Production Slate - page 3

Production Slate

Queuing | Affliction | Hold You Tight | Gordon Parks | IDA/Kodak

Hold You Tight (China)
Director: Stanley Kwan
Cinematographer: Kwan Pun-Leung

The lyrical plot of Hold You Tight unfolds both before and after the death of business executive Ah Moon (Chingmy Yau), who perishes on an ill-fated flight from Hong Kong to Taiwan. Helmed by Chinese director Stanley Kwan (Love Unto Waste, Rouge and Red Rose, White Rose), the film examines the tumultuous lives of those touched by Ah Moon's aura. Left in her wake is her workaholic husband Fung Wai (Sunny Chan), an obsessive computer programmer who notices her presence more now that she's gone, and Jie (Ko Yue-Lin), a lonesome lifeguard whose lustful affair with Ah Moon lent a fleeting meaning to a wayward existence — unaware of her death, he merely thinks she has disappeared until he surreptitiously overhears Fung Wai lamenting his loss to Tong (Eric Tsang), an openly gay entrepreneur. The grief-stricken Jie later runs into Ah Moon's friend Rosa Gao (Chingmy Yau, again), who implores him to reveal his romance with her to Fung Wai.

Business exec Ah Moon (Chingmy Yau) enjoys an erotic elevator ride with lustful lifeguard Jie (Ko Yue-Lin) in Stanley Kwan's Hold You Tight. Cameraman Kwan Pun-Leung favored a greenish-yellow sheen for scenes indicating sexual desire..

Though Hold You Tight signals the feature debut of cameraman Kwan Pun-Leung, he had already established the director's trust during their collaboration on the documentary A Personal Memoir of Hong Kong: Still Love You After All, Stanley Kwan's personal ruminations on the city's changing state for Taiwanese TV. Pun-Leung hails from a background in still photography; after studying at Hong Kong's School of Technical Arts, he went to work for the publications City Magazine and Cross-Cultural Magazine, winning Agfa's Young Photographer Award in 1994. He has done still photography for theater, fashion, music videos and motion pictures, the latter including Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild. He has also just completed directing a documentary on the making of Happy Together, which was also helmed by Wong. "Every time I face a new medium or subject matter I need to find a completely new approach to express it — this becomes a self-training process to me," notes the cameraman, who is also teaching photography in the School of Creative Media of City University in Hong Kong. "I sometimes find it interesting to use techniques I learned from one medium to express topics of another. Nowadays, we are living in an era of visual mixtures."

Work-weary programmer Fung Wai (Sunny Chan) mourns the absence of wife Ah Moon following her tragic death in a plane crash.
Ah Moon demands attention from her remiss spouse.

Their prior relationship notwithstanding, the pair planned the film's visuals in a relaxed, instinctive manner. The director took Kwan Pun-Leung on informal scouting trips, where he would ask the cameraman which moods each specific site evoked in him. Kwan Pun-Leung elaborates, "In preproduction, Stanley brought me to gay bars, like Why Not and Club Funky [which was used as a location in the film], and we would talk about the feelings of these places. Before shooting scenes set in a pub, we would meet there, have a couple of drinks, and discuss the shots and camera angles in the actual location. In the days of scouting, Stanley would tell me stories about himself and his lovers, which in certain ways reflected on the characters in the film. Sometimes he would ask me if I had to be one of the characters, which one would I choose. By doing so, I think he was directing me to feel for the characters."

Hong Kong's strict location permit regulations often dictated Kwan Pun-Leung's choices in equipment. The cameraman explains, "I primarily used an Arri BL-4, but in locations like the MTR |mass transit railway] and the airport, I used an Arri 35-III instead. Filming is not allowed in those locations, so shooting conditions were very difficult — sort of hit-and-run, hide-and-seek situations — so I needed a very mobile camera. The BL-4 would also be too top-heavy to use when shooting handheld in the cramped MTR compartments. I wouldn't be able to obtain steady shots with the train swinging around as it turned through its travels."

In terms of blocking, one of the director's recurring motifs is to compose a medium shot in which a character is framed within the arch of a doorway, so as to display the space between the intervening rooms. Given the erratic emotional states of the film's protagonists, this helps to signify their sense of isolation and transition. Notes the director, "In my previous movies, I'd found that I was not very good at showing the relationship between the space and the characters. Many times, I'd unintentionally fall into close-ups on the actors and actresses. So for this film, I was more conscious to tell the audience what the space is about and what the relationship between them is."

Kwan Pun-Leung had hoped to utilize bleach-bypass processing on the film, but the plan was abandoned due to budgetary reasons. Only the opening sequence — featuring Ah Moon at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport — was subjected to the procedure. Though part of the film consists of flashbacks of Ah Moon and Fung Wai's rocky marriage, the director did not wish to differentiate the time periods' photography because he felt it would compromise the script's time-tripping structure. As a result, Kwan Pun-Leung had to rely more on contrasting colors (through the Kodak Vision 500T 5279 stock) to signify the appropriate temporal subtext. The cameraman submits, "Typically, I use lighting to describe a character's psychological state, or to set up a scene's atmosphere. When Wai was talking with Tong about Ah Moon's death in the corridor of the couples' new apartment, I used a rather strong sunlight effect on Wai, which made him seem pale and somewhat weak. I used this technique again in Club Funky when Jie was sitting in the corner |despondent over the loss of Ah Moon]. The lighting suggested that Jie was forced to make a confession |about his affair with her] while Rosa remained in darkness.

"There were two colors that I took special care with — purple blue, which I used for moonlight and dawn, and a greenish yellow light, which I used in most love scenes and whenever sexual desire was implied, except for the love between the married couple. For the sequence in which they are moving out of their old apartment, the scene begins with them in two separate spaces. Wai is in a bluish room packing his computer discs, and Ah Moon is at the other end of the apartment. When they start to quarrel face to face, I put Wai in front of a blue background and Moon in front of a warm background, to keep them separated. Even after they move into their new apartment, I kept them spatially separated until the first time Ah Moon enters Wai's room, sits in front of his computer and cries. At that point they are together again."

Likewise, Kwan Pun-Leung utilized distinct shooting styles on different characters. To reflect Jie's anxiety-ridden rebelliousness, the cinematographer employed jumpy, unsettling camera moves. In other scenes, static yet off-kilter angles also came into play, including some dutched perspectives on Tong as he lounges alone in his lavish apartment. According to Stanley Kwan, "This is a means developed by myself and Kwan to inform the audience of people's uncertainty, which is prevalent in regard to all of the sexuality issues within the film."

Rather radical swaying is apparent during a scene in which Ah Moon and Jie drive up to a mountain peak during their first date; the POV on them from in front of their car's grill careens from side-to-side as if the camera was fastened to a pendulum. Explains Kwan Pun-Leung, "I set the camera at the end of another car driving in front of theirs, with the camera low enough to see the bluish sky right after sunset and the leaves along the road. I fixed a dutch head to the camera and combined two fluid heads together in order to achieve the side-to-side movement. Instead of controlling the head's movements by the two handles, I put my arms around the camera tightly. That way I could directly transfer my feelings to the camera. The road to the peak had lots of curves, so I followed my instinct and swung the camera to react to the curves. When Stanley looked at his monitor, he said the shots felt like rollercoaster ride. The only problem came about because of the road's rough surface. I had my eye pressed so tightly against the viewfinder that after shooting it was all red, as if someone had punched me!"

Queuing | Affliction | Hold You Tight | Gordon Parks | IDA/Kodak