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In Competition: "Vengeance" by Johnny To

About the film:
Undeniably, one of the major events of the day is the arrival in Cannes of Johnny Hallyday and Hong Kong director Johnnie To for the Competition screening of Vengeance, a chillingly somber crime movie of the sort only Johnnie To knows the recipe for. France's national rock star, surrounded by To regulars like Simon Yam, Suet Lam, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, and Lam Ka Tung. He plays a retired hit man who decides to ply his trade again to avenge the murder of his daughter, the victim of the machinations of a handful of thugs. A part that was initially tailored to Alain Delon…

This is not yet another trivial tale of gangsters shooting it out. Vengeance - Johnnie To's fifth feature to be selected at Cannes, after Breaking News (2004), Election (2005), Election 2 (2006), and Triangle (2007) – will strike any cinephile as a heartfelt tribute to the French director Jean-Pierre Melville, so fervently admired by To and fellow Hong Kong cineaste Woo. And when To is asked what he thinks of "the French Elvis Presley" as an actor, To replies: "He arrived very concentrated, ready to work. He asked few questions. He just wanted to know if his idea of the scene was the same as mine. He was accurate in his acting, his gestures. His sincerity was clear. We believe in him. He's real. And he did nothing other than devote himself to the film, which is wonderful when you think that in Hong Kong, actors are usually doing two or three films simultaneously! He really gave us all of himself and his time."

Press conference:
For the in-Competition presentation of Vengeance, director Johnnie To, actors Johnny Hallyday,  Anthony Wong, and Simon Yam, and writer Wai Ka Fai, as well as producers Michèle and Laurent Pétin appeared at the press conference. Excerpts follow.

Johnnie To on his admiration for Jean-Pierre Melville:
"For me, this movie will naturally convey to the audience some of the flavors of the Melville movies. It's a crime movie about hitmen; there's not much dialogue, and there are also really cool romantic action heroes, and of course we have a French actor who's the lead. Doing this film is a real wonderful opportunity, almost like interaction between French and Hong Kong cinemas."

Johnny Hallyday on working with Johnnie To:
"It was a wonderful experience to work with a director as famous as Johnnie To. I'm a great admirer of all his movies. When I arrived in Hong Kong, I was very lost. I don't speak either Chinese or Mandarin. I had no way to make myself understood by people – very few people speak English over there. In fact, nobody does. This situation was a big help to me for the film, because the Costello character is also completely lost when he arrives in Hong Kong. I was surrounded by a Chinese culture, totally different from our own. And gradually, I got to know the people better, and how they live, how they think. I would love to have the possibility to re-do this wonderful experience in China. Maybe with Johnnie."

Johnnie To on the dinner scenes:
"Scenes of food and eating interest me a lot, because I'm a great food-lover, and I love cinema, so I always put the two together in my movies. On a more thematic level, we all know that at the dinner table, a lot of feelings or emotions are communicated between characters."

Johnny Hallyday on making the movie:
"I didn't have many lines to learn, so that was fine with me. Holding a gun is something I already knew how to do. Johnnie To's way of working reminded me of making Détective with Jean-Luc Godard. Jean-Luc would give you two pages in the morning, he'd be shooting at noon: two pages of lines to learn the same day. I didn't know what the story was. With Johnnie To, I was lucky, because he gave me a script, and I was the only person to have read the script, which changed a lot during the shooting. In order to improve the story, and make it hold together better. Otherwise, most of the other actors played day by day."


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