The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Johnnie To Day


‘Despite our best efforts, time always marches on. The high-functioning worker bees of Johnnie To’s glitzy 2015 musical Office are reminded of this fact every day by a massive open-faced clock dominating their wall-less workspace. Seconds glide away as looming deadlines and fluctuating market trends help to create a culture of frantic normalcy. Characters alleviate stress by breaking out into song, the lyrics of which concern everything from accounting practices and corporate hierarchy to individual purchasing power. Within this razzle-dazzle simulacrum of Hong Kong, where greed and ambition are seemingly filtered through the ventilation systems, it’s no longer possible to separate the rigors of work from the joys of expression. This is life without boundaries.

‘One could imagine similar feelings of unease permeating through the steel corridors of Hong Kong leading up to and immediately after 1997, the year Britain transferred sovereignty of its former colony to the People’s Republic of China. In his 1998 text Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance, Ackbar Abbas discusses the contradictions of Hong Kong and China’s brokered relationship after the “Handover”: “When sovereignty reverts to China, we may expect to find a situation that is quasi-colonial, but with an important historical twist: the colonized state, while politically subordinate, is in many other crucial respects not in a dependent sub-altern position but is in fact more advanced—in terms of education, technology, access to international networks, and so forth—than the colonizing state.”

‘Pervasive complications have always underlined Hong Kong and China’s relationship status, and they can be felt throughout many films released in the last twenty years. To’s diverse string of genre efforts cultivates this tension organically within a specifically sleek and chaotic worldview. Since 2005’s Election and 2006’s Triad Election, the director has shifted focus from underworld criminal politics and alliances to the tumultuous emotions of business professionals and public figures—people such as Louis Koo’s disgraced superstar in Romancing in Thin Air (2012), for example, who decides to grapple with tabloid embarrassment through prolonged dramatic distraction and seclusion. He’s just one of many yearning characters whose perspectives are warped by Hong Kong’s newly misshapen identity, caught between the ghosts of British colonial rule and the realities of China’s global expansion.

‘Abbas addresses this unsettling overlap and how it concerns the arts in general. “Culture in Hong Kong cannot just be related to ‘colonialism’; it must be related to this changed and changing place, this colonial space of disappearance, which in many respects does not resemble the old colonialisms at all.” To’s films respect this ongoing evolution, the cinematic space between aged and new, revealing China’s thorny influence on Hong Kong by subverting gender dynamics and relishing in subtext. While the movie DNA may resemble archetypes made popular by Classic Hollywood (gangster, musical, screwball comedy) and Seventies and Eighties Hong Kong cinema, each of To’s recent films feels jazzy, sincere, and conceptual in its own unique way. Fueling such an improvisatory spirit is the clash between divergent financial practices and political ideologies, providing a perfect nesting ground for personal stories about unhinged romantic relationships in the postmodern era.

‘Here, snake-bit characters, their deeply felt emotions, and their manic professions are all interconnected. Stock markets could be crashing in the background and a swooning couple will be falling in love in the foreground. A startling economic rebound might be superseded by a devastating revelation in an ill-fated affair. The illusion of professional and emotional control remains palpable in both situations, as certain as the romantic volatility in the Don’t Go Breaking My Heart films or the institutional coldness that envelops Drug War (2012) like gray smog. Call it the duality of rising and falling—this sometimes happens in the same frame.

‘To views Hong Kong as a singular urban space where human interaction produces frazzled miscommunication. Getting stuck between commitments and codes happens on a daily basis. There are very few villains but more than enough weak men. Women desire both individual success and fairy-tale endings to their romantic pursuits. The LGBTQ experience is criminally underserved. All the while, Chinese economic, cultural, and political influence lingers like a mischievous ghost, helping to promote an invisible havoc in the lives of Hong Kong’s beautiful citizens.

‘Starting with 2008’s Sparrow, To’s filmography contains markedly similar interests in the inevitability of heartbreak and economic collapse in Hong Kong and China. Despite the prevailing sense of mounting pressure, To ably reminds his characters that happiness is just a fleet-footed camera movement or breezy musical choice away. Narrative twists and turns feel predetermined, yet all roads lead toward an obscured future. Certain recurring themes help confirm this bond between personal and professional, only complicating these matters of the heart further…’ — Cineaste






