October 06, 2005


Johnnie To is never one to mince wordsJohnnie To is never one to mince words, and he has a few, choice, unminced ones for Andy Lau and Jackie Chan.

These days, everyone has an opinion about why Hong Kong doesn't make as many movies as it used to. Jackie thinks it's because the movies aren't as good as they were, and because the film industry isn't as united as it was.

Here's what To thinks about Jackie: "He usually isn't so good at talking and doesn't understand how the market operates ... films are made only when bosses are willing to invest. Where there are audiences, bosses would keep investing their money."

These days, everyone has a plan to save the Hong Kong film industry. Andy Lau heard Jackie's plea for unity and said he wants to make a movie with himself, Stephen Chow, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung Chiu-wai. If no one will put up the budget, he'll back it himself. He thinks this supermovie will be unbeatable.

To thinks this plan has a few problems: "How are we going to get the five people together to make a film? How long would it take to organise it? Why doesn't he invite Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise?"

Go, go, Johnnie To!

October 6, 2005 at 09:33 AM in News | Permalink


I had no idea Johnnie To was full of such vitriole for his fellow HK filmmakers. Never since Anthony Wong shot his mouth off on that DVD have I heard such harsh words. So.......who's the "talented yet nice" director in HK then?

Posted by: FiveVenoms | Oct 6, 2005 9:13:50 PM

Well, he certainly didn't feel the need to be less argmentative.

I also felt Jackie said some silly things though. To only mentions some of them.
And I actually laughed when I read Andy's fantasy. To make an idea like this public makes me doubt its sincerity.

Derek Yee is "talented yet nice" I suppose.

Posted by: eliza bennet | Oct 7, 2005 3:34:51 AM

If I might ask, which DVD did Anthony Wong shoot his mouth off on? I would watch the man read the phone book, he's so goddamn good, and the idea of him spewing vitriol out of character is simply too inviting.

Posted by: Abe Goldfarb | Oct 7, 2005 12:28:17 PM

Tragically, I do not know. I myself have searched extensively for the DVD in question, but nobody seems to have mentioned it except Grady, who brought it to my attention here:


I'm curious myself (obviously) particularly since Anthony Wong has a seemingly bad reputation in HK. My old boss caught me trying to look at the pictures in her Chinese language newspaper and solemnly told me that Anthony Wong was widely regarded as being "A little insane".

Posted by: FiveVenoms | Oct 7, 2005 10:55:59 PM

And now that I think of it, in defense of Jackie Chan, it is vaguely amusing to me that Jackie has been in the film industry almost 10 more years than Johnnie To, yet , "He.....doesn't understand how the market operates ...", evidently.

Of course, I really can't criticize either one of them, having never made ANY Hong Kong films. But still....

Posted by: FiveVenoms | Oct 9, 2005 8:20:59 PM

Say what you want about To's right to vitriol, but Chan has said a remarkable number of stupid things in recent years. That man needs to learn that foot is not part of a balanced diet. And Lau's out of his tiny little mind. Seriously, what genre of movie would it be? What sort of characters would each play? How would they integrate it all? There are FAR too many problems with that idea. I think To hit the nail on the head both times.

Posted by: Tetsuo | Oct 10, 2005 4:17:47 AM

but Jackie does not need to worry about the market the same way most filmmakers do. he's the establishment, he's got his own media empire, and, as embarassing as his recent movies have been, they will get produced and distributed and make money just because of the money they put in to promote it, and also just because he's Jackie Chan. I love him and I loved the action in The Myth. But the cgi wire romance thing really had to go. He didn't use to make movies like that. He used to come up with an idea, then spend like 6 months shooting it, making up the scenes and the actions as he went along, and they were very great, organic, films, that could only been done when the production value's relatively low. These days he's only doing half-baked high concept pictures that break the hearts of every fan from Way Back Then.
But Johnnie To is different. He's a studio director. A great one, but is still limited by a mob-run studio and their consumerist demands. I bet To, as smart and talented as he is, has higher aspirations than making stylish action pictures with.
I don't think neither is wrong; both are frustrated by the current state Hong Kong is in. After all these years of relative monopoly, all of a sudden China, South Korea, Japan, and Thailand have their own transnational/continental films in the works, with bigger backings and edgier hipper sensibilities. Hong Kong has never really treated filmmaking as a craft, always a commodity. The market boomed because the Chinese business dudes loved to herd and follow the trends, and thank god a few geniuses, namely Stephen Chow, Jackie Chan, and Wong KarWai, had the chance to vent behind the camera. Most of the people with money viewed filmmaking as a business venture, and the island never thought about fostering a more proper film culture amongst the kids. So now, all of a sudden, all the hip young kids have sprung up, competiting directly with 40 year olds wishing they were 20. That's a huge, multifacted problem with Hong Kong that no one has yet to address, aside from film school deans and occasional sighs from Stephen Chow.

Posted by: pete | Oct 10, 2005 4:47:53 PM

Very eloquently put. I tragically have no backlog of Jackie Chan statements to support the statement I made; Yes, I was generalizing, which I realize is dangerous grounds on a site like this. Of course, the lack of "OMG U R tEh SuXXOrZ" is all the more refreshing for it. Pete, you make a very good point I hadn't particularly considered, insofar as that Jackie can pretty much ignore the norm for the HK film market because evidently he does things the "Hollywood" way. With enough promotion and marketing, your film doesn't HAVE to be good to turn a profit. It could easily be argued that Jackie doesn't have to work as hard as he did, since now that he has his fame and fortune in place for quite a while now, he doesn't really need to adhere to his old standards.
Johnnie To, however, as you said, is in an entirely different boat; "films are made only when bosses are willing to invest", which is a problem he definitely has, and as I said, Jackie probably less so. Which is really a crying shame. If To had the kind of latitude that was afforded to a director of his caliber in the US, we can only gleefully wonder what he would make. But instead, he makes (and makes them well) popular genre, star-laden films. Admittedly, you still get something as unique as Throwdown from time to time, but he's shackled by the industry.
As much as we would all love it, there isn't really any kind of high-production/high-concept forum for HK filmmakers. Instead we have probably 75% of the "insert pop star, emulate genre, repeat" type films that have plagued us all of late. Thankfully we can be grateful that the people funding these films don't really seem to care what the end result is as long as they get their money-making formula-fix. Occasionally someone can turn that towards their own ends, but as you said; that's no basis for a film "culture".

Posted by: FiveVenoms | Oct 10, 2005 9:18:30 PM

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