Sunday, February 22, 2009

Johnnie To's "Breaking News" (2004)


Breaking News is the first Johnnie To film I saw. It's got wonderful rhythm and a very fluid camera. The film somehow grows, in style and meaning, as it progresses.

I think the big mistake people make about Breaking News is that they try to find the content in the whole issue with the media, etc. (and I agree, he doesn't have anything very original to say there) while the true story lies in the characters, their relations, and the very architecture-aware cutting...




In an interview on Breaking News, Johnnie To says:
Hong Kong, with its particularities, is different than all the countries of Southeast Asia. The dissimilarity with Europe is even more striking. You find very interesting aspects to discover in Hong Kong. It's a rich place in terms of paradoxes. Ultra-modern buildings contrast with the very old houses... the too clean, even sterilized, neighborhoods with very dirty corners. Hong Kong is a city of two extremes, interesting to film, like New York. In Hong Kong you find buildings with such narrow corridors that you can't carry furniture. There is nothing like this in France or Europe.

My filmography abounds in action films. My films are about the relations between men, through the conflict between cops and criminals, questions of Life and Death, loyalty, and masculine heroism. I adore that universe.

If you haven't been introduced to Johnnie To before, you can begin by reading this. I hope to see more by him and I'd really appreciate if anybody has any suggestions.

7 comments:

edo choi said...

I've seen only two, "Exiled" and "Sparrow", but both are wonderful.

Yoel Meranda said...

I have a DVD of the "Exiled". I'll try to watch that soon also. I've added two quotes by To to the post...

Kyle said...

I think "Throwdown" and "Sparrow" are his best films, but most of them are quite great. "Running on Karma" and "Yesterday Once More" are also favorites of mine, and of course "Exiled". The non-action (they're not really categorizable) films don't have the same sheen, but they're just as important.

Yoel Meranda said...

Thanks Kyle!

I'm curious how you rate "Breaking News" in case you've seen it...

Kyle said...

I was able to see "Breaking News" in 35mm and thought it was pretty great. Though both are distinctive, I associate it a bit with "PTU", and in some ways they form a kind of diptych. They're not his most perfect films by any means, but they're still really strong in my opinion.

Yoel Meranda said...

I see in the French Amazon (.fr) that they have many many of his films on DVD... Good news...

And Kyle, if you had to pick your favorite non-action To film?

Kyle said...

"Throwdown" has action elements but is really something else entirely. That's his key film.

Among the films co-credited with Wai Ka-Fai (these were really what I was thinking of), "My Left Eye Sees Ghosts" is a favorite of mine. "Running on Karma" is a mix of many things. And the comedy "Fat Choi Spirit" is sort of like an action movie but with mahjong instead of guns! These are extremely unique and surprising films, though not all of them are very good ("Help!!!" "Fulltime Killer" and "Love for All Seasons" are pretty weak). I haven't seen the recent one, "Mad Detective". (He's terribly prolific!)

The gangster films are probably the safest to start with. "A Hero Never Dies" is great, and almost opposite that film are the two Elections.