Sun, Nov 30, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Changing Places, finding success

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tony Leung, left, and Andy Lau, right, have a final duel in Infernal Affairs3


Despite having made more than 30 movies that have sold reasonably well in Taiwan, Andrew Lau, or Lau Wai-keung (劉偉強) was still an unfamiliar name for audiences here, until last year's sweeping success, Infernal Affairs (無間道). The movie is likely going to be Hong Kong's chance for Best Foreign Language film at next year's Oscars and it has made Lau and his co-director Alan Mak (麥兆輝) the most sought-after filmmakers in the Chinese territory.

When responding to questions, Lau is always fast, straightforward and clear (in spite of his not-so-fluent Mandarin), a way of talking which is similar to his terse and sharp narrative film style.

Though he has been making films since the 1980s, 43 year-old Lau was clearly inspired by John Woo (吳宇森), Ringo Lam (林嶺東) and Wong Kar Wai (王家衛), who the leading action movie directors then. He has long been known as a excellent cinematographer, gaining his name in making Lam's City On Fire (龍虎風雲, 1987) and Wong's As Tears Go By (旺角卡門,1988) and Chungking Express (重慶森林, 1995).

But having directed films for 16 years and having made 32 movies, it is only recently that he has been embraced by the media.

No wonder he looked so

emotional when he took home both Best Director and Best Picture awards in April at the Hong Kong Film Awards (香港電影金像獎), for the film Infernal Affairs.

The first Infernal Affairs grossed HK$51 million (US$7.1 million). The movie was bought by Miramax for US release and Warner Brothers has snapped up the rights for the film which will be produced by Brad Pitt's production company.

In Taiwan, Infernal Affairs has dominated nominations for the upcoming 40th Golden Horse Awards, being nominated in 12 categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actors and Best Cinematography.

"Actually, the award I want to win the most is the Best Cinematography category," Lau said.

Camera work has always been Lau's favorite. He has been nominated for Best Cinematography nearly 10 times for different awards, but without success.

"In the beginning, I was just intrigued by the idea of a triad member infiltrating the police," Lau said.

Making a crime drama was not difficult for Lau. Since 1991, he has made Young and Dangerous (古惑仔, 1991), about gangsters in the Kowloon area. The movie spawned five sequels and made a star of Ekin Cheng (鄭伊健). In 1998 and 1999 Lau has also made the visually stunning and well-received action fantasy films, Storm Riders (風雲) and Once a Hero (中華英雄). Lau has also turned his hand to other genres: horror, action, sci-fi and romance.

But when Lau was planning for Infernal Affairs, he decided to take a different working approach.

"It was in May of 2002, the [Hong Kong] film industry had slumped and it was a tough time for filmmaking. We had very limited budgets and we could not waste a penny," Lau said. "The only thing we could do was to have a fully prepared script and a good working plan," Lau said.

Where Lau departed from the Hong Kong crime drama formula was by making his heroes live in pain and frustration.

"I wanted to present a different kind of action movie. The gun shots in the first Infernal Affairs are only 15 seconds," Lau said. "For me, sometimes, the violence of language or gesture are worse than physical violence."

The most violent part of the movie, he said, is the tension between the characters, set off by history. Infernal Affairs II was connected to Hong Kong's shift of sovereignty in 1997.

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