Johnnie To @ IMDb
20 Essential Johnnie To Films You Need To Watch
Johnnie To’s Top 10 @ The Criterion Collection
Johnnie To @ MUBI
Hong Kong Cinemagic – Johnnie To
Observations on film art : Director: Johnnie To
Johnnie To @ Les Inrocks
Johnnie To: The Godfather of Hong Kong Gangster Cinema
Johnnie To, Hong Kong cinema and the mainland
Johnnie To : “La situation du cinéma à Hongkong est devenue chaotique”
Mean Streets: Johnnie To interview
Fulltime Cinema: An Interview With Johnnie To
On Johnnie To At Age 60
Ushering In A New Regime: Johnnie To, Crime Films and Dissent
Thirty Years on, Hong Kong’s Johnnie To is Still Making Waves
Johnnie To: A Hong Kong action master adapts to a changing China
Johnnie To In Charge



Johnnie To interview | London 2015

NOIR: a cinema masterclass by Jacques Audiard and Johnnie To

Interview – Johnnie To

Andy Lau on why Johnnie To is so important to…


from Filmmaker Magazine


Filmmaker: What was it like working with another director on Mad Detective? Did you each have certain duties or did you do everything together?

To: Wai Ka Fai and I have been co-directing films together for almost 10 years. I consider him the “brain” of Milkyway and I am the “hands.” For Mad Detective, we were on the set together. I would set up the shots and direct the actors, whereas he will be there to make sure I execute his ideas correctly.

Filmmaker: How different was it from your previous collaboration?

To: Mad Detective is a film that follows no rules. Very much unlike the commercial films Wai and I did together in the past. So every day on the set felt like an experiment.

Filmmaker: What were the particular challenges of making this film?

To: The story unfolds through the perspectives of different characters/inner personalities. It was difficult to decide who’s perspective we should shoot at different moments.

Filmmaker: Is it always important to you to have comic moments in your thrillers? Are you consciously trying to subvert the genre?

To: I like black humor because it reflects my view of life: It is always full of unexpected surprises!

Filmmaker: You say in your director’s statement that both you and Wai Ka Fai are “never satisfied with what’s already been done.” Do you mean your own work or filmmaking in general?

To: For Wai and I, making a film is always about doing something new. We don’t like to repeat ourselves, even if the previous works were successful. We like to push the boundaries. Exploring uncertainty is the most exciting part of making a film.

Filmmaker: You continue by explaining that you want to “break new ground and establish new rules.” How successful do you feel you have been so far in doing this? And does this always always come organically, or is it increasingly difficult to remain innovative and original?

To: As I have said, I don’t like to repeat myself. So that’s my attitude toward making movies. As long as I know what I want to say in a film, I believe it will be unique.

Filmmaker: How much has Hong Kong cinema changed since you started Milkyway Image in 1996 and began reshaping its image? How clearly now do you see what you still want to alter?

To: The industry has gone into a recession in the past 10 years. But the good thing that came out of it is more filmmakers are learning to eschew commercial formula and explore their personal style. This attitude gives Hong Kong cinema a fresher edge, compared to the formulaic genre pictures in the past. What worries me is there is a shortage of new young filmmakers. I hope we can find more fresh talents to join the industry.

Filmmaker: Do you see yourself as an auteur? Are such things of importance to you?

To: “Auteur” is a big word. But I think nothing matters more than making a film that reflects who you are as a person.

Filmmaker: Do you see your talents as being more suited to interpreting other people’s scripts, or will you go back to writing again?

To: Finding a good collaborator for writing is very difficult. I am very fortunate to have Wai Ka Fai, who like me likes to test new ideas.

Filmmaker: Do you see genres as a help or a hindrance to filmmakers? Is it easier to do interesting work within an existing and easily recognizable framework?

To: Hong Kong cinema is based on genre films. I don’t find it to be a hindrance. In a way it helps audience to be more receptive to our films. We believe a good commercial film is 70% formula and 30% of fresh ideas. Audience enjoys familiarity because they want to be entertained. But at the same time they want to be surprised. As a filmmaker, I think it is very difficult to find the balance.

Filmmaker: In your director’s statement, you mentioned that you want to take “a new direction for the next 10 years.” Do you know what direction that will be? And how will it differ to your previous course?

To: What I meant was to stop repeating what we have already done and come up with new ideas. Today, “Milkyway movies” have a meaning to its audience. We hope we don’t get stuck with one stereotypical label for the next 10 years.

Filmmaker: As you are so prolific, do you still have time to watch a lot of films?

To: Not really. These days I am very selective when it comes to movies. I spend more time on reading.

Filmmaker: What was the last film that had a big impact on you?

To: Dogville. An amazing film which I have recommended to many friends.

Filmmaker: Finally, which actor would you pay to see in anything?

To: Steve McQueen or Alain Delon.


