Tony Leung Love

Don't make eye contact with me or I'll rip your cheongsam to pieces

So it’s been a while since I had a “celebrity crush.” Recent ones have included Javier Bardem (2006-2008), and before that, it was probably Ewan McGregor (1998-Obi Wan Kenobi). In other words, I am a woman who is steadfast and true.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t always easy following your favorite stars as a 13 year old girl in 1998. In fact, it was (relatively) difficult to find all the movies featuring your favorite actor before imdb! First you had to type in the username and password to your Michiana FreeNet account, wait while the dial-up connected, click open Internet Explorer, slowly and deliberately type in h-t-t-p-:-/-/-w-w-w- to get to whichever search engine you prefer. The results, pre-google, were not in the millions, and probably half of them were somebody’s angelfire personal fansite.

These days, obviously, it’s easier to find out which films your beauties have graced, courtesy of wiki and imdb. From there you can netflix whatever obscure movie they’re in, and easily make your way through their filmography.

Extra fortunately, the new love of my cinematic life is Tony Leung. And he ain’t no triflin’ Hollywood fellow, or worse, triflin’ indie picture fellow: that is to say, he does not appear once in a while to great fanfare and then disappear into his California ranch for several years. He’s a bonafide hard-working man of the moving pictures, because he works for Hong Kong. A friend recently noted, “Hollywood stars work 9-5 for a month out of the year, but Hong Kong stars work 9-5, every day.” He’s just like you and me! ‘Xcept his girlfriend is a movie star, and he wins awards at Cannes, and he is buddies with really important movie directors.

Though I never actively sought out Tony until now, I’d seen him all over the place. He plays the sharply dressed S&M brutalizer cum generous/still totally scary lover in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution. He is the other half of best-crime-fighting-duo (ever?) in John Woo’s Hard Boiled. Many people have seen him in Jet Li’s Hero as well. The point is, you have seen this guy. But have you really seen him? Have you looked deep into his eyes?

Tony is, understandably, a muse of Wong Kar Wai, and it is the dark, melancholy depths of Tony’s eyes that often allow the minimal script and long, artful shots of WKW’s films to reach their greatest profundity. Yes, I just said that.

Tony doesn’t discriminate among genres; he’s a versatile actor who is as believable a down-trodden gay line cook as he is a a long-haired, ancient Chinese martial artist named Flying Sword. But what he brings to all his roles is an almost stately, dignified reserve. He brings the subtlety of real feeling. For instance, John Woo could not have found a better actor to poignantly make a paper crane and set it on the water to represent every human life he has taken. Imagine, say, Nicholas Cage (also an actor in a John Woo movie) having to act sad after he kills lots of people! Not gonna happen.

Tony doesn’t approach acting like the Anglo-world’s hooting, hollering, gesticulating, roaring Method actors. If he were ever to do an American movie (and thank goodness he probably never will), the Academy wouldn’t even know what to do with him, because his game isn’t about ego. And yet, his extreme tact and reserve is always warm and vulnerable, never cold or inaccessible.

To truly illustrate the glory that is Tony Leung, I’m going to have to write a couple film reviews. My next installment will be some thoughts on In the Mood for Love. Betcha can’t wait!!!!


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