Tue, May 15, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Brigitte Lin, a timeless national treasure

Retired for the last 20 years, the Taiwanese cinema icon returned to the limelight at the recent Hong Kong International Film Festival and Far East Film Festival, which screened a retrospective of her works

By Paige Lim  /  contributing reporter in Udine, Italy

At the peak of her stardom, Lin was the darling of Hong Kong New Wave directors such as Patrick Tam (譚家明), Tsui Hark (徐克) and Ann Hui (許鞍華), with many scrambling for her to star in their projects. Yet to this day, her most challenging collaborations remain with none other than art house auteur Wong Kar-wai, who directed her in Chungking Express and Ashes of Time.

Working with Wong — who is notorious for not using scripts on set — was akin to entering an “unknown land,” Lin says with a laugh. “With Tsui Hark, I was always fully confident because he made sure that I did a lot of preparation. But with Wong Kar-wai, I never knew what would happen.”

She adds: “On the first day of shooting (Ashes of Time), I remember being so concerned and stressed that I started crying, because I didn’t know what to do. Wong’s approach was to just put me there on set and see what happens.”


There’s no doubt how committed Lin has always been to her craft, even going so far as to perform her own stunts when dabbling in contemporary action and martial arts films. She admits to putting her own life in danger on several harrowing occasions, from a near-drowning incident on the set of Swordsman II to passing out mid-air in Jackie Chan’s (成龍) Police Story (新警察故事, 1985).

“Jackie Chan told me I could use a stuntman, but if I shot the scenes myself, I would be remembered forever,” Lin says, describing a particularly dangerous scene where she had to be lifted and thrown onto a table by a man.

“When I was hailed into the air, I fainted because I was too scared. Then the director told me I had to reshoot the scene because I didn’t look into the camera, so nobody could tell it was me.”

Lin may be first and foremost an actress, but she professes to have found an equal love for another vocation: writing. Since retirement, she has published memoirs reminiscing about her experiences in the film industry, as well as late friends Teresa Teng (鄧麗君 ) and Leslie Cheung (張國榮).

“Writing is tiring and difficult, but I can sit at my desk for hours and hours, writing through the night to dawn. I never had any prior writing experience, but I learned that it’s not about using heavy vocabulary, and more about how I can express my sincerity,” she says.

Whether on paper or on screen, it’s clear that Lin’s legacy is set to remain even more timeless, as a new generation of audiences become exposed to her works. On the restoration of her old films, Lin says: “I haven’t filmed for 20 years, but it appears that people are still familiar with me because they can see my films on the Internet.”

“Now we are living in the digital age. I feel very lucky and appreciative that young people now have the opportunity of coming to know the kind of films we shot in the past.”

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