16 of Johnnie To’s 69 films
Three (2016)
‘God bless Johnnie To. A prolific formalist whose lyrical flair for stories of cops and robbers regularly embarrasses the work of his Western contemporaries, the maverick Hong Kong auteur behind the likes of “Election” and “Running on Karma” is 36 years (and almost 70 features) into his career and he’s still making movies without a safety net. “Three” is decidedly minor stuff for such a major filmmaker, but there’s nevertheless something remarkable about watching a master like To reverse-engineer an entire thriller from a single idea that he just had to try — in this case, a climactic shootout unlike anything you’ve seen before. The raison d’être for To’s latest doesn’t become apparent until the final movements of this meticulously arranged 87-minute chamber piece, but the patient build-up to it is part of the fun. Confining the action to the crowded guts of a big Hong Kong hospital, “Three” finds the director carving operating rooms and intensive care suites into uniquely cinematic spaces in much the same way as last year’s “Office” allowed him to transform a drab corporate headquarters into the animated backdrop of a full-throated musical.’ — Indiewire



Office (2015)
‘Although he remains best known for his stunning collaborations with another Hong Kong auteur, Wong Kar-wai, production designer William Chang (working with Yau Wai-ming) has outdone himself with “Office,” a picture that gives you far more to look at (and think about) than its humdrum title would suggest. The film’s corporate setting has been styled with rigorous artifice — all blacks, whites and grays, with a network of vertical lines running in the background, and an enormous, vaguely Steampunk-ish clock positioned at the center of the action. It’s a spartan, highly theatrical presentation that befits the material’s legit origins (not to be confused with Noel Coward’s “Design for Living”), but what To does with the space is, as ever, vividly cinematic, from the complex formations in which he moves his actors to the richly immersive effect of the 3D.’ — Variety



Blind Detective (2013)
‘Who wants to play it safe? Not Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai, apparently. To and Wai reunite with stars Sammi Cheng and Andy Lau for the crime comedy Blind Detective, which should have been an easy-to-please commercial laffer. After all, the pair starred in the To-Wai (let’s call them ToWai) romcoms Love on a Diet and Needing You, which were Milkyway Image’s biggest commercial hits and are exceptionally beloved by Hong Kong audiences. The pair’s third Milkyway Image film, Yesterday Once More, featured more irony, a clever but not very happy ending, and a much smaller box office take. Conventional wisdom suggests regression for the fourth ToWai-Andy-Sammi collaboration, but Blind Detective instead offers an extreme mishmash of familiar Milkyway Image ideas delivered with in-your-face Cantonese comedy execution. The result is intriguing but divisive, entertaining but ugly, and the textbook definition of a mixed bag. Given that Blind Detective could have been a repeat of ToWai’s romcoms, it’s admirable that something this ambitious and unwieldy was even attempted.’ —


Live From Cannes: Johnnie To on the ‘Blind Detective’


Drug War (2013)
‘The big stateside breakthrough that Johnnie To’s American fans have been hoping for no longer seems possible. To is as talented an action director as Kathryn Bigelow or Michael Mann, yet he was unlucky enough to find his voice long after the American vogue for Hong Kong cinema had peaked and the art-house circuit had imploded. The releases of Election (05), Triad Election (06) and Exiled (06) produced negligible box-office returns, while some of To’s best films, like Sparrow (08), have gone entirely un-released in the U.S. He’s shown little interest in working on these shores, no doubt learning from the mistakes of his compatriots in the Nineties; apart from the rom-com Romancing in Thin Air (12), he’s never catered to mainland Chinese audiences. With a few exceptions (Exiled was shot on Macao), his cinema remains grounded in Hong Kong life, with all its political and social overtones. Drug War is his first genre co-production with the PRC. The Chinese government doesn’t seem to have placed many restrictions on his depiction of violence, and the bullets and blood fly freely, especially in the film’s final 15 minutes. However, the mainland authorities do seem to have exerted some ideological pressure. Not only does the film never question the ethics of a war on drugs in which dealers and manufacturers are subject to the death penalty, it appears to enthusiastically endorse it. It even includes a scene in which an undercover cop tries cocaine and freaks out like a character in a Partnership for a Drug-Free America PSA. If you’re looking for a nuanced treatment of drug policy, this isn’t the film for you.’ — Film Comment




Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (2011)
‘Despite its manic plotting and the constant see-sawing of its romances, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart lacks a consistent sense of energy, hitting its stride only during the high kitsch climax and a stand-out, mid-film sequence in which the flight cancellations occasioned by Hurricane Sandy cause all of Shen Ran’s flight-attendant mistresses to show up at his office at once—a farce that, in the style of the original film, is framed in part through floor-to-ceiling windows, which make the office resemble a cutaway theatrical set. The thing about great directors is that even their lesser efforts can have flashes of brilliance.’– The AV Club



