When Maggie Cheung Left Hollywood – Movie Stories
Maggie Cheung is arguably one of the finest actresses of her generation – but as her fame grew, she stopped making movies…
In 2004, Maggie Cheung announced that she had “turned her back on filmmaking” in what was a quietly monumental moment in modern film history. A rising Hong Kong actress who is now considered one of the greatest screen presences of all time, she appeared to be at the height of her career when her retirement was announced.
It was a sad moment, especially since she retired at a time when she was embarking on a new cinematic journey in Hollywood, catalyzed by her wonderful performance in Olivier Assayas’ meta arthouse drama in 1996. Irma Vep. In this film, she plays a fictional, augmented version of herself. The film is a meditation on the French film industry – an understated but powerfully satirical production that later cemented its international reputation.
She appeared in her first English language film chinese box in 1997 alongside Jeremy Irons, poorly received, but it followed his first success with To clean in 2004, also directed by her ex-husband Olivier Assayas. In it, she portrayed a junkie named Emily Wang in a heartfelt and career-defining performance that won universal acclaim.
Why, then, did one of the best actors of our time retire from the business when things were only getting better?
Basically, the reason for her retirement was that the dream of stardom had faded away for her. As Cheung said at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, “I don’t have that dream anymore and I don’t want to act in anything anymore… from 18 to 35, I didn’t have my own life and I didn’t know anyone outside of the entertainment industry. It’s only now that I know how hard it is to be a good person, and I’m learning how.
Her growing qualms with the entertainment industry that eventually led to her retirement propelled her into a life of public reclusion, barely making public appearances outside of the occasional charity fundraiser or awards show. . However, her promise to learn how to be a better person at the Taipei Film Festival came true. She is actively engaged in philanthropy and geopolitics, and in 2010 she was appointed UNICEF Ambassador to China and continues to participate in large amounts of charity work, which testifies to her humble selflessness.
It was perhaps this altruism that led to his dissatisfaction with the superficial, materialistic film industry, and the industry where profits and box office receipts are considered more important than production. good quality art.
Yet her benevolence is just one of the many reasons why Maggie Cheung is considered an important figure in the film industry. His celestial, almost supernatural persona is truly something, and this was seen most clearly in his collaborations with esteemed Chinese director Wong Kar-Wai, appearing in five of his films.
His seraphic on-screen persona and Wong Kar-Wai’s innovative and masterful directing are beautifully synthesized in love mood, a 2000 romantic drama film that was ranked the second-best film of the 21st century in a 2016 BBC survey – behind Mulholland Drive.
It is consistently considered one of the most influential films for filmmakers of the modern era, with Sofia Coppola crediting the film as the biggest inspiration for her film. Lost in translation, and the similarities are uncanny. Both films are neither maximalist nor expansive in terms of storytelling, but focus on small, delicate, and minute issues. It’s not necessarily a film overly preoccupied with narrative development and a conventional three-act structure, but rather an experimental, contemplative meditation on loneliness.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s a wistful beauty of a production, with gorgeous cinematography by Christopher Doyle that invites audiences into the film and allows us to absorb the lavish visuals. Maggie Cheung really is the icing on the cake here, with her performance complementing the film’s technical beauty superbly.
But this is far from the only example where this is the case. The movies she appears in are uplifted by her naturally majestic nature. And if this little homage to Cheung has somehow whetted your appetite for more of his work, here are four of his finest films…
Irma Vep (1996)
Irma Vep is a 1996 satirical drama director by Olivier Assayas, starring Cheung as herself, involved in a tumultuous French remake of Louis Feuillade’s 1915 147-minute serial drama film The vampires. It is a self-reflective film, criticizing the xenophobic and harsh nature of the contemporary film industry.
The film is experienced directly from the perspective of Maggie Cheung’s character navigating a production in which she is the only stranger and a fish out of water. As the film progresses, the disorientation Cheung felt seeps into the narrative, blurring the lines between fact and fiction and all the while making a poignant and relevant statement about the hypocrisy and vitriol of the industry she -same.
It’s a wonderfully crafted piece of cinema. Maggie Cheung is dressed in leather for most of the film, which makes her character stand out in almost every scene she finds herself in as an enlightened dominatrix navigating through the maelstrom of production. The light and airy 16mm cinematography gives the film a touch of truth, but the performances and the film’s descent into chaos make it an engrossing exercise in melodrama, with the final five minutes of pure avant-garde cinema, brimming with visuals. . innovation. This is not to be missed.
In the Mood for Love (2000)
love mood is a 2000 romantic drama directed by Wong Kar-Wai, and is the second film in an informal tetralogy of films, the first being days of being wild and the third being 2046. Cheung stars as Mrs. Chang, a seductive enchantress who falls in love. To say more about the plot would be a sin, as this is a film to be experienced without prior knowledge of the narrative, but what follows is a glimpse of loneliness, romance, betrayal, lust and opportunity.
The script is minimalist in scope, being a film more about feelings and themes than story progression. It’s a fantastically used narrative choice by Wong Kar-Wai, involving us in the depiction of the love he creates, something so innocent and yet so wonderful. The moist technicolor rainbow palette, similar to something you’d see in a movie giallo, is wonderful and arguably contains some of the most beautiful shots in modern cinematic history. Maggie Cheung walking down a claustrophobic, narrow alley guided by the tactile eye of cinematographer Christopher Doyle is superb cinematic. To watch absolutely.
Center Stage (1991)
Also known as Actress, it is a biographical film directed by Stanley Kwan about the rise and fall of Ruan Lingyu, a prominent Chinese silent film actor, who tragically committed suicide at the age of just 24. The film traces her hectic and impactful life, and Maggie Cheung plays her, as always, with real grace and decorum.
In a way, the film is a synedoch of Cheung’s own career – a trailblazer when she was active in the industry, but also fame afterward. It’s uniquely underrated and undermined too in Cheung’s vast array of work and, on the contrary, it’s one of his best roles.
A hallmark of her intellectual tenacity – she instantly switches between Shanghainese, Mandarin and Cantonese in her role – the film not only features some of its most poignant actors, but its portrayal of crestfallen Ruan Lingyu is haunting and will linger with you. for days after watching this. A fantastic film to see Cheung in great shape, and also to learn more about the oriental silent film industry in the 1920s.
Reuniting ex-husband and wife team Olivier Assayas and Maggie Cheung, this dark narcotics-fueled drama stars Cheung as a woman trying to balance motherhood with her infamous drug use. Once again, Cheung’s multilingual skills shine through as she easily switches between French, English and Cantonese. This movie finds Cheung at his most raw and vulnerable, delivering a believable and authentic performance as a junkie, and it almost reminded me of a toned down, less shocking version of Requiem for a dream. It’s a wonderful piece of auteur cinema, and it’s technically Cheung’s last role before announcing his retirement.
I’m a young cinephile, and already Maggie Cheung has fascinated me in many ways. I know I have plenty of movies left to see, plenty of works to admire, but I can’t help but think that Maggie Cheung will go down as having one of the best, if not short-lived, actors. careers. Even though it’s not in the movie, I can’t wait to see what’s to come next.
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