Wayne Wang, "The Princess of Nebraska" (2007).

Sep 23 2008 Published by Benito Vergara under review


There’s a scene about halfway through Wayne Wang’s 2007 film The Princess of Nebraska that’s the complete stylistic opposite of the ending of his 1982 masterpiece, Chan Is Missing. You’ll be forgiven if it reminded you of those Christopher Doyle-filmed handheld scenes in Chungking Express, and maybe it’s even done on purpose: the scene is all a blurred swath of neon and Chinese characters, at once both immediately recognizable and illegible. (The man messing with the camera is Richard Wong, the talented director of Colma: The Musical.)

In contrast, the conclusion of Chan Is Missing consists of unmoving black-and-white scenes of Chinatown, of its residents walking with their groceries and waiting for the bus, of store facades and empty sidewalks reminiscent of Atget’s Paris, while “Grant Avenue” from Flower Drum Song plays semi-ironically on the soundtrack. (Most people seem to remember the preceding scene as the conclusion — a Harry Callahan-like image of gray ocean ripples, while our accidental detective “summarizes” the case on the voiceover — but that’s not the real ending.)

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