Keep Rolling 好好拍電影 Dir: Man Lim Chung (2020) [Osaka Asian Film Festival 2021]

Keep Rolling    Keep Rolling Film Poster

好好拍電影

映画をつづける Eiga o tsuzukeru

Release Date: 2020

Duration: 111 mins.

Director: Man Lim-chung

Writer: N/A

Starring: Ann Hui, Andy Lau, Tsui Hark, Sylvia Chang,

IMDB   OAFF Link

Compared to fellow Hong Kong auteurs like John Woo, Tsui Hark, and Wong Kar-wai, Ann Hui’s name isn’t as well known but this veteran filmmaker has quietly created a catalogue of varied works that have made her one of the most acclaimed directors in the world. Her most recent success is being a recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2020 edition of the Venice International Film Festival where her latest film Love After Love played. This accolade comes after a four decade career that has notable achievements such as winning Best Director at the Golden Horse Awards three times and Best Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards six times. With more film projects on the horizon, she shows no signs of slowing down despite the fact that she has reached the age of 73. Trying to get a handle on such a career is intimidating but the biographical documentary Keep Rolling provides the perfect entry into the life of Ann Hui.

Keep Rolling is the directorial debut by Man Lim-chung, a veteran art director and costume designer who has worked with directors like Stanley Kwan, Sylvia Chang, Pang Ho-cheung and, crucially, Ann Hui, working on her films including July Rhapsody (2002), The Golden Era (2014), and Our Time Will Come (2017). These connections allow him to ensure his film can give an accurate assessment of her place in the firmament of the Hong Kong movie scene.

At nearly two hours, Keep Rolling is packed with a lot of fascinating information about Ann Hui. It takes a chronological route starting from her birth in North East China and runs through her formative years in Hong Kong and London as she falls in love with literature and film, her emergence with the New Wave filmmakers and her subsequent career, before eventually culminating with her aforementioned Venice success. Each period that is explored centres on some moment of self-discovery, such as finding out her mother is Japanese, or a career landmark such as working with King Hu as his assistant director and making a name for herself in television and showing an interest in using reality and social issues become the basis of her works. With each topic touched upon, we get footage from works which find direct inspiration from her life. While famous for making dramas capturing the quotidian aspects of Hong Kong life and seeing things from a female perspective, it’s equally fascinating to see how her love of literature led to The Romance of Book and Sword (1987). Probably the most affecting moments are when we get family background and Hui’s relationship with her mother. Hui used this as material for her film Song of the Exile (1990) and would later revisit her relationship with her mother, whom she still takes care of, with A Simple Life (2011). Finding out the reality behind these films proves to be poignant especially director Man intercuts some perfect scenes to illustrate how reality informs fiction.

To get details across, the film layers in a wealth of archival material such as photographs from the 60s and 70s and lots of behind-the-scenes footage from Hui’s film and television work. As well as this, there are many interviews with Ann’s family and fellow collaborators who all provide illuminating details that burst with warmth, admiration and some critiques that help to prevent the film becoming a hagiography. That luminaries in the international film scene such as Tsui Hark, Fruit Chan, and Andy Lau give their thoughts shows the importance of Hui. As interesting as they are, it is the family interviews that prove very illuminating with Hui’s brother and sister whose reminiscences tying Hui’s film and life together.

Acting as a guide throughout this is Ann Hui who we accompany fly-on-the-wall style in both her personal and professional life for a sense of unguarded behaviour during various activities ranging from walking along the muddy roads of a set, to walking the red carpet to walking with her elderly mother to a day-care facility. She also does sit-down-interviews where she reflects upon her life and shows sensitivity without any cloying sentimentality. Ann Hui talks a lot and it is always enjoyable to listen. She is a raconteur of the top order, amusing, insightful, and also honest as she details her plus points and faults that feel like an intimate access all areas project.

Despite being this detailed, the film still feels nimble as it wrangles everything into a cascade of concise sequences and enjoyable interviews that all flow effortlessly into one another. The chronological structure acts as a clear roadmap and upon reaching the end, audiences will feel well-informed about who Ann Hui is, her place in cinema, and the meaning and impact of many of her works. Whether you are a neophyte to Hong Kong cinema or an expert, you will find this is a perfect primer and a great biography as we understand Hui and her passion for cinema. All things considered, Keep Rolling is a perfectly apt title that captures its subject’s indefatigable nature and her love of the movie-making process. If Ann wasn’t as famous as her fellow directors before, this film signals that her time has come.

Keep Rolling was the Opening Film of the 2021 edition of the Osaka Asian Film Festival on March 05th Umeda Burg 7. It will play again on March 11th at ABC Hall.

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