John­nie To’s thriller is tale of a doc­tor, a rob­ber and a cop

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By XUFAN xufan@chi­

Be­fore a long take, which re­quired 200 peo­ple to si­mul­ta­ne­ously move in a pre-de­ter­mined way for a few min­utes, John­nie To ig­nited in­cense sticks and prayed to the gods.

The Hong Kong di­rec­tor’s cer­e­mony-like film­mak­ing was shown in a 47-minute doc­u­men­tary about his up­com­ing film, Three, at Pek­ingUniver­sity on Sun­day.

The first preview of the movie was at the Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val on June 16. It will be re­leased on the main­land later in the month.

Many in­dus­try in­sid­ers agree that the six-minute scene will likely be­come one of To’s best cin­e­matic mo­ments.

The scene fea­tures a bloody gun­fight. De­spite be­ing shot in slow mo­tion, the vi­o­lence has been cap­tured well.

Burn­ing in­cense is a tra­di­tion ofHong Kong-based film­mak­ers.

To, 61, re­spects con­ven­tions, but has al­ways sought break­throughs in his ca­reer of more than three decades.

If one takes a close look at his more than 100 movies and TV se­ries, To’s ef­forts to bal­ance com­mer­cial hits and in­die ti­tles will show. While earn­ing money from the for­mer to re­coup losses from the lat­ter — ap­par­ently his true love — the di­rec­tor, a fa­vorite of in­ter­na­tional fes­ti­vals, seems to have found a recipe to both sur­vive the mar­ket and fol­low his heart.

Such strate­gies are clearly seen in the films pro­duced by his stu­dio, Milky­way Im­age. The stu­dio, which made a name with styl­ized crime thrillers, has sur­vived and thrived even af­ter Hong Kong cine­mas were hit by fall­ing rev­enues trig­gered by the Asian fi­nan­cial cri­sis in the late 1990s.

Now, 20 years af­ter the stu­dio was es­tab­lished, To has de­cided to com­mem­o­rate it by mak­ing a film that he has dreamed about for years.

In a speech af­ter the doc­u­men­tary­wasshownin Bei­jing, he re­veals that the movie is about con­flicts in so­ci­ety and how “wrongs are cor­rected”.

“I want to re­search and ob­serve hu­man­ity through this tale. For me, it’s more like an al­le­gory cov­ered by a crime genre,” he says.

Set in a hospi­tal, the twohour fea­ture re­volves around the con­flicts among a stub­born sur­geon, a se­ri­ously in­jured rob­ber and a cop.

The film has a stel­lar cast, in­clud­ing vet­eran ac­tress Zhao Wei, Tai­wan ac­tor Wal­lace Chung and Hong Kong ac­tor Louis Koo.

To’s team built a “hospi­tal” in Guangzhou, the cap­i­tal of South China’s Guang­dong prov­ince.

He re­cruited sev­eral brain sur­geons to teach Zhao, who plays the sur­geon, how to con­duct med­i­cal op­er­a­tions.

Chung re­calls at a Bei­jing event that some of the ma­chines on the set were real. But re­mem­ber­ing com­plex med­i­cal pro­ce­dures was not the only chal­lenge for the ac­tors and ac­tresses — there was no script. Ev­ery morn­ing be­fore shoot­ing, the ac­tors and ac­tresses found they were wait­ing for that day’s script.

Scriptwriter Yau Nai-hoi says his work had been re­jected many times even on the set.

To’s habit is to let the nu­ance change on the set to de­cide which way the story would de­velop.

“I’m still learn­ing film­mak­ing, so I want to ex­plore ev­ery pos­si­ble as­pect,” To says mod­estly.

Even as he faces mixed re­views, To has de­cided to bring Three up against Hol­ly­wood.

Its pre­miere date, June 24, clashes with two Hol­ly­wood big movies — In­de­pen­dence Day: Resur­gence and Now You SeeMe 2.

Ac­cord­ing to iQiyi Mo­tion Pic­tures, the dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany for Three, com­pet­ing with­Hol­ly­wood­may not be all that dif­fi­cult as To is pop­u­lar and so are cast mem­bers of the movie.


John­nie To (right) says his new work, Three, is like an al­le­gory cov­ered by a crime genre. The cast in­cludes ac­tress Zhao Wei, and ac­tors Louis Koo (left) and Wal­lace Chung.

Watch trailer by scan­ning the code.

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