World of Wong Kar Wai
As Tears Go By
With his lush and sensual visuals, pitch-perfect soundtracks, and soulful romanticism, Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the defining auteurs of contemporary cinema. Joined by such key collaborators as cinematographer Christopher Doyle; editor and production and costume designer William Chang Suk Ping; and actors Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, Wong (or WKW, as he is often known) has written and directed films that have enraptured audiences and critics worldwide and inspired countless other filmmakers with their poetic moods and music, narrative and stylistic daring, and potent themes of alienation and memory. Whether they’re tragically romantic, soaked in blood, or quirkily comedic, the seven films collected here are an invitation into the unique and wistful world of a deeply influential artist.
The Criterion Collection presents their latest director-centric box set, World of Wong Kar Wai, delivering seven of the filmmaker’s works all recently restored in 4K. The first dual-layer disc presents Wong’s first feature, As Tears Go By, in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. All of the 4K restorations are said to be sourced from the 35mm original negative.
As has become common knowledge since the theatrical releases of the new restorations and early reviews for this set (and comments around both) there are “issues” to be found, though they vary from title to title, with some rightfully calling for a *shrug* and others so drastic they severely change the look of the film. As Tears Go By probably falls somewhere in the middle.
One of the biggest issues across the titles is how the colours have been altered/enhanced, leading to very different looking films in some cases, leaning greener in a lot of cases. As Tears Go By shows that, though it comes off minor compared to the other films, and is more noticeable in certain scenes. Most daylight sequences aren’t as obvious, while darker sequences and many interiors (probably where fluorescent lights would be used) show the effect more clearly. To be honest, I didn’t find it all that bad on the whole, and though the look is a bit more modern, it suits the film.
The digital presentation leaves one wanting, though. The film looks to have been processed and filtered a bit, more than likely to manage and control grain, but this has led to some artifacts and a slightly more digital look. Grain can still be made out, and details are at least solid enough, the image never really looking waxy, but grain, when it’s more prominent, has a less natural, more digital and blocky look, especially in darker sequences. Grain can disappear in brighter scenes, leading to a flatter looking image. This filtering could also be playing into banding issues that are a pretty common occurrence throughout, and they’re incredibly obvious in the shadows, creating noticeable rings. It’s a shame, as the restoration work has cleaned up things quite well in terms of damage, with a handful of specs remaining, and if it had a more film-like look it could have maybe been one of the stand-outs in the set.
The film comes with a lossless PCM, single-channel monaural soundtrack. It has a very flat sound overall, dialogue with weak fidelity, sounding incredibly hollow, and both music and sound effects lacking anything I would call range. It’s all quite flat and one-note.
Though the set as a whole sports a decent—if somewhat underwhelming—selection of supplements, As Tears Go By sports very little: just the film’s original trailer and two alternate endings, running a few minutes each and both sourced from video. One provides the film with a more upbeat ending thanks to some flashbacks that are tacked on, while the other is pretty much the same as what we get, just with a few extra shots showing up after the film’s actual final shot.
I would have expected more for Wong’s first film but nope. It gets the shaft.
The image has room for improvement and there are next to no supplements. Not the most promising way to start things off.