复仇 | Vengeance

Vengeance

What is vengeance if you can’t remember who it is you’re avenging? Isn’t memory what vengeance is all about? Vengeance is always personal, and usually results in at least a few more deaths than originally intended, many of them more than a little mordantly ironic. That’s part of what makes a revenge thriller thrilling, and Johnnie To’s terrific, slow-burn triad actioner Vengeance, adds a memory glitch to those thrills. Vengeance is a rich, fragrant reduction of To’s favorite themes (male bonding and codes of loyalty, the triad underworld, vengeance) trademarks (slow-motion clouds of blood, unforgettable set-pieces, impossibly sleek cinematography, brooding men, black humor) and actors. One splendid difference: Vengeance stars French actor and singer Johnny Hallyday (adding a nice tip of the chapeau to the French noirs of the ‘60s, when Hallyday had his rock and roll heyday). Hallyday plays François Costello, a Parisian restaurant owner who is in Macau at the request of his daughter—to avenge a savage attack on her family. Costello crosses paths with a crack team of triad hit men, whom he then hires to carry out his own revenge plan—a plan growing increasingly hazy due to his deteriorating memory. The craggy, lived-in face of Hallyday is as riveting as To’s mad scenes of mayhem, which include a fierce nighttime shootout as clouds pass over the full moon and—shootouts being To’s stock in trade—an epic battle in a junkyard that has to be seen to be believed. Vengeance, indeed, is a dish best served by Johnnie To.

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Johnny Hallyday, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Ka Tung Lam, Simon Yam, Suet Lam | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Oldenburg Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival

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文雀 | Sparrow

Sparrow

From the acclaimed director of The Mission, Election, and Exiled, Johnnie To. “Sparrow’ is a common word used in Hong Kong street slang for pickpocket. The term refers to the special dexterity needed to pluck people’s wallets from their pockets… and possibly also to the necessity of having to flutter away quickly should one be discovered. Kei is one such ‘sparrow’ – and a very professional one at that. He and his three partners earn a good living from digging deep into the pockets of oblivious passers-by moving along the crowded urban canyons of Hong Kong. As far as Kei’s concerned, it’s all he needs to live a carefree life. Whenever he is not going about his business he loves to ride about the city on his bicycle photographing street scenes with his Rolleiflex camera. One day the gorgeous Chun Lei comes into his sights. Kei is fascinated. But behind Chun Lei’s good looks lurks a mysterious past. Kei falls in love with her – and he is not the only one. After having managed to turn the heads of his three colleagues, she reveals her true intentions: the sparrows must steal something of great importance to her.

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Simon Yam, Kelly Lin, Ka Tung Lam, Hoi-Pang Lo, Suet Lam | Presented at Berlin Film Festival, Fantasia Film Festival, Cinemanila Film Festival, Chicago Film Festival, Cleveland Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival

黑社会 | Election

Election

Every two years senior members of Hong Kong’s oldest Triad, The Wo Shing Society, elect a new chairman. Fierce rivalries emerge between the two eligible candidates. Lok, respected by the Uncles is the favorite to win. His rival Big D will stop at nothing to change this by going against hundreds of years of Triad tradition – influencing the vote with money and violence. When Wo Shing’s ancient symbol of leadership, the Dragon’s Head Baton, goes missing, a ruthless struggle for power erupts and the race to retrieve the Baton threatens to tear Wo Shing in two. Can Wo Shing balance their traditional brotherhood ways with the cut-throat modern world of 21st century business?

Directed by Johnnie To | Starring : Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Louis Koo, Nick Cheung, Ka Tung Lam | Presented at Cannes Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, Sitges Film Festival, La Rochelle Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival, Pusan Film Festival, Buenos Aires Film Festival, Locarno Film Festival

堕落天使 | Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels

Originally intended to be a third story in his now classic Chungking Express, Fallen Angels has emerged as what some critics have come to consider his “quintessential work.” Set in the neon-washed underworld of present day Hong Kong, Fallen Angels intertwines two exhilarating tales of love and isolation. First, there’s the unconsummated love affair between a contract Killer and the ravishing female Agent who books his assignments and cleans up after his jobs. When the Killer decides that he must move on, he leaves her with only a coin for the jukebox and instructions to play song number 1818. Ex-convict Ho stopped speaking at the age of five after eating a date-expired can of pineapple. He lives with his father, who runs a guesthouse where the Agent is in semi-permanent residence. Ho makes a living by re-opening shops that have been closed fort he night and intimidating customers into buying goods and services from him. After an awkward romance with a girl named Cherry, Ho finds himself all the more alone… Wong Kar-Wai brings these parallel storylines together in a blitz of ultra-hip style and classic cinematic sensibilities. A poet of modern alienation, Kar-Wai’s universe is populated with characters both dark and comic, magical and existential, Fallen Angels is both a vie at revolutionary cinema and an homage to a love for movies.

Directed by Kar Wai Wong | Starring : Leon Lai, Michelle Reis, Charlie Yeung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Karen Mok | Presented at Toronto Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Oslo Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Thessaloniki Film Festival