Sparrow (2008)
‘Don’t expect much more narrative than that or for it to really lead anywhere. This film isn’t about the story, it’s about presenting Hong Kong as a gorgeous and romantic place in which a plethora of characters all seem to live in a world where nearly everybody is a pickpocket or a petty thief whilst breezing through life without too many worries. It’s all about the cinematic style and visual flair here and To creates an alternative idealised vision of Hong Kong through rhythm, smooth camerawork, editing and a wonderfully complementary soundtrack. Sparrow might not amount to much for the casual viewer but fans of To’s style will find plenty to like here.’ — Taste of Cinema




Triangle (2007)
‘The set-up for Triangle is a little like the set-up for its crime: a plan that doesn’t go quite as it should. Lam, To and Tsui decided to play a game of exquisite corpse: each director will continue the story the previous one starts, but lead it into whatever direction he wants. It’s one of those great auteurist experiments. From a production standpoint, Triangle is a “Johnnie To movie:” made through his company, Milkyway Image, starring his regular actors (Simon Yam, Louis Koo and Kelly Lin, plus many more familiar faces), shot by his cinematographer, Siu-keung Cheng, and cut together by his regular editor, David M. Richardson (those who believe the quality of a film’s editing depends on the editor should look no further than Richardson’s resume; the man who works on the brilliant editing of To’s films is the same one who edits Uwe Boll’s movies). There are no title cards to indicate which segment is directed by whom (only the opening credits and a recurring establishing shot hint at divisions or orders), but it’s obvious to anyone who’s seen two or more films by any of the involved directors who is directing which part: Tsui for the first 25 minutes, Lam for the next half hour or so, and To for the last lap.’ — mubi




Exiled (2006)
‘Johnnie To’s Exiled is a flabbergasting spectacle of kaleidoscopic violence that abstractly appraises codes of masculine honor. The coolest director on the block, To channels the spirit of the western throughout this elegantly tossed-off triumph, though he never misrepresents the natural essence of Macau, a small territory on the southern coast of China that exudes a sweaty tropical-like vibe. A bass-heavy Ennio Morricone riff would not be entirely out of place in this film, which boasts one jaw-dropping set piece after another, beginning with an elegiac confrontation between childhood friends outside the home of a woman and her newborn child. Two mysterious men arrive looking for her husband Wo (Nick Cheung), followed closely by two others who coolly plead for the man’s life. Upstairs, a remarkable shoot-out ensues, damaging only doors and mirrors, after which friends and family sit down for a picture. This photograph contrasts with another, taken many years earlier—a symbol of how far these men have come and a reminder of the camaraderie they should protect. Blaze (Anthony Wong) and Tai (Francis Ng) do not kill Wo, and together with Cat (Roy Cheung) and Fat (Lam Suet) they take arms against a torrent of new enemies—in a restaurant, a doctor’s apartment, a field near Buddha Mountain, and a hotel lobby. A house burns to the ground, igniting the vengeance-is-mine fury of Wo’s wife; blood explodes out of people’s bodies in clouds of red dust; cans of Red Bull are used to intimidate police officers; and the flip of a coin determines crucial decisions. Through it all, there is a sense that destiny cannot be undone. Thrillingly prismatic, this robust film bests Martin Scorsese’s visually competent but emotionally flat The Departed by actually having buildings, photographs, and a jingly memento mori resonate with existential and metaphysical questioning.’ — Slant Magazine





Triad Election (2006)
‘Triad Election is arguably more a remake of its predecessor than a sequel. The second can be easily watched without the first—which is good, because only a few theaters will be showing them together—with just some business about the chairman’s official baton losing some resonance in the transition. And while Triad Election’s message about the stain that power leaves on men’s souls is a little hackneyed, To supports it with an unbroken string of well-observed, well-acted scenes where rich villains jostle for position and try to maintain the illusion that they’re just trying to build a better life for their offspring. Triad Election echoes The Godfather Part II, The Sopranos, and Goodfellas, but it’s resolutely a Chinese story, reaching back to the origins of Hong Kong crime syndicates, and showing how they struggle to keep a foothold in a modernized world. To covers it all, from the remnants of tradition to the new technological wonderland where citizens still live in fear of bird flu. Like the best crime stories, this one isn’t about how the bad guys live, it’s about how we live.’ — AV Club

the entire film


Election (2005)
‘Election marked an unexpected move in the illustrious career of Johnnie To. As a film about organized crime operating across Hong Kong and China, it has scenes of violence, but no guns are fired; as a story of winning, holding, or losing power, it is less about open, bloody confrontations of gangs or sovereign individuals (the law of the urban, gangster jungle) than backroom manipulations of opinion and allegiance (i.e., politics). And it is a movie in which To’s regularly vertiginous, experimental style is pared right down to a minimalistic concentration on the utterance of words, the performance of small gestures, the conveyance of signs and objects that always have a precise, codified role to play in the proceedings.’ — mubi


