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MARCH 4–24

Landing a regular acting gig with Wong Kar-wai certainly has its benefits. Since his breakthrough into the Hong Kong filmmaking industry in the early ’90s, the Shanghai-born director has continually cast some of Asia’s most popular actors and actresses in roles outside their traditional fare, offering them a rare chance to show off their versatility. After making his mark in a couple of John Woo action flicks, Tony Leung Chiu-wai starred in five Kar-wai films, including In the Mood for Love, his portrayal of a newspaper editor whose wife is having an affair with their neighbor’s husband, which won him Best Actor honors at the 2000 Cannes International Film Festival. And Maggie Cheung’s performances in Kar-wai’s 1988 gangster film As Tears Go By and the 1991 period drama Days of Being Wild helped her grow from comedienne to winner of multiple Best Actress awards. Yet working with genius often has a price, and—given the recurring themes of unrequited romance and failing relationships—it’s a wonder if any of his regular cast members have any faith in love left in them. Perhaps that’s why, following her role as the Woman in a Blonde Wig in Kar-wai’s 1994 romantic drama, Chungking Express (pictured)—which loosely intertwines the stories of two police officers who’ve recently broken up with their respective girlfriends—Taiwanese actress Brigitte Lin retired from the industry to devote more time to her family. Not so fortunate, however, was Chinese heartthrob Leslie Cheung—who, six years after his final collaboration with Kar-wai, in Happy Together, committed suicide. Although Chiu-wai, Leslie Cheung, Lin, and Maggie Cheung find themselves mixed and matched in the films screening as part of the American Film Institute’s retrospective, only Ashes of Time—Kar-wai’s $40 million martial-arts epic—features all of them at once. The series opens Friday, March 4, and runs through Thursday, March 24 (see Showtimes for a weekly schedule), at the AFI’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Matthew Borlik)