[Above: Writer-director Yonfan of Prince Of Tears.]
By Yong Shu Hoong
PRINCE Of Tears is based not only on the real-life story of Taiwanese actress Chiao Chiao, who has a cameo role in the film, but also on the childhood memories of its writer-director Yonfan.
The 62-year-old Hong Kong film-maker behind shot-in-Singapore Bugis Street (1995), Bishonen (1998) and Peony Pavilion (2001) said