Two Takes on Strategy in Johnnie To’s “Election”


Throw Down (2004)
‘Johnnie To’s films are becoming increasingly genre-defying—avant garde almost—and 2003’s Throw Down evokes the woozy sensation of being trapped inside a smoke-filled Karaoke bar listening to people sing in a foreign tongue. It’s strange, funny, intimate, and irritating, which is probably why To has the show clock in at less than 90 minutes. Though it’s dedicated to Akira Kurosawa and claims allegiance to Sanjuro, this film about the “world of Judo” may as well have been inspired by Singin’ in the Rain, not just because most of the action—or, rather, non-action—is impeccably timed to its incessant score by Peter Kam but because To’s fluid direction is slippery when wet. The film’s three main characters—a judo-champion-turned-nightclub-owner, Sze-To (Louis Koo); an eager upstart, Tony (Aaron Kwok), itching for a fight; and an aspiring singer, Mona (Cherrie Jones), attempting to evade prostitution—converge almost wordlessly, each introduced as if they were chords in a song working their way through a captivating crescendo of smoky encounters, recurrent dramatic and comedic refrains (a scene with Tony and Mona hiding inside a bathroom stall typifies To’s heady sense of humor), and building toward some impossible climax—one, in this case, that I’m not sure ever comes. The film is something of a love story, not just between the three leads but between To and his actors: From Sze-To reaching out to wipe Tony’s brow to Mona fleeing from a nightclub and picking up Sze-To’s lost shoe, every gesture evokes buried emotions and To’s camerawork not only jives with the hesitancy, frustration, and affection implicit in these movements but echoes them as well. When they don’t appear to be sliding off of To’s sometimes oblique angles, these characters are guided by the trippy female grunts frequently heard on the soundtrack. The story itself is oblique to the point of distraction, but even as it begins to sober up sometime past its midway point, Throw Down remains a compelling remix of aesthetic showmanship and human movement.’ — Slant Magazine




Running on Karma (2003)
‘Be ready for quite the content in terms of mood and genres with Running On Karma. What starts in the strip club scene is very lighthearted but quickly the piece turns into a thriller with burst of gory violence, mixed in with comedy, a decent romance, wire enhanced kung fu and a philosophical nature to the narrative involving karma, or rather the the laws of karma. It’s no surprise that you got all that in a Hong Kong movie seeing as they’ve never been afraid to include everything (except knowledge, to quote Anthony Wong). Rarely have I seen it merged so well though and it really shouldn’t have worked, especially the comedy. I smiled in the beginning because this preconceived notion of mine, after watching the production stills, really seemed to go out of the window, fast. Maybe Johnnie To can be part of a worthwhile project nowadays that isn’t in the style of films like The Mission? Personally I enjoy To’s work the most when that style is on display and while Running On Karma shares some of the quirkiness, it’s actually very far from it but with one positive point. It isn’t a breezy, easily digested romantic comedy. Thank god.’ —

the entire film


Turn Left, Turn Right (2003)
‘Turn Left, Turn Right is a simple, light-hearted drama, but conceptually quite strong and pure. The film demands that you go along with its concept and leave it at that. The story is extremely unlikely and heavily constructed, and those wanting a more realistic plot will be quite frustrated. To’s world is governed by To’s laws and those are all in function of the basic premise. Accept this and you’ll find an endearing and sweet but quite cruel romantic film. Not among To’s very best but still highly entertaining and fun to watch.’ — onderhond

the entire film


PTU (2003)
‘PTU, by the veteran Hong Kong action director Johnnie To, is a cop drama that uses what devotees of the genre would call classic methods of dramatizing the tensions between the underworld and the police. (Although others might dismiss those chestnuts as hoary.) The film focuses on the egos that keep these groups pitted against each other. There is still a lot of incredibly entertaining mileage in the vibrant and, yes, inevitable displays of tempers and brooding arrogance that set these movies off and the physical wit used to depict them. Hong Kong crime pictures supply as steady a stream of forceful, charismatic thugs as Warner Brothers did in the 1930’s. In this year of the 20th anniversary of ”Scarface,” directed by Brian De Palma and written by Oliver Stone, it is intriguing to observe that this picture’s influence extends beyond hip-hop.’ — NYT


