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Comparing Moonlight’s Cinematic Style With Director Wong Kar-Wai

Wong Kar-Wai / Moonlight visual comparison. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)
Wong Kar-Wai / Moonlight visual comparison. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

The cinematography from Barry Jenkins film Moonlight is receiving good reviews for its emotional and dreamlike style. In this video-essay by Alessio Marinacci, he compares the style of Moonlight with the work of Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai:

Moonlight won a Golden Globe for best drama. It is a tender, heartbreaking, coming of age story that focuses on a young man’s struggle, told in three parts. The script was adapted from the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Similar framing for images within door frames. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

Similar framing for images within door frames. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

Director Barry Jenkins was inspired by Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times to structure Moonlight in three sections.

The film Moonlight was shot by cinematographer James Laxton, and color graded by Alex Bickel. The Wong Kar-Wai films in the essay were all shot by Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle.

Night shots following our main characters. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

Night shots following the main characters of each film. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

In the video essay, shots from Moonlight are projected next to these three Wong Kar-Wai films:

  • Days of Being Wild (Wong Kar-wai, 1990)
  • In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
  • Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai, 1997)

The film’s soundtrack is by Nicholas Britell, and the song in the video-essay is entitled The Middle of the World. 

Detail shot on the phone in both Moonlight and a Wong Kar-Wai film. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

Detailed phone shots in Moonlight and a Wong Kar-Wai film. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

The main character is Chiron, who is played by three different actors to represent each stage of his life. These actors are Alex R Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes. Naomi Harris plays his mother, who neglects him due to her fight with drug addiction. Mahershala Ali plays the character Juan, an unlikely father figure to Chiron who takes him under his wing and offers him some stability when he notices him being bullied by classmates.

Atmospheric shot of a sports game both films. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

An atmospheric shot of a sports game — both films. (Image: Alessio Marinacci via YouTube/Screenshot)

Mahershala Ali won Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role for this character earlier this year at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

He made a very moving acceptance speech, reminding us of the importance of loving each other, regardless of our differences. He began his speech with:

The full acceptance speech is below:

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