The Central escalator was built when we started the movie, and nearly everything was filmed within one kilometre of it. It’s a metaphor for aspiration and hope, it divided the expat area from the local community. If you wander around, it’s a microcosm of the city., Chinese medicine stores, and the escalator, from finance to where people dream of living, out of money and into hope. That’s what defined Chungking Express.
We filmed more ofin Fallen Angels than we did Chungking Express, and again, the building acted as a metaphor for the film. It’s wondrous, it has no answer, they don’t even know what’s going on there. It’s a melange of different cultures, it’s a collage of people who aren’t very rich trying to work out how to live in Hong Kong. There’s no city in the world where you can see such a variety of visceral, essential and personal experiences.
With In the Mood for Love, we tried to celebrate Hong Kong’s simple values. The 1960s for Hong Kong people was transitional. It’s nostalgia, for the values that we now may think we may lose. Most people from that time were immigrants, and it was a society looking for itself, which is what we’re doing again now. Art’s function is to remind you of how beautiful your life could be, and how beautiful it is.
The most famous shot is on the rooftop, and I’m afraid of heights. And I couldn’t do anything but celebrate this astonishing skyline we’ve created. That was the most important part of the film: this steel-and-glass world actually has beauty. The building is a mirror; it’s a metaphor for the questions of how we live in Hong Kong.
‘Who are we and why are we here?’ – that’s what we were addressing with Hong Kong Trilogy. It was about changes since the handover, and hopefully that initiated some kind of response. But it’s not just about Instagram, it’s about what this city suggests to you. It comes down to moviemaking to make your point. We need to reach out, and hopefully films do it better than politics. We have to have a voice.