the entire film


Running Out of Time 2 (2001)
‘The chase sequences, comic interplay and considerable atmosphere of Running out of Time coincide with a sense that few actions will ever lead to completion; that missed opportunities and abandoned ambitions rule our lives. Escaping from the police, Cheung meets a beautiful young woman (Yo Yo Mung) on a bus, but To refuses to resort to a romantic subplot. You sense instead all the unleashed eroticism of a truncated attraction, one more failed connection in a city that lacks any interpersonal cohesion. The commercial and critical success of Running out of Time – a Best Actor award for Lau at the 2000 Hong Kong Film Awards and Best Asian film at the 2000 Fant-Asia Film Festival – led to the inevitable To-directed sequel in 2001. Ekin Cheng stands in for Andy Lau, and while the character’s criminal chicanery comes across as even more ingenious and elaborately planned than in its predecessor, Running out of Time 2 lacks almost any emotional undertow whatsoever. The fact that Cheng’s character is a magician excuses his actions from any obligation to the rules of rationality, and the interjection of CGI sleight-of-mind makes for a more lavish look yet a hollow final product. If, in the end, Cheng disappears, Lau lingers in the mind long after the final credits. And where does that leave Inspector Ho: alone in the noodle shop, content with his memories of the masterful misbehavior of two mysterious but never malevolent law breakers.’ — Senses of Cinema



Fulltime Killer (2001)
‘The plot, from a novel by Edmond Pang, is the stuff of a thousand movies. Careerist assassin Tok (Lau) wants to be No 1 Hitman, which puts the elusive O (Sorimachi), the current title holder, in his sights. Tok’s killer smile and panache goes up against O’s cool, meticulous professionalism. They get involved with the same beautiful woman (Kelly Lin), while floating in and out of each other’s crosshairs as Interpol agent Lee (Yam) chases them across most of the Far East. Derivative? You betcha. To stress the point, film fanatic Tok namechecks other movies like he’s Martin Scorsese, providing wisecracking commentary to the sharpshooter shenanigans of Leon, Point Break and ‘that film with Alain Delon’. The co-directors provide further I-Spy opportunities by way of Sonatine and Branded to Kill, while the slo-mo showdown feels less like a nod to John Woo than a bid to beat him at his own game. It’s a measure of the directors’ talent that they can put intertextuality centre stage and still deliver a film with pizzazz, freshness and devil may care humour all of its own.’ — Time Out

the entire film


Running Out of Time (1999)
‘Having seen ‘only’ about 200 Hong Kong films in my time, I have to say this film is among my very top favorites. Not only is the plot engaging (and in some ways surprising, which these days is rare for any movie), but the chemistry between the two lead actors is superb. Top notch casting! And while often even the most serious HK films tend to insert quite a bit of humor in between all the drama and action, often spoiling the mood a bit, here the jokes are kept subtle and woven into the plot, even improving character relations. The music is also very well done, and the two main themes are very beautiful. With the release of the HK special Edition, they’ve even cleaned the picture (first release was grainy) and the subtitles, even if the quality of the translation is still lacking (nothing new there). All in all, if you have to see a HK film that isn’t directed by John Woo or have Chow Yun Fat in it, this should be at least on your short list! A truly fascinating and entertaining watch!’ — se86




