Initial D

RESTORED VERSION 2022 - WORLD PREMIERE
RESTORED CLASSICS - HONG KONG

Initial D
頭文字D (Tau mahn jih D)

Hong Kong, 2005, 109’, Cantonese
Directed by: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
Screenplay: Felix Chong
Photography (color): Andrew Lau, Lai Yiu-fai, Ng Man-ching
Art Direction: Silver Cheung
Editing: Wong Hoi
Music: Chan Kwong-wing
Producer: Andrew Lau
Cast: Jay Chou (Fujiwara Takumi), Anne Suzuki (Mogi Natsuki), Edison Chen (Takahashi Ryousuke), Anthony Wong (Fujiwara Bunta), Shawn Yue (Nakazato Takeshi), Chapman To (Tachibana Itsuki), Jordan Chan (Sudou Kyouichi), Kenny Bee (Tachibana Yuuichi)

Date of First Release in Territory: June 23rd, 2005


Initial D was as front-loaded as Hong Kong films come, with anticipation ramping up long before its summer 2005 release. Besides being an adaptation of an enormously popular Japanese street racing manga, Initial D was the first collaboration of directors Andrew Lau and Alan Mak following their seminal Infernal Affairs films. Cast in the lead was superstar Taiwan singer Jay Chou in his first starring role, with supporting parts played by hot idols Edison Chen and Shawn Yue. 
Also, the Japanese animated adaptation of Initial D, with its meticulously staged street races and thumping Eurobeat soundtrack, had taken Asia by storm, creating audience curiosity for a live-action film. The manga and anime were still being serialized at the time, and Initial D arcade games were big business too, so the film version would be riding a tremendous media wave. Anything less than a blockbuster sensation would have been disappointing. 
Thankfully, the film delivered. Japan was less welcoming to a Hong Kong adaptation with Chinese actors playing Japanese characters, but Initial D was a soaring box office hit in Hong Kong and went on to earn local acclaim and awards. Lau and Mak’s Initial D is an entertaining, stylish and technically superior racing drama and coming-of-age story. The manga’s storyline is compressed to fit a two-hour movie, and some characters are omitted, but the premise and major story beats of Initial D are faithfully represented.
The hook of Initial D makes it irresistible. Cars and racing are fine story fodder, but what set Initial D’s story apart was how its central character, unassuming teen Fujiwara Takumi, unwittingly became a drift racing master because of his nightly routine delivering tofu in his father’s Toyota AE86. Speeding home every evening along the winding downhill roads of Mt. Akina, Takumi learned to drift because he wanted to get home faster to get some sleep, and also because his father (played by the great Anthony Wong) slyly guided his driving education. Takumi’s intro to street racing culture happens not because he wants it, but because he accidentally shows up racers while on his part-time job.
This premise is preposterous, but it plays remarkably well in any medium because of its intersection of tropes. Takumi is not unlike many protagonists in Japanese shonen manga, in that he’s extraordinarily talented but otherwise average, and his initial character arc is basically a zero-to-hero tale. However, Takumi is also like the hidden martial arts masters of Hong Kong cinema – a savant hiding in plain sight who doesn’t care to compete because he knows he’d win anyway. Also, it’s always great fun seeing hot-headed bullies get handled by a dorky teen, and the film version of Initial D captures that fun terrifically.
Eventually, Takumi does lose – both in racing and in life – and while some of those conflicts get resolved, the film leaves things open for a sequel. However, due to a variety of factors, a sequel was never made, leaving this as the only Initial D movie, and its story feeling somewhat unfinished. There was plenty more story (the manga didn’t end until 2013), but the filmmakers never got to tell it, leaving the manga, animation and video games to define Initial D for many more years. Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s one-off cinema adaptation ended as more of a detour than a defining victory for the Initial D property – probably not what everyone had in mind when they first put Jay Chou behind the wheel of a Toyota AE86. But the ride? It was worth it.


Andrew Lau

The directorial career of Andrew Lau (b. 1960) took off with the Young and Dangerous series (1996-2000). Lau soon became Hong Kong’s go-to director for big special effects fantasy films. Lau is internationally well known for his work as co-director with Alan Mak on the Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002-03). 

SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY

1996 – Young and Dangerous
1998 – The Storm Riders
2002 – Infernal Affairs (co-director) 
2003 – Infernal Affairs II (co-director) 
2003 – Infernal Affairs III (co-director) 
2005 – Initial D (co-director) 
2006 – Confession of Pain (co-director) 
2010 – Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010)
2012 – The Guillotines (2012)
2019 – The Captain (2019)

Alan Mak
 
Alan Mak (b. 1965) made his directing debut in 1998 with the thriller Nude Fear. His filmmaking career kicked up a gear in 2002-2003 when he co-directed, with Andrew Lau, the Infernal Affairs trilogy. 

SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY

2002 – Infernal Affairs (co-director) 
2003 – Infernal Affairs II (co-director) 
2003 – Infernal Affairs III (co-director) 
2005 – Initial D (co-director)
2005 – Moonlight in Tokyo
2006 – Confession of Pain
2009 – Overheard (co-director)
2011 – The Lost Bladesman (co-director)
2012 – The Silent War 
2019 – Integrity
Ross Chen
Film director: Andrew LAU
Year: 2005
Running time: 109'
Country: Hong Kong
24/04 - 8:45 AM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
24-04-2022 8:45 24-04-2022 10:34Europe/Rome Initial D Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

Photogallery