The side-by-side comparisons that show how a Hong Kong director influenced “Moonlight”

Image: Screenshot from YouTube
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When director Barry Jenkins first got into film school, he was gripped by a foreign film that was stylistically different to anything he had ever seen before. His favorite scene in particular was a love scene of a man playing with a toy plane on his girlfriend’s body, with American soul singer Dinah Washington’s What A Diff’rence A Day Made playing in the background.

“That moment always struck me as something that was just like ridiculously beautiful,” recalled the director of Moonlight—which won the 89th Academy Award for Best Picture on Sunday (Feb. 26)—in a November interview with video distributor the Criterion Collection.

Chungking Express (1994), the film that so captivated Jenkins, was directed by Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-wai. Wong “does a great job of taking interiority and translating it to the screen with something you are taught not to do in film school,” said Jenkins in the interview with Criterion. “But I think it is very, very much tenable within the medium.”

Wong is the 37th greatest director of the last 25 years, according to Quartz’s analysis of critical reviews from the website Metacritic, while his masterpiece In the Mood for Love (2000) is the second-best film of the 21st century, according to the BBC’s recent survey of 177 film critics.

Wong’s influence on Jenkins is clearly seen in a video made by YouTube user Alessio Marinacci, which juxtaposes scenes from Moonlight against Wong’s Days of Being Wild (1990), Happy Together (1997), and In the Mood for Love (2000).

Moonlight cinematographer James Laxton also told the Film Stage blog that there was a Dropbox folder full of images, including screengrabs from Wong’s movies, in preparation for the production of Moonlight.