THE MOBFATHERS - INTERVIEW WITH HERMAN YAU
Hong Kong director Herman Yau does not regard himself as an artist.
“Such titles are given by people,” explained the 55-year-old humbly when he was in Singapore earlier this month to grace the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF).
“After I direct a movie, it’s in the hands of the audiences. What they want to think of me is out of my control.”
Yau's films have been shown internationally, including film festivals in Europeand the United States. The Untold Story (1993) and Ebola Syndrome (1996) have been praised as cult classics – both star 55-year-old Anthony Wong. In the former, he plays a murderous chef who cuts people up as fillers for his char siew baus. In one of the most talked about roles in Hong Kong showbiz, he plays a rapist spreading Ebola in the latter.
Yau talked about his relationship with Wong: “Anthony and I have been friends for 33 years, and we know what each other want without talking much. There is a natural chemistry.”
The prolific filmmaker is also known for his gritty, raw-edged approach to making movies which require a low budget. He likes this process: “As the investment risks are lower, I get more freedom. At the end of the day, more profits may be made because I can make two to three such movies instead of one big budget production.”
If given a chance, would he want to be involved in such projects? He laughed: “Big budget films are troublesome, and people end up being irritated by the taxing process.”
Yau also has another qualm with blockbusters – he isn’t a fan of working with big stars. He pointed out: “Most of them are popular because they are lucky. They do not know much about filmmaking, and are not very smart.”
Having made more than 80 movies in his career spanning over 30 years, Yau is a jury member of the SGIFF’s Silver Screen Awards. His latest film The Mobfathers was also screened at the festival’s Asian Vision section.
The film depicts a battle between two men (played by Chapman To and Gregory Wong) as they gun for the title of their triad society’s new leader. Behind the scenes is a reigning godfather (the ever reliable Anthony Wong) who is manipulating the two men’s lives.
Many have pointed out that the film is using a triad election as a metaphor for the pursuit of universal suffrage, a political situation Hong Kongis familiar with.
When asked about what he hopes viewers from other countries will take away from the film, Yau said: “it’s all about context. Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan is a great movie, but I’m sure Americans will feel for it more.”
The filmmaker feels that he can say what he wants in his works, but what audiences read from them is another matter. He smiled and said: “If I need to talk so much, why make a movie?”
Read our review of The Mobfathers here
By John Li