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Monday , December 10 2018

Woo hopes to inspire ‘new voices’ – Russian drama ‘Loveless’ wins London film fest top prize

BUSAN, South Korea, Oct 15, (Agencies): Action movies should reflect “deep emotions”, acclaimed Hong Kong thriller director John Woo said Saturday, calling on young filmmakers to breathe life into the genre by exploring the human condition.

Woo, whose Hollywood films include “Face/Off” and “Mission: Impossible II” but who made his name with gritty Hong Kong thrillers like “Hard-Boiled”, said he was now hoping to inspire “new voices” in the industry.

“Action allows you to reflect on the deep emotions human beings share”, said Woo, speaking to the press at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

The 71-year-old, who has inspired the likes of maverick American Oscar-winner Quentin Tarantino, said action movies “can add vitality to our lives by making us question what motivates us to make the decisions we make”.

Woo said young directors should use action films to make their audiences think about their own lives, and their relationships with others.

The veteran filmmaker is touring the international festival circuit with the new gritty urban thriller “Manhunt”, marking a return to the kind of action films that made him famous in the 1980s and 1990s.

The film is inspired by Ken Takakura’s Japanese classic “You Must Cross the River of Wrath” (1976), and features Woo’s daughter Angeles alongside Chinese star Zhang Hanyu.

And despite battling health issues recently, Woo revealed on Saturday that he has more thrillers in the pipeline.

“A good film inspires”, said Woo. “It doesn’t matter what generation watches it. I feel like I have a lot more challenges ahead of me and new opportunities to learn about other cultures, and other lives”.

Woo rose to prominence in the Hong Kong action scene with classics including “A Better Tomorrow” (1986) and Hard-Boiled (1992), which both starred Chow Yun-Fat.

The director then tried his hand at Hollywood blockbusters, including “Face/Off” (1997) starring John Travolta, before setting up shop in Beijing in the early 2000s and put together historical dramas such as “Red Cliff” (2008) and “The Crossing” (2014).


His filmmaking style is admired by those outside the action genre, a point made by fellow BIFF guest Darren Aronofsky, the American director who has brought his thriller “mother!” to the festival but is better known for arthouse fare such as the Oscar winner “Black Swan” (2010).

Aronofsky named checked Woo at a press conference on Thursday when asked about his inspirations and said that the Hong Kong director’s eye for impressive visuals and balletic action style had left an indelible mark on him when he was starting out as a filmmaker.

The Busan festival continues until Oct 21.


LONDON: The 12-day London Film Festival ends Sunday with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, a small-town tragicomedy starring Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson that is being tipped as an Oscar contender next year.

Martin McDonagh’s film won best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival and last month took the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award, frequently a bellwether for Hollywood’s coming awards season.

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless”, a piercing drama about a divorcing couple whose son disappears, won the best picture prize Saturday at the London festival’s awards ceremony, where filmmaker Paul Greengrass said the industry needs to do “much, much better” on diversity after the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Zvyagintsev’s prize was the director’s second top trophy from the London festival. He received the best picture award in 2014 for “Leviathan”, a tragic satire of small-town corruption that brought the director criticism from Russian officials.

British director Andrea Arnold, president of the judging panel, said “Loveless” turned one family’s story into “a universal tragedy”.

“Loveless” is also an indictment of social flaws, with resonance well beyond Russia. Festival Director Clare Stewart said the film’s depiction of parents so consumed with their own lives they don’t initially realize their son is missing “is such a powerful metaphor for what is happening with many children around the world”.

Stewart said “Loveless” asks audiences, “Are we caring for our future?”

During an awards ceremony at London’s 17th-century Banqueting House, South African director John Trengove won the first feature trophy for “The Wound”, a drama about masculinity and sexuality set against the backdrop of a Xhosa initiation ritual.

The documentary prize went to Lucy Cohen’s “Kingdom of Us”, a portrait of a family trying to recover after a suicide. Patrick Bresnan’s “The Rabbit Hunt” was named best short film.

Greengrass, the English director of “United 93” and three of the Jason Bourne thrillers, received the British Film Institute Fellowship, a career honor.

The 61st London festival has featured glitzy galas for other potential awards season favorites, including Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical “The Shape of Water”, Sean Baker’s vibrant “The Florida Project” and directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ tennis drama “Battle of the Sexes”.

But it has also been shaken by the allegations of sexual harassment and rape against powerful Hollywood producer Weinstein. The disgraced movie mogul has denied non-consensual sexual activity.

Accepting his award, Greengrass said it had been a difficult week for the industry, which still has a “profound issue with diversity”.

“We need to do much, much better, including addressing our lack of women directors as a matter of urgency”, Greengrass said.

He said “every one of us in leadership positions have to do more” to stamp out bad behavior.

The London festival has sought in recent years to encourage diversity in the film industry. About one-quarter of the 242 features in this year’s lineup were directed by women — a higher share than many festivals manage.

Stewart said that “it’s been very important for us, given our history of championing strong women, to really support the women who are brave enough to come forward and speak out” against Weinstein.

Stewart said she hoped exposure of Weinstein’s behavior over decades would be a turning point.

“I think that this will lead to change”, she said.

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