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The Rise of Johnnie To
Addendum: The HK perspective 6/6 - Page 20
Info
Author(s) : Marie Jost
Date : 28/2/2011
Type(s) : Analysis
Food for thought
Information
 
 Intext Links  
People :
Ann Hui On Wah
Johnnie To Kei Fung
Wai Ka Fai
Movies :
Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Fat Choi Spirit
Help !!!
A Hero Never Dies
Intruder
The Longest Nite
Love For All Seasons
Love On A Diet
Mad Detective
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
Needing You
Needing You
The Odd One Dies
Running On Karma
The Story Of My Son
Too Many Ways To Be No. 1
Where A Good Man Goes
Wu Yen
 
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Page 19 : Can Tse, the film enthusiast
 
 Notes  
Some photos of Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai were kindly offered by Laurent Koffel from http://www.laurentkoffel.com, Frédéric Ambroisine, Yves Montmayeur, Bastian Meiresonne and David-Olivier Vidouze. All rights reserved.

PDF version available here (2.8 Mo)


Five individuals in Hong Kong, amongst them critics, cinephiles and film scholars, were questioned by HKCinemagic to determine how Johnnie To is viewed in his native Hong Kong. All were asked how To is regarded in Hong Kong, what might be considered his seminal works, and the relationship of his output as a filmmaker to the local cultural context. When taken as a whole, the responses present an alternate view of Johnnie To that in several ways acts as a corrective to the prevailing view of To in the West.

 

The Hong Kong view, conclusion

There was a general consensus that it was necessary to look at all of Johnnie To's output—including the comedies and the romances—in constructing a picture of To as a filmmaker. In Hong Kong, many of To's pictures have relied on popular genres (most notably comedy and romance), featured big stars and generating big box office, which in turn spells big popular impact. The pictures that are so well regarded by Western and local Hong Kong critics, the movies that win To his film awards-- crime dramas and gangster pictures—are much less popular with local audiences and do not on their own present a complete picture of how To is viewed in his home territory nor his impact as a filmmaker.

Rather surprising was the acknowledgment by several respondents of their fond memories of Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai (To's frequent collaborator at Milkyway Image) from their time at TVB, a local Hong Kong television station. The context for appreciating the work of filmmakers, at least in Hong Kong, can extend beyond their work in film and encompass their television work as well. (This is not unique to To and Wai. Other Hong Kong filmmakers of some repute—for example Patrick Tam and Ann Hui-- worked in television before making feature films and their television work is considered alongside their film work in an assessment of their career as filmmakers by Hong Kong critics and film scholars.)

Equally significant was the across the board acknowledgement of the importance of Wai Ka Fai, To's frequent collaborator, and his significant contribution to the To-Wai collaborations. Because Wai's contribution in joint projects with To is confined to scriptwriting, he has been less prominent in discussions of To in the West. The respondents acknowledge that there is a density and cultural specificity to the scripts that Wai contributes in these joint projects, such as Running on Karma, Mad Detective or even the romantic comedy Needing You, that make them less accessible to Western critics and scholars than the more visually driven To solo efforts. The view in Hong King is that this is a partnership that must be taken seriously. Wai Ka Fai contributes the ideas, characters and storytelling, while Johnnie To visualizes what Wai creates as a scriptwriter. For several respondents, the works produced by this creative partnership are greater than the sum of their individual parts. An acknowledgement of the high esteem with which Wai Ka Fai is regarded in Hong Kong film circles is the fact that the 2011 Hong Kong International Film Festival Filmmaker in Focus was Wai Ka Fai. As one critic stated: in Hong Kong at least, they are looking beyond auteur theory to take a serious look at scriptwriting, and acknowledge that the director may not be the be-all-and-end-all in cinema.

 

.Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai at the Udine Far East Film Festival in 2008.

Photo © Frédéric Ambroisine, used with persmission.
Film stock from http://www.storeide.se/gunhild/Scrapbooking.htm

 
Johnnie To's and Wai Ka Fai's films

- List of Johnnie To films

- List of Wai Ka Fai films

- Wai Ka Fai (W) and Johnnie To (J) common projects:

Don't Go Breaking My Heart, 2011, W: Director, Producer, Writer; T: Director, Producer

Vengeance, 2009, W: Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Mad Detective, 2007, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Love For All Seasons, 2003, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Running On Karma, 2003, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Left Turn Right, 2003, W: Director, Producer, Writer , T: Director, Producer

Fat Choi Spirit, 2002, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

My Left Eye Sees Ghosts, 2002, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Fulltime Killer, 2001, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Love On A Diet, 2001, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Wu Yen, 2001, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Help !!!, 2000, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Needing You, 2000, W: Director, Producer, Writer, T: Director, Producer

Where A Good Man Goes, 1999, W: Producer, Original Story, T: Director, Producer

A Hero Never Dies, 1998, W: Producer, T: Director, Producer

The Longest Nite, 1998, W: Producer, T: Producer (uncredited director)

Intruder, 1997, W: Producer, T: Producer

The Odd One Dies, 1997, Producer, Writer, T: Producer

Too Many Ways To Be No. 1, 1997, W: Director, Writer, T: Producer

The Story Of My Son, 1990, W: Writer, T: Director, Writer

 
Special thanks

HKCinemagic would like to thanks all the people who have answered our questions or helped contacting people based in Hong Kong. They are: Thomas Shin, Vivian P.Y. Lee, Sebastian Yim, Ross Chen, Can D Tse, Freddie Wong and Gina Marchetti.

Some photos of Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai were kindly offered by Laurent Koffel from http://www.laurentkoffel.com, Frédéric Ambroisine, Yves Montmayeur, Bastian Meiresonne and David-Olivier Vidouze.

We extend our thanks to Sylvia Rorem.

Artwork by Daniel Iarriccio.

 
 
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