Wong Kar Wai on Using Film for The Grandmaster

Ziyi Zhang and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in a scene from The Grandmaster.

Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster comes out Friday, August 23rd.  It’s Wong’s first new film since My Blueberry Nights in 2007, and his first set in Asia since 2004′s 2046.  Starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, The Grandmaster is about Ip Man, a revered martial artist who helped popularize wing chun in Hong Kong.

Wong worked for six years on The Grandmaster, and ended up shooting for almost three years.  In an interview in Manhattan, he explained why he made The Grandmaster on Fuji film:

Director Wong Kar Wai

We decided to shoot on it on film, because three years ago a lot of people were still shooting on film. But at the end of production I realized we are almost the only few left. And one day I received a letter from Fuji. They said “I’m sorry, sir, we are sorry to tell you that this will be the last shipment because we are not going to produce the film stock any more.”

I had two reactions.  First, it seemed like it’s time for me to wrap this picture.

Second thing, it’s like the end of a certain time. It’s kind of sickening.  I still keep one of the cans of film stock.  When you look at this film can, you can imagine this beautiful Panavision camera, you can imagine all the images, all this beautiful grain on the big screen.  Now it’s gone, it’s history.

I can understand that digital is more cost effective, maybe even more environmental. But from a filmmaker’s point of view, you feel a sense of loss. It’s different. It’s like looking a gramophone with a CD in your hand.

No matter how beautiful digital makes things, no matter how easy the technology becomes, you don’t have that texture.

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