p.s. Hey. ** Armando, Hi. Well, basically you would. Like I said before, I think if you decide the self-publish, you should do an eBook/Pdf kind of thing rather than a physical book because getting a physical book out on your own is way too difficult. Basically, you could set up a page for the book in social media — Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram, etc. You could send copies of your book to people you want to read it — other writers, review sites, etc. I could do a ‘welcome’ post on the blog to help. So, yes, you would need to do at the least the minimum amount of work to alert people that the book exists. That’s preoccupying and takes concentrated time, but you can do all of that from your computer. ** Jamie McMorrow, Morning to you, Jamie. A good one, obviously. The one I most wish I could go through is The Opechee Haunt. My very favorite kind of HH is the home-haunt/handmade type that people do in their houses, and the fact that that one is done by a 14 year-old kid is really exciting, at least to someone like me who made haunted houses in our basement when I was around his age and charged neighbors to go through. The video editing went well. We did a rough cut without the music, and we got it down to 40 seconds too long and then laid the music over it, and it worked surprisingly well. So, today we’re going to edit it with the music to match some (not all) parts in the video’s rhythm to the song’s rhythm and dynamics. It’s looking good, I think. Well, the song that the album is on comes out in February, but the song will be the single, so I’m guessing it’ll get released earlier, but I don’t know when yet. I’ll let you know. Did reading about animation fill in with more things you need to know? Excellent day, man! Love, me. ** David Ehrenstein, Ha ha, in many cases it’s true. ** Lynne Tillman, Hi, Lynne! It was so, so great seeing you in NYC, and Zac loved getting to meet you. I wish I could be there for the Hauser & Wirth event. I went to an event there a short while back, and it’s an excellent venue, and the performance space is nice and atmospheric. Lots of love to you! ** MANCY, Hi, S. Not a whole post about them, but I’ve included them in past round-up posts. My sense from looking for haunted houses for the posts this year is that they don’t seem to be as prevalent as they used to be, but maybe it’s just that they’re aren’t as often listed in the general haunted house guides. Maybe they’ve gone from being trendy back to being more niche-type things. Hm, I’ll check. I might try doing a post about them even though Halloween will be history when/if I do. Let me know if you go to one this year. I’m very curious. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yeah, Creep looks tasty. Good news about ‘American Honey’. I’ll look for it somewhere. ** Steevee, Hi. Ah, music rights problem, gotcha, yeah. Thanks! ** B, Hi, Bear. Ha ha, my memories of Santa’s Village are pretty vagued out. I remember some sort of monorail ride. That mine shaft thing you mentioned sounds familiar too. LA is the heaven on earth of haunted house attractions, the world’s premiere capitol of them, and it’s the place where the innovations in the form tend to happen first. NYC is strangely rather weak re: HHs, I’m guessing just because of the real estate rental prices. There are a few. I went to one in NYC a couple of years ago that was pretty good, if it’s still happening. It was called, I think, ‘Blood Manor’. It was down sort of in the western side of Tribeca, I think. That’s interesting: I went to a haunted house in Japan that was pretty similar to the one you describe. It was in Tokyo, a year-round one. Let me see if I can find it. Hold on. No link, but it’s in Tokyo Dome City, and it’s called ‘Akanbo Jigoku’ (‘Baby in Hell’). It was very cool. Thanks a lot, buddy, and have a superb morning-to-night. ** Misanthrope, George, sir. Maybe you should charge people to sit in your haunted recliner as a Halloween attraction. Later April should work. I’ll keep you informed when I’m informed. NYC does have excellent food available for a price, that is an inarguable fact. Oh, sad, about your niece. Why is she doing that? ** H, Hi, h. Thank you! I think they would like you too if they had emotional attachments to humans. ** Okay. When I was in Sitges recently to show LCTG, I saw the new Johnny To film, ‘Three’, and it revived my fondness for his film and for his filmic thing, so I made that fondness into a post. See you tomorrow.


  1. h

    Morning Dennis, looking at Andy Lau again is nice. This film looks interesting. Hope you enjoyed it.

    Haha, I don’t “like” spooky houses. Space-wise, being plain in real life, I just like a comfortable, small clean room. Even that housekeeping can be difficult. I guess, it would be very scary if haunted houses like me. You know, I just liked the post.

    Have a nice day! Sorry for bland comments. A little…busy. Can’t contrive something smart or cool online. But a pleasure to be here.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    To To or not to To?
    Je me prefer Melville.

  3. steevee

    To has made many films with absolutely no connection to Melville, film noir or the crime genre, like OFFICE or his string of romantic comedies.

  4. Thomas Moronic

    Where would you (or anyone else around here) recommend I start with To’s films, Dennis?

  5. Dóra Grőber


    Excuse my absence yesterday, I had a crazy busy day. Finally, FINALLY I handed my thesis in – I didn’t have to wait ’til Friday! I’ll have my final exam in January and then that’s it! It’s extremely liberating and energizing!
    I’m really looking forward to seeing the final music video! Strange ones are the very best!
    How’s everything going?

  6. Jamie McMorrow

    Hey Dennis!
    The video making sounds intriguing. I’ve been involved in a few videos and they’ve all been a bit duff, to be honest. I like that the music’s matching in not all of it. That’s important, I think. Is there an element of chance coming into it, like bits of video just happening to sit well with certain audio?
    I like the idea of little you making haunted houses for the public! Do you have any photos? I’ve just made a Jack O’lantern to take to some kids that we’re visiting on Saturday. So satisfying to drop the candle in and put out the lights for the first time. Do you know that us Scots used to use turnips before pumpkins were so readily available in this country? Can you imagine? I laugh about it every time I easily scoop the insides out of a pumpkin, imagining just how tough and dense a turnip is.
    Johnnie To is a name that I’ve heard, but never explored, so thanks for today’s post. I watched a little of Fullltime Killer in bed this morning and I’m definitely going to be watching more.
    Reading about animation has been kind of rewarding, but I keep veering away from the folks that are probably more relevant to what we’re doing and looking at groovy abstract cartoons. I only heard of Norman McLaren yesterday. I’m reckoning you’ll have heard of him? I spent a lot of last week looking at modern cartoons then this week has been old stuff, tomorrow I’m meeting with a friend who studied animation to pick her brains. It’s really good fun, I’m glad to say.
    Okay, I hope that you’ve had a good Thursday and your Friday is one better. Looking forward to seeing that finished video.
    Lots of love,

  7. HaveANiceLife

    Yo Den, what do you consider to be the best translation of Rimbaud? There’s so dang many out there

  8. _Black_Acrylic

    I was back at work today for the first time since fracturing my spine in June. This was really just a meeting to figure out what the phased return’s gonna look like, and next week I’m doing Tuesday and Wednesday 10am > 2pm. I’ll have an NHS tri wheel walker in case I need it to get around the office. I hope that won’t be necessary, but it’s there if it is.

    Funny, since that fall I’ve not felt like doing anything creative at all. It’s been a long time. I’m booked in for some screenprinting at the DCA print studio on November 12th however, so maybe I’ll get my mojo back by then.

  9. The Dreadful Flying Glove

    Hi Dennis and DLs,
    I’ve been out of the loop for some time, so please forgive me if what follows is old news, sounds portentous and self-regarding (it’s late here), or isn’t helpful (but it seems like it might be?).

    Following an impulse this evening – I remembered using an RSS syndication reader to read the old blog, back in the day – I wondered if any scraper websites had been eating the old blog’s RSS posts feed, and after a bit of a look I managed to find one that had.

    Coverage appears to be from the slaves post of Nov 2012 through to ‘Mine for yours: My favorite fiction, poetry, nonfiction, film, music, art and internet of 2016 so far’. The posts have been collected in chronological order into about 55 pages.

    On my poor internet connection it’s difficult for me to assess just how good a copy it is: some images that were uploaded into the old blog’s account storage will be dead, while links to images, media, videos hosted externally _should_ still work. Regular hyperlinks work fine. What has been preserved is the full text of the posts, including the postscripts, and some of the images and media on some of the posts do display correctly. (Unfortunately, though, post comments are not included as part of the syndication feed.)

    Navigating the site itself is like wading through a dumpster fire, but I can share the URLs and I’ve made an offline copy that I can share. (I’d prefer to share the offline copy over email, if that’s acceptable.)

  10. steevee

    Tomorrow night, I’m cutting down to 5 mg. of Zyprexa daily. (I’m currently taking 7.5 mg.) My doctor prescribed a medication that should help ease the adjustment, but he told me only to take it if I experience withdrawal symptoms, particularly insomnia. However, last time I changed the dosage, the withdrawal symptoms didn’t cause sleep problems, but they made me feel exhausted and depressed during the day for a week. At that time, I had nothing to do and was able to basically spend most of that time in bed. Over the next week, I have two reviews to write and an interview to conduct. I can’t afford to have zero energy, but what if that’s the case? I’m really worried about this.

  11. Misanthrope

    Dennis, “…massive open-faced clock…” gave me the heebie jeebies.

    Could you imagine a thing like that everywhere you went? Ugh.

    Ha! Good idea. “HAUNTED RECLINER! $1 PER MINUTE!”

    Well, the good thing, too, about NYC is that you can find really good food pretty cheaply. Some of the best stuff I’ve had there has been inexpensive stuff. I even like your fave Mexican place there. 😀

    Well, my niece is saying that her grandfather is going to get her a job at a casino -probably waitressing, I’m guessing- and she’ll be able to make and save a lot of money there. Of course, we’re thinking, “Why in the fuck didn’t you do that here?” But whatever. She says it’s temporary and that she’ll be back in 6 months. I doubt she will. But you never know.

    But man, it’s fucking Mississippi. Ugh. Worst state in the union. She’s 22 and an adult, so she can do what she wants.

    She’ll be here tomorrow for a couple weeks before she moves back there. Frankly, I think that if her friend wasn’t in school in Florida, she wouldn’t even entertain the idea. But who knows? Maybe it’ll work out for her.

  12. B

    Hi Dennis!

    I sent the post your way this morning with the email I had. Let me know if you have any questions, but I think it is all self explanatory!

    Not much to report here today. The day has been a little bit chilly and wet–seems fall is in full swing.

    Hope you had a nice one!


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