Filmmaker Ann Hui wins lifetime honor in Venice

By Wu Jin and Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 10, 2020
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Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui received a lifetime award while bringing her new film "Love after Love," an adaptation of Eileen Chang's novella, to screen at the ongoing Venice Film Festival running between Sept. 2 and 12.

Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui holds her Golden Lion award for Lifetime Achievement during the 77th edition of the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 8, 2020. [Photo courtesy of Fortissimo]

Almost eight decades since its maiden publication, the fictional story entitled "the Aloeswood Incense, the First Brazier" which ushered in the rise to prominence of the late Chinese literati Eileen Chang, was adapted by Ann Hui, winner of this year's Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.

Jury President Cate Blanchett presented the award Tuesday to Ann Hui, the 73-year-old director who has enjoyed a career spanning five decades from 1979 when she released her debut feature film "The Secret."

According to Ann Hui, the day when the festival announced her prize, she received an unprecedented stream of congratulatory messages from all her friends, even including her kindergarten classmates, who kept her continuously responding for six hours.

In her acceptance address, Ann Hui said: "Maybe Venice Film Festival has given me the prize in the nick of time before I cannot walk onto this stage to collect it myself... Now I will go home to help our younger filmmakers, so that they all get achievement prizes in future."

Alberto Barbera, the director of the Venice Film festival, previously stated the films Ann Hui had shot covering a wide range of genres had focused on "individual stories that interweave with important social themes, such as, those of refugees, the marginalized and the elderly."

Eddie Peng, leading actor of Ann Hui's new film "Love after Love," speaks via video link during a press conference with media during the 77th edition of the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 8, 2020. [Photo courtesy of Fortissimo]

The Chinese director has become the first female to earn this top honor at Venice. She also brought along with her "Love after Love," which was showing out of competition at the Venice festival.

"It is a love story which doesn't have a tragic ending as usual like somebody dying of cancer. It is about a woman who gives up her chasteness and her future for a man who is no good. But she just lives with it," Ann Hui said, while receiving an interview from Fred Film Radio ahead of the award ceremony.

Starring an all-star lineup, including Ma Sichun, Yu Feihong, Eddie Peng and Isabella Leong, the film, with its trailer released in Venice, was renamed "Love after Love."

Accompanied by Ludwig van Beethoven's melancholic Moonlight Sonata, the trailer starts with the flippant relationship of the protagonists: Ge Weilong (played by Ma) and George Qiao (played by Eddie Peng). Attracted by Qiao's deceptive glamour, Ge's decision to marry him led her to fall prey to the relentless schemes of her aunt Liang (played by Yu Feihong). 

The film's leading actor Eddie Peng, though absent at the festival, spoke via video link during a press conference with the media. He said he hadn't attempted such a playboy role before in his career so the role of Qiao was pretty challenging for him. But Ann Hui placed her full trust and support to allow him fully exploit his potential.

Chang got her story first published in 1943 on The Violet, a literary magazine that closed in 1945. The novella was probably inspired by her academic years spent from 1939 to 1942 at the school of literature of the University of Hong Kong. 

A film still from "Love After Love" [ Photo courtesy of Alibaba Pictures ]

However, because of the fall of Hong Kong during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945), she had no option but to return to Shanghai with her study uncompleted.

"Eileen Chang has a very big following. I really stayed faithful to the story even the dialogues from it. But we filled in a lot of gaps... It bridged the original without feeling that it had jumped," Ann Hui said.

With exquisite costumes and backdrops, it has been the third attempt for Ann Hui to adapt Chang’s works. The previous two works, "The Love in A Fallen City" and "Eighteen Springs (Love of Half a Lifetime)" were respectively filmed in 1984 and 1997.

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