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Interview Patrick Tam: the exiled filmmaker
On After This Our Exile, Fu Zi 5/5 - Page 6
Author(s) : Gina Marchetti
David Vivier
Thomas Podvin
Date : 28/6/2007
Type(s) : Interview
 Intext Links  
People :
Aaron Kwok Fu Sing
Charlie Young Choi Nei
Movies :
After This, Our Exile
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Page 5 : Characterization VS form
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Page 7 : Modern HK Cinema and Johnnie To

HKCinemagic : Could you talk about the significance of the scenes involving food and eating in AFTER THIS OUR EXILE?

Patrick Tam : That’s their way of life. At the very beginning, the boy is eating breakfast. The mother is sitting there. After the mother runs away and is stopped by the husband, the three of them have dinner at home in the evening. After the mother leaves, the father brings a snack for the boy. Life is like that. Everyday you do the same things, but the emotions change. You feel the loneliness after the mother is gone. I use the same angle for the same kind of shot. Life is never the same as before. It is a process of daily living that is slowly changing. If I just had one eating scene, it would not be effective. It’s as if nothing has changed, but actually these people are going through these emotional fluctuations. For example, there are two scenes in restaurants in which the father has an outburst. One is with the mother and a waiter talking about ordering a drink, and the other is with the boy on the rooftop, before he tries to abandon the boy, in which the father becomes angry over a steak that is too rare he wants changed. Some friends have asked me if these scenes are really necessary. They seem to be repetitious. There is the outburst in the restaurant at the beginning with the mother when the son has his birthday and then the father and the son have a farewell dinner on the rooftop. It’s the same, but it’s different. There is a purpose there. Even if the father is impotent and good for nothing, he is a cook, he is a chef. He only has the ability to make distinctions involving food. When he is in this territory of his --this is his small world-- he can be effective, he can function. It is a reference to this. If it is only in one scene, I could not get this point across. I don’t recall. Are there really that many eating scenes? Three or four maybe?

When you watch this film, the actions are the same --eating or walking-- daily living is like that. The emotion is different. There has to be a point to each scene. There is no lack of purpose. I have to see to it that everything you see on screen is there out of necessity.

Actually, I was in Kunming, China, showing the long version of this film in China for the first time. There are three versions of the film. One is the long version, the short version for Hong Kong, and there is another version for China dubbed in Mandarin --dubbed poorly in Taiwan. Because of censorship, the government wants the film to be educational. They cut out nearly all the stealing scenes. They just left one in. All the negative comments are based on these distorted versions of the film. Over the weekend, because of the tenth anniversary of Hong Kong returning to China, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office organized this exhibition of the full version of the film. It was shown on the condition that it would not be shown for profit. The film had already been released, so it was up to the bureaucrats to give reasons for the various versions of the film. Some members of the audience commented that, after seeing the long version (not the lousy Mainland China short version), the impact could finally be felt.

HKCinemagic : Could you talk about the issue of the mother abandoning her son in the film? How do audiences react to this aspect of the story?
Patrick Tam : Actually, the audiences I encounter at different film festivals seldom raise this question. For my part, I don’t think of it as a cultural issue. I base it on character. This woman, on the surface, is no good. She is abandoning the family. What causes this? This individual has the right to pursue happiness in life. Also, the mother understands the whole situation. She loves the boy, but she is more selfish. She has this power to reflect, but she admits she is selfish. We can never fully blame her, though. If not for the father, she might not be abandoning the family. That’s why I had Aaron Kwok play both the lover and the husband. This gives a mirror image. If the husband had been like the lover, the mother, Lee Yuk-lin (Charlie Young), would not go away. The tragedy is that the husband can never be like the lover. In the end, when you see the mother feeding the baby, she has this expression of uncertainty and loss. She is not happy, although she has a materially good life. If you choose something, you can never get everything. You always have some kind of loss. Actually, another theme of the film is this sense of loss, of regret.
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