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