Mayhem is music to Johnnie To’s ears

 

JOHNNIE TO is unlikely to meet your expectations. He is a prolific and eclectic filmmaker, who in the past eight years alone has directed more than 20 films of varying genres and quality.

But the Hong Kong director is in the zone right now. His latest film, Sparrow, was nominated in four categories of the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards last night on the Gold Coast: best feature film, directing, cinematography and best performance by an actor.

It's typical of To's creative diversity, though, that success has come to a film that he describes as a "side personal project of mine" that took three years to make, with shooting taking place between other films he was directing. "A few working days at a time," says To (full name Johnnie To Kei-Fung). "I was not in a hurry to finish it."

Sparrow (or Man Jeuk) is also the centrepiece of an Australian Centre of the Moving Image retrospective in Melbourne of To's work. This warm tale about Hong Kong pickpockets is a pleasing end point to an exhausting period of To's career, during which he produced some of his more popular films: Election, PTU, Breaking News and Throw Down. Nevertheless, the 53-year-old is a little sheepish about the retrospective.

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