Imprimis: this book covers Wong's work up until 2046 including his commercial shorts; however, Teo was not able to view Wong's "The Hand" in the Eros release - a very important film in Wong's oeuvre in my opinion. Of course My Blueberry Nights is also not included since it came after this book. The format is simple with an introductory chapter, one chapter per film and an ending chapter which covers his commercial shorts and concludes his thoughts about the summation of Wong Kar-wai's cinema.
This is a nice monograph on Wong's work. Where Stephen Teo (author of Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions) is strongest and most sublime in this book is associating particular literary influences on Wong's oeuvre. Teo's sums this up in the conclusion of the book where he states: "...Wong paradoxically shows a love of literature that seems far greater than his love of cinema. Literature feeds Wong's faculty of image-making. He is inspired by writers such as Puig and Cortaza, Osamu Dazai and Liu Yichang to express non-linear, illogical narratives, using the word in this own distinctive manner to combine thought and image, and heighten our senses of perception."
Teo does a nice job in explaining some of the cinematic influences on Wong and other movie associations with Wong and his contemporaries. The pre and post handover anxiety and malaise theories and metaphors are covered nicely per film. But like all artists it is important to read a variety of sources on an auteur to understand more about him. I have read David Bordwell's Planet Hong Kong which has a chapter on "avant pop" cinema in HK which most of that chapter is about Wong and it also contains an essay dedicated to Chungking Express. However, there are several more books dedicated to Wong which I will delve into later such as Wong Kar-wai (Contemporary Film Directors) by Peter Brunette and books from The New Hong Kong Cinema Series that deal with specific films.
Where I do have some issues is the overuse of generic terms such as "post-modern" which completely loses context as the years pass. He also perpetuates the theory of Wong as a box-office disaster and suffering artist fighting his way against the HK production companies and disinterested masses with such statements as "...his films are box-office poison in Hong Kong...", "Hong Kong itself has proved resistant to his films, as judged on the whole by their consistently poor domestic box-office earnings", and "It represents Wong's faculty for survival even after the box-office fiasco of Days of Being Wild." This is just not true and I tend to agree with Tony Rayns who has stated on the Criterion commentary for Chungking Express that Wong is not a major flop, just only marginally successful in Hong Kong. If you look at the local box office for Wong's films you find most ranging from 7 to 9 HK million dollars (not counting the 11 HK million for As Tears Go By). While he hasn't had the success of a Wong Jing or Johnnie To's most successful films he also has not had the financial flops that To has had (PTU made about 3 HK million). In an interesting coincidence Stephen Teo would later pen Director in Action: Johnnie To and the Hong Kong Action Film which I feel is a must buy for fans of To.
However, there is so much information that is worth reading and returning to that I believe this as a must purchase for fans of Wong and/or scholars interested in his cinema. Teo sometimes overdoes Wong's position as underdog and he goes into fanboy territory with such statements as "...simply by committing himself in a way that his contemporaries cannot match." and has an annoying habit of using obscure comparisons that sometimes seem a bit forced and a bit Dennis Milleresque like "...kind that incorporates a Menippean discourse..." but his enthusiasm for the subject makes up for these faults.