Hong Kong Reacts to The Departed’s Oscars
Hong Kong, China
(Spoiler: This post discusses the twist ending to The Departed.)
The two English-language Hong Kong dailies both featured Page One stories this morning about local reaction to the Academy Awards earned by The Departed, which is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs.
Both the South China Morning Post and The Standard noted that an announcer at the Oscar telecast incorrectly referred to Infernal Affairs as a Japanese film. In his acceptance speech, director Martin Scorsese corrected the record by noting his debt to “Andrew Lau’s original film from Hong Kong.”
Lau himself was gracious about the mistake. “I think it’s a silly mistake as everybody knows it’s a Hong Kong movie,” Lau told The Standard. “Personally, I’m fine, and I can understand that, in a big event with millions of things to coordinate, small mistakes happen.”
Still, such an elementary mistake doesn’t change the perception that many Americans divide the world into North America, Western Europe and Here Be Dragons. It’s not a mistake that should be made by an organization that’s in the film business.
Lau hopes The Departed’s Oscars will help revitalize the sagging Hong Kong film industry.
“Everybody was talking of a slow box office and the decline in movie output, with only 50-something films this year,” Lau told The Standard. “The message is that we make good movies, and that everybody, everywhere, is now aware of this. Now more people will pay attention to our films. Foreign movie makers will buy our screenplays. Many international companies will give us more money to invest in more new movies.”
“But those who say this is a brave new dawn for Hong Kong movies are missing the point,” Lau continued. “Hong Kong movies already play a vital role in the international scene. Wong Kar-wai has won several awards, and Stanley Kwan Kam-pang has won prizes at the Berlin International Film Festival long ago. Hong Kong films have not been neglected.”
However, Alan Mak Siu-fai, who co-wrote and co-directed Infernal Affairs, complained that the adapted screenplay by William Monahan, which also won an Oscar Sunday night, did not add enough original elements.
“It stuck so close to the original it looked like they are just making Infernal Affairs again – well in that case I’m, of course, happy because it is like Infernal Affairs winning an Oscar,” Mak told the South China Morning Post. “Of course, I wouldn’t want my screenplay to be moved about when it was made into a film for the first time – but when it was being used for the second time, I would have hoped some new elements were being introduced to it.”
In a somewhat contradictory statement, Mak also complained about one of Monahan’s most significant changes to the original story. In the original, the “bad cop” lives to do evil another day; in the American version, he dies.
“With the death of Matt Damon’s character, the symbolism in the film’s gone – it was designed so that the opportunist lives and has to face a life led on false pretenses,” Mak said.
Looks like Hong Kong writers whine as much as U.S. writers.
The SCMP also reported that Warner Bros. paid $1.75 million for the re-make rights and that Mak saw only Monahan’s first draft and none of the later drafts.
An SCMP house editorial weighs in. “Recast in Boston, the film’s script . . . nevertheless mimics sequences and details from the Hong Kong movie. As many critics have pointed out, Infernal Affairs and its sequels have the imprints of Scorsese’s influence all over them. It is not always clear who is copying whom.”