Chinese Box (1998): Wayne Wong’s Love Poem to Hong Kong, Starring Jeremy Irons and Gong Li


Almost in full circle, after directing two uniquely American indies in theme and locale, “Smoke” and “Blue in the Face” (both in 1995), Wayne Wang returned to Hong Kong (where he was born) to shoot “Chinese Box,” an ambiguous love poem to the international city just as it was changing political hands, going back to Chinese control after 156 years of British rule.

Strong on ambience and nuance, but hampered by a loose, amorphous narrative (co-written by Jean-Claude Carriere, Paul Theroux, and Wang), “Chinese Box” relates a bizarre, disintegrating romance between a dying British journalist (Jeremy Irons) and a beautiful bar hostess (Gong Li), a mainland refugee.

Despite mixed reviews, the sstar power must halped for the film, released by Trimark, found an audience, grossing $2,272,923 at the box-office.