YES: Johnnie To Retrospective by Jason Powell
July 4, 2008, 4:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hong Kong cinema has been hit hard in the past decade, as A-list directors such as John Woo (Hard Boiled), Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China), Wong Kar-wai (2046) and the Pang Brothers (The Eye) have all been lured by the siren song of the Hollywood machine, with—to put it kindly—mixed results. Thankfully, director Johnnie To is holding down the fort. To is not only prolific, directing several major films each year, but he consistently cranks out intelligent, entertaining movies in a wide range of genres, from triad shoot-’em-ups (The Mission) and gritty police procedurals (PTU) to quirky romcoms (Love on a Diet), sci-fi epics (the Heroic Trio films), and films that combine several genres or defy categorization altogether. An industry veteran, To has been getting some long-overdue recognition on the international festival circuit with nominations in Cannes and Berlin of late, and the AFI’s “Johnnie To: Action Auteur” series is a great way to get acquainted with his work. The retrospective focuses mainly on To’s crime-based films, but even the series opener, 2007’s cop thriller Mad Detective, serves as a perfect example of his genre-bending sensibilities. Lau Ching-wan, one of To’s stable of recurring actors, stars as Inspector Bun, a psychologically damaged man who employs a bizarre combination of deductive reasoning, ESP, and highly erratic, borderline schizophrenic behavior to solve crimes. It’s a wild ride and a testament not only to To’s originality but to the unique spirit that put To and his fellow Hong Kong directors on the map in the first place. The series runs to Monday, Aug. 18, at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; see their calendar for a complete schedule.

[Thanks to the AFI for correcting the spelling of To’s English first name on their web site, after I pitched an email fit when they misspelled it in there and in their publication. I forgive you…mostly.]


2 Comments so far
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Nice. We loved To’s ‘PTU’ too.

Comment by 1minutefilmreview

I haven’t seen ANY of these, but I don’t plan on getting a converter for my non-digital whatchamajig television set so I will need a lot of new movies to watch…

Comment by steadyb

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