April 18-21,  2002

American Cinematheque Presents...

Hard Boiled: A Tribute to John Woo

 

Series Compiled by  Dennis Bartok and Chris D.

Special Thanks to: Brittany Philion and Lawrence Walsh/John Woo’s Office; Michael Schlesinger/COLUMBIA PICTURES REPERTORY; Jessica Rosner/KINO INT’L; Metro Tartan Films; Raymond Lau/GOLDEN PRINCESS AMUSEMENT CO.; Irene Lo and Wellington Fung/MEDIA ASIA DISTRIBUTION; Dieter Menz/ATLAS INT’L; Roberta Chin and Coco Wong/PINETREE.

Tickets available 30 days in advance. Tickets are $8 general admission unless noted otherwise.

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Born in southern mainland China in 1946, virtuoso action auteur John Woo grew up in Hong Kong and began as assistant director to legendary martial arts filmmaker, Chang Cheh in 1969 at the fabled Shaw Brothers studio. Often referring to 1960’s Hong Kong as a movie-lovers paradise, Woo feasted on an international smorgasbord of great films by directors such as Jean-Pierre Melville, John Ford and Akira Kurosawa, as well as numerous Japanese yakuza films. Directing his first feature, YOUNG DRAGON, in 1973, then sharpening his skills on kung fu pictures, knockabout comedies and various shoot ‘em ups, Woo was turning out such tremendous entertainment as LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVALRY (1978) before his career was even a decade old! Joining forces with director Tsui Hark, Woo found a sympathetic producer, and the landmark action film A BETTER TOMORROW (1986) was the astonishing result, followed quickly by Woo’s delirious, phantasmagorical THE KILLER, which helped create an international star out of actor Chow Yun Fat. Since shifting his base of operations to the U.S. in the early 1990’s, Woo has turned out a string of mega-successful action films filled with his trademark mixture of humor and spectacularly-choreographed violence, including FACE/OFF and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2.

We’re very excited to welcome John Woo in-person to the Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian for a retrospective tribute of some of his most exciting films!

 

Thursday, April 18 – 7:30 PM

Double Feature:

A BETTER TOMORROW, 1986, Golden Princess, 95 min. Dir. John Woo. The film that brought world attention to the Hong Kong brand of "heroic bloodshed" cinema and set director Woo on the fast track remains one of the highest grossing Asian films ever released. Mark (Chow Yun Fat) and best friend, Ho (Ti Lung) are cocky, C-note burning gangsters embroiled in a massive counterfeiting scheme – while trying to keep news of Lung’s criminal ties from his clean-as-a-whistle policeman brother, Kit (Leslie Cheung). "Never before had the underworld life of the triads been so lovingly rendered in scenes of slow-motion mythologizing and bullet-riddled elegizings" – Stefan Hammond & Mike Wilkins, Sex And Zen And A Bullet In The Head.

A BETTER TOMORROW 2, 1987, Golden Princess, 105 min. Dir. John Woo. Chow Yun-Fat returns as Ken, Mark’s twin brother, to team up once more with Ho (Ti Lung) to redeem their mentor, shipping magnate Lung (Dean Shek) when he’s forced to flee to New York after his daughter is killed and he’s framed for murder. Labyrinthine plot twists, double-crosses and a bullet ballet of escalating massacres punctuate this fever dream sequel. With Leslie Cheung.

 

Friday, April 19 – 7:00 PM

Director John Woo In Person!

THE KILLER, 1989, Kino, 110 min. The film that put John Woo on the international map, and almost single-handedly redefined the style, pace (and body count) of the modern gangster film. Sensitive, honorable hitman Chow Yun Fat accidentally blinds singer Sally Yeh in a nightclub shoot-out, then falls in love with her. Rule-breaking cop Danny Lee, hot on Chow‘s trail, forms an uneasy alliance with the killer when gonzo gang boss Fui-On Shing goes ballistic, trying to take them all out in an escalating series of gloriously operatic gun-battles, punctuated by white doves, swirling pop music and Chow’s impossibly cool demeanor. Discussion following with director John Woo. [Repeated 4/21]

 

Friday, April 19 – 9:45 PM

Director John Woo In Person!

HARD BOILED, 1992, Golden Princess 126 min. Cop Chow Yun-Fat and enigmatic killer Tony Leung join forces to take down a bloodthirsty gang of arms dealers in Woo’s over-the-top, expertly orchestrated follow-up to THE KILLER. The nail-bitingly suspenseful hospital-full-of-hostages third act manages to coax warmth and humor out of one of the most hypnotically violent climaxes in cinema history. Director John Woo to introduce screening.

 

Saturday, April 20 – 5:00 PM

Director John Woo In Person!

BULLET IN THE HEAD, 1990, Film Workshop/Magnum Ent./Golden Princess/John Woo Prod., 120 min. Hailed by many as Woo’s finest and most personal film, BULLET… is a thrillingly beautiful and searingly cathartic drama of three friends (Tony Leung, Jacky Cheung and Waise Lee) in 1967 Hong Kong, who are forced to flee after becoming unintentionally embroiled in a gang vendetta. Woo unflinchingly charts their harrowing escape into the fire of the Viet Nam inferno, as the trio becomes targets for black marketeers as well as Viet Cong, and run a gauntlet that will tear apart their friendship in the process. Discussion following with director John Woo.

 

Saturday, April 20 – 8:30 PM

Director John Woo In Person!

FACE/OFF, 1997, Paramount, 138 min. Dir. John Woo. A wild, dizzying thrill ride of a pulp epic that is probably the closest in spirit to Woo’s earlier Hong Kong thrillers. Federal agent John Travolta and psychotic master criminal Nicolas Cage exchange identities when a bizarre undercover operation to coax information out of Cage’s brother goes horribly wrong. Cat-and-mouse pyrotechnics mushroom as the beleaguered undercover man feverishly tries to recapture his nemesis and his face! "A cinema of violent delirium so breathtaking it plays like visual poetry." -- Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times With Joan Allen, Gina Gershon. Director John Woo to introduce screening.

 

Sunday, April 21 – 5:00 PM

Double-Feature:

ONCE A THIEF, 1990, Columbia Pictures, 107 min. Full of jaw-dropping action but without a "body count," this fast moving caper stars Chow Yun Fat, Leslie Cheung and Cheri Chung as street urchins grown up to be art thieves, combing Paris and Europe to acquire a mysterious painting that has become a ‘holy grail’ for the trio. Director Woo expertly balances the humor and romance with more serious conflicts of personal loyalty amongst members of an improvised, untraditional family. Followed by:

 

THE KILLER, 1989, Kino, 110 min. [See 4/19 for description.]