Maggie Cheung’s career is quite unusual. She was first a model and even the 1983 Miss Hong Kong, but she was quickly hailed as a star of Hong Kong cinema with the huge success of Police Story (1985) in which she played alongside Jackie Chan. Then the British colony’s film industry was not kind with its famous actors, especially with its adresses whose career was deemed short. Over the following years, Maggie Cheung played in all sorts of films: sentimental comedies, action films, melodramas. From 1987 to 1993, she was in at least 5 films a year. In 1988, she even appeared in 12 films. 1988 was indeed a turning point: this was the year when she met Wong Kar-wai who made his first feature (As Tears Go By). Her role in this film and the fact that she was chosen by Wong Kar-wai made it possible for her to be given parts in films by a number of auteur film-makers such as Ann Hui, Stanley Kwan, Yim Yo, Tsui Hark. With Wong Kar-wai, she also made Days of Being Wild (1990), Ashes of Time (1994) and In the Mood for Love (2000). Among her numerous parts she appeared in other great films such as Ann Hui’s Song of Exile (1990), Stanley Kwan’s Center Stage (1992) in which she plays Ruan Lingyu, a legendary Shanghai actress from the silent period, and which earned her a best actress award at the Berlin Festival, and Tsui Hark’s Green Snake (1993) in which she was a snake which could turn human. Maggie Cheung thought of putting an end to her career in 1994. However, she agreed to be Irma Vep in Olivier Assayas’s film. Since then, she has continued making films although at a less hectic pace, in Paris (Anne Fontaine’s Augustin, roi du kung-fu) and Hong Kong (Wayne Wang’s The Chinese Box). She is currently making her fifth film with Wong Kar-wai, a film called 2046.
I suppose what motivated me in paying this tribute to Maggie Cheung was to know her better and make her better known by our audience. It is the first time in the history of the Festival of the 3 Continents that we pay tribute to such a young actress. A very warm and very sensitive person, Maggie is also an elusive, lonely woman who refrains from being too close to reality and only feels good in front of a camera. This could be the reason why she has played in so many films (almost 100 films over sixteen years since she was 18). With such a big number of films to her credit, making a selection was a hard task. We decided to choose nine. Our choice of films is a faithful illustration of Maggie’s talent. The Nantes festival audience will surely appreciate her subtle acting and, above all, her grace.