In the Words of the Director: Wong Kar-wai “Film Genre as a Uniform”

I never had a problem with genre because a genre actually is like a uniform – you put yourself into a certain uniform. But if you dress up in a police officer’s uniform, it doesn’t mean that you are an officer; it can mean something else. But this is the starting point, and the best way is to not to fit into this uniform but to make this uniform a part of yourself.

Wong Kar-wai


Once, I recommended the film Holy Motors to an acquintance with a degree in French and German (interestingly, the film was co-produced by the French and Germans). She asked: “Is it a horror film or…” Since the film cannot be defined in genre terms, I was silent about it and said: “Just see it”. In contemporary times, films tend to be more and more uniformed and are mostly understood in terms of genre; this is a basic and easily recognizable fact. Yet, the problem is in the uniformity of films, they are dressed up according to mass desires and to be identified, they need to come in easily recognizable uniforms.

Wong Kar-wai seems to make an important distiction between the films which are made to suit the genre and the films which take the genre as a starting point, which needs to be elaborated in an authentic way. For example, Wong Kar-wai ‘s 2046 is in broad terms a mixture between a romantic movie (dealing with a loss) and a science-fiction movie. It manages to surpass both genres seen as uniforms one needs to fit in, and create a wonderful garment without a serial number. Wong Kar-wai says that the choice of a genre (as a uniform) must not be a hindrance to the director’s creativity, quite the opposite, they must be uniforms which enable the director to achieve his specific vision. Some directors managed to exploit a quite specific genre in a great number of their works and bring it to perfection.

Dario Argento and giallo genre seems to be a good example. Argento’s Profondo Rosso possesess a unique voice and can be described as a psychological triller with Freudian overtones as well as a giallo film, and an admirable piece of art. Countless other examples can be given, and of the ones less familiar in the West, Japanese director Kōji Wakamatsu comes to mind. This director made films which loosely fall under pink exploitation genre of that era, yet its garment has a thread of purple in it, to paraphrase the stoic philosopher Epictetus.

Argento and Wakamatsu, among others, managed to make the uniform (understood as a genre) become a part of themselves. Wakamatsu created stylish exploitation films focusing on rebellion of the young people, sexual as well as social, managed to portray psychological disturbances in an uncanny, peculiar and singular way and turn the whole concept upside down. Exploitation films are widely regarded as garbage, and to create a piece of art out of garbage seems to be a form of alchemical process which can be seen in Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain.