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Through the Lens of Arthur Wong
Busy days with the new-wavers 1/1 - Page 4
Author(s) : David Vivier
Thomas Podvin
Date : 12/1/2005
Type(s) : Interview
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Page 3 : Disco dancing, Cinema City, D&B
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Page 5 : Hong Kong Society of Cinematographers

HKCinemagic: You did stick to cinematography and honed your skills instead of taking further directorial works.
Arthur Wong: In the beginning of the 1980s, a lot of so called new wave directors came out, like Tsui Hark and Ann Hui. They learnt abroad and came to work on TV [productions] in HK and they also professionalized this business. They added new positions to crews, and one of them was art director. Before, we didn’t have any art director. And then, all directors began to be very much concerned about photography. They were concerned about natural lighting. I suppose under a big light you’d have the hard shadow cast on the wall [which they didn’t like].

Since then the situation became totally different. All the old cameramen went out of job. Nobody hired them. At that time the fast film [Ed.: which need lower exposition] began to appear: The ASA fast films. But also the fast lenses and new techniques of lighting for the soft light were something new. The old traditional cameramen didn’t usually go to watch movies and didn’t know what the soft light was. So I suddenly became very busy in those days (laugher).

Most of the techniques I learnt were from books and from ASC magazines [Ed.: ASC stands for American Society of Cinematographers]. Those magazines were reporting on American and European movies and gave long interviews about the photography, how they do their lighting, etc. and were illustrated with pictures. That was the only way I could learn.

These days, all directors watched American movies, not local ones. And then at every meeting they will show us [at the lighting department], scenes from foreign movies, how they wanted it too look like.

I even custom-made a lot of cranes, I designed a lot of cranes. At this time we didn’t have any professional dolly systems. We were use to hold the camera with a rope or the cameraman with cables for vertical pans for instance.

HKCinemagic: From which movie did you learn the most?
Arthur Wong: If I watched a movie I liked, I would watch it more than ten times. Those days, my first idol was Vittorio Storaro [director of photography for] [Bernardo Bertolucci’s] Last Tango in Paris (1972), [Francis Ford Coppola’s] Apocalypse Now (1979) and [Francis Ford Coppola’s] One from the Heart (1982). For the film One from the Heart the camera work was really… [Speechless]
Those days we didn’t have VCR and I watched these films several times, so we had to go to the cinemas again, and again and again and again.
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