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Interview Patrick Tam: the exiled filmmaker
On After This Our Exile, Fu Zi 1/5 - Page 2
Author(s) : Gina Marchetti
David Vivier
Thomas Podvin
Date : 28/6/2007
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Allen Fong Yuk Ping
Aaron Kwok Fu Sing
Movies :
After This, Our Exile
Father And Son
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HKCinemagic : Could you talk about your choice for the title of the film? Perhaps start with the Chinese title of the film FU ZI? Is the Chinese title a tribute to Allen Fong’s FATHER AND SON (FUZI QING, 1981)?
Patrick Tam : Roger Garcia has mentioned the similarities and raised possible interaction between AFTER THIS OUR EXILE and FATHER AND SON. Actually, I did not have this in mind. I did not mean to reference Allen’s previous film. These two projects are completely separate. Maybe the only reference is the use of the Chinese title. The English titles for the two films are very different. In my case, I used a line from the English prayer, “Hail, Mary,” for the title AFTER THIS OUR EXILE, rather than a straightforward translation of the Chinese title. This is not the key issue here. Although my film centers on the eternal conflict between the father and the son, I don’t think that my film has anything to do with Allen Fong’s context.
HKCinemagic : How did you decide on this line from the prayer for the film’s English title?
Patrick Tam : Actually, “After this our exile” is about this life of ours on earth—suffering sinfulness, and all this. So, in the passage of the film, all the main characters are going on this journey through life. But, they are leading a very poor existence. They don’t have much meaning in life, so they are drifting along. This is visualized by the father’s trail in the film. I see this journey, this aimless wandering, as a kind of exile. So, the whole progression of the narrative is a visual expression of this feeling of exile. In my view, our life on earth is a kind of exile. You can never get home until you leave this place. Whether you’re religious or not, there is a destination for which you’re heading. So, this is the meaning I have for my film. But, “after,” the thing “after” is important. It is in retrospect, like memory.

Although the film is not strictly speaking a “memory,” the last scene is important. After all this, what has happened? How does the son react to his past history with his father? At the end, what is his mental and emotional state? This is important to me. When he encounters the father across the river, it might not be the father because I never use a close-up. Although on the big screen you might be able to recognize it is Aaron Kwok, but there is no way to really make sure it is he. The memory and emotion that well up with this association are important. We can never jump to any easy conclusion for the ending. Actually, some audiences at festivals have asked why there is no ending, and they wonder whether the father and son will reconcile. This is not for me to answer. I have no right to answer this. I leave that to the characters. What we can be sure of is that the son is undergoing a sense of loss. He realizes that everything has passed. Whether he has love or deep feeling for his father, we can never know. He has emotional conflicts, and we can only leave him at that. I think this is the only truthful answer I can give to the film. Even though AFTER THIS OUR EXILE is a line from a prayer, I do not intend this to be a religious film or something about redemption in the religious sense. No matter what you undergo, many people are like that, they can still stand up at the end. It is the face of hope--maybe. I believe things can change and people can develop. For better or for worse, it is up to the individual. That’s how I see the ending.

Ian Ng and Aaron Kwok in After This Our Exile
HKCinemagic : How would you place your film within the tradition of cinematic realism?

Patrick Tam : Because it is a story about a father and a son, I have read some reviews that have compared this film to BICYCLE THIEVES (Vittorio de Sica, 1948). However, as with the case of Allen Fong’s FATHER AND SON, I don’t think there is any direct reference to the Neo-Realists. This film is poetic.

It really depends on how you define realism. It is not necessarily in the tradition of the Italian cinema of the 1940s and 1950s. It is not about poverty. My film is about the truth of emotion--this kind of conflict. Although the father is good-for-nothing, a gambler, who gambles away the whole family, he may be solely responsible for the unrest and disintegration of the family, but, still, it is not about poverty or materialistic shortcomings. It is really about the weakness of the characters, the failure of human beings, the lack of power of self-reflection that causes the tragedy.

[What’s more] I like Robert Bresson’s films. It is difficult to define or classify Bresson’s spirituality--not in the religious sense. His films are about a release, a transcendence of the soul from the body. The main theme of Bresson’s films is the liberation of the soul from the captivity of the body. This is the most fascinating thing about Bresson. If most of the maestros are working toward the expression, understanding, or exploration of the human condition, Bresson is different. His cinema can only be called a “cinema of theology.” In this sense, what he is concerned with is not the human condition, but with the condition of the human soul. This is what makes Bresson unique and stand out alone in the history of the cinema.

Many local critics have attacked my film because it does not measure up to BICYCLE THIEVES, but they miss the point entirely because they lack a deep understanding of realism. Critics do not have to love my film or agree with me, but they should have a deeper understanding of the film. This is the age of mediocrity. In general, the standards of film criticism and the cinema are going down. Maybe this is a fact we have to accept?

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