two months."

Though the production wrapped rather swiftly for Chungking Express, post-production was a challenge. Wong had finished editing the film just 90 minutes before its premiere, and had to rush deliver it to Hong Kong theaters.

But because the analog film cases could only each hold 10 minutes’ worth of the film, not all nine boxes of the 90-minute-long movie were delivered to all of the theaters. Some audiences who did not get to see the last 10 to 20 minutes saw different endings to the film.

"Because of Chungking Express, Hong Kong theaters came up with a new rule not to screen films until the entirety of its footage arrives,” he said.

Ashes of Time Redux is now showing in local theaters along with Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love (2000).