Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
Wednesday, April 26, time 5.45 PM


By date


By title


Infernal Affairs

When Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs was released in 2002, it would go on to conquer the box office, earn critical acclaim, win numerous awards, and spawn a franchise with two sequels – all accomplishments that make it one of the most im­portant Hong Kong films produced after the 1997 Handover. But Infernal Affairs is considered to be more than just an important film – it’s a legendary one that’s a cultural touchstone and measuring stick for what Hong Kongers consider representative local filmmaking.
The concept for Infernal Affairs by screenwriters Alan Mak and Felix Chong instantly struck a chord. Two men, one a cop (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) and one a triad (Andy Lau), work as undercover agents embedded in the opposing side, and are assigned to find the identity of the other before their own identity is exposed. Besides being a clever look at the duality of man, the story features men struggling with conflicting identities. Hong Kong’s identity crisis has long been fodder for cinema metaphor, making this story especially resonant to local audiences. However, these are themes with universal appeal.
The film features an amazing collection of talent. Besides perennial superstar Andy Lau and internationally-renowned actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Infernal Affairs fea­tured two award-winning character actors (Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang), two es­tablished starlets (Sammi Cheng and Kelly Chen), two rising young idols (Shawn Yue and Edison Chen), and finally Chapman To before he became an A-list screen comedian. Also, the film looked fabulous and sounded great, and its climax was un­predictable, complex, and satisfying.
Infernal Affairs required a different ending for its mainland China release, i.e., one in keeping with the ‘crime doesn’t pay’ ethos assumed in China’s loose content rules. This alternative ending was ignored for the two sequels, though Infernal Affairs III delivers more or less the same conclusion as the mainland cut of the first Infernal Affairs. The result is that the first Infernal Affairs looks even more uncompromising in retrospect, a feeling amplified by the fact that the brand is currently being resurrected for television serials and future spin-offs.
Infernal Affairs also has the reputation of being a ‘savior’ of the Hong Kong box office, thanks to its exorbitant HK$50 million gross at the time of release. This ‘savior’ claim was mostly reactionary, but it serves as another feather in the cap of a film that had already accomplished so much. Infernal Affairs swept the top awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and was similarly rewarded at the Taipei Golden Horse Awards. Infernal Affairs also won popularity across Asia, and even took home the Audience Award at the Far East Film Festival in 2003.
Infernal Affairs is a film that Hong Kongers are proud to stand behind. It has few flaws in its pedigree, and was executed so perfectly that it would be difficult to see how any audience would not appreciate it. Fans of movie stars love the cast, fans of commercial filmmaking enjoy the genre and the production, and critics appreciate the layered screenplay, fine performances, and uncompromising edge. Western cinephiles love Infernal Affairs too, because Hollywood remade it as the Oscar-winning The Departed (2006) and it won Martin Scorsese his first Academy Award for directing, which is something that Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and Goodfellas (1990) could not accomplish. Infernal Affairs is perhaps more than legendary – maybe it’s charmed. It’s a little silly to think so, but it would explain how a single movie was able to ac­complish so very much. 
Ross Chen (www.lovehkfilm.com)
Film director: 
Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
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