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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Archive for the ‘Johnnie To’ Category

Tomorrow, As Soon As Possible

Yesterday Once More

Sammi Cheng and Andy Lau in Yesterday Once More (2004)

I have to admit that my curiosity was piqued by the recent announcement that Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng would be reuniting with director Johnnie To to make their fourth film together. At the very least, I’m hoping it’ll make up for the last movie they all worked on, Yesterday Once More.

While the Hong Kong megastars sparkled in Needing You and Love on a Diet, their third collaboration with director Johnnie To seemed like a sure thing. Sadly, it wasn’t. All told, 2004’s Yesterday Once More amounts to nothing less than a crushing disappointment.

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2011 Preview + Johnnie To News: DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART

Don’t Go Breaking My HeartToday, news outlets like The Hollywood Reporter, NPR, and ABC News are carrying an Associated Press story that discusses Johnnie To’s many upcoming film projects. According to journalist Min Jin’s article, To has made a calculated decision to shoot light romances geared specifically toward the China market rather than make the kind of films he’s become more famous for — those slick urban crime thrillers that have earned him not just critical praise, but a cult following of fanboys and girls internationally.

In addition to 2011’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, To is currently working on High Altitude Romance II, a film which stars Louis Koo, Sammi Cheng, Huang Yi, Gao Yuanyuan, and Wang Baoqiang. Although the title is alleged to be a direct translation of the Chinese title, that doesn’t really explain what happened to the seemingly non-existent High Altitude Romance I.

In any event, the bigger news (at least to me) was the revelation that To will be reuniting his Needing You/Love on a Diet/Yesterday Once More co-stars Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng for a comedy geared for Mainland Chinese audiences. Rounding out To’s projects is a brief mention of a third film in the Milky Way Image pipeline, a project tentatively titled Lethal Gold, which is set to star Lau Ching-Wan and Richie Ren — that is, if certain scheduling issues can be resolved.

However, central concern of this AP article isn’t so much the number of projects, but To’s reasoning for doing two, possibly three romantic comedies in a row.  In a totally pragmatic, but no less depressing statement, To explains the change:

“This is intentional. We need to cultivate that  market. It’s difficult to do that with the kind of movies we typically make. In order to avoid problems and excessive edits with the censors, we are making softer movies like love stories and comedies,” To told reporters. “If we make a crime movie or one of our more personal films, there will be more obstacles.”

Unlike some Hong Kong cinema fans, I don’t necessarily need The Mission Part VII from Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fei, but it’s sad to see that serious concerns over censorship are preventing him from making more personal films. I sincerely hope that this strategic attempt to a) avoid getting their films cut to shreds by censors and b) make some dough back for their investors doesn’t result in largely impersonal, soulless crap.

I guess we’ll get our first glimpse on March 31st when Don’t Go Breaking My Heart is released to theaters. The film stars Louis Koo, Daniel Wu, Gao Yuanyuan, Lam Suet, and J.J. Jia. If you’d like to see a trailer for the film or perhaps read Media Asia’s unnecessarily excessive and spoiler-filled plot synopsis, click on the link below.

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Sympathy for Monsieur Vengeance

 Vengeance 02

Vengeance…is His!

LoveHKFilm.com’s very own Kevin Ma reviewed Johnnie To’s latest film, Vengeance, after seeing it at the 2009 Hong Kong Summer International Film Festival. Then Kozo shared his thoughts on this stylish revenge flick on his blog back in February. So, seeing as how I’m the odd man out, I figured I might as well give my two cents on the movie as well.

For at least half of the film’s running time, I couldn’t help but wonder what Vengeance would have been like if its original star, Alain Delon, had not backed out of the project. After all, the character in Vengeance is named “Costello,” a nod to Jeff Costello,* the handsome, fedora and trenchcoat wearing protagonist of Jean Pierre Melville’s 1967 classic, Le Samourai. I won’t pretend that I’m an avid Delon fan; we do share the same birthdate (November 8th), although he’s a good ten years older than my father. But seeing him in Le Samourai and Purple Noon, Rene Clement’s 1960 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, shows me what a cool customer this guy was — and perhaps still is. Sadly, this “What if?” speculation must be confined to the annals of movie geekdom for now.

Jeff

C’est la vie

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Calvin’s Top 10 Hong Kong Films of the Last Decade (4-2)

4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

CTHD

Zhang Ziyi steals many a man’s heart in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

I saw this movie twice in theaters. The first time was in Stillwater, Oklahoma, home of my alma mater, Oklahoma State University. The second time was about a month later in a six-movie cineplex in Duncan, Oklahoma. Chew on that for a little while. Sure, Stillwater is a college town (with no arthouse theatre, mind you), but Duncan is just your average American town with an Asian population of 0.04% (and no telling how many residents of Chinese descent). So, showing a movie in Mandarin with English subtitles is, y’know, kind of a big deal. That’s how big of a game-changer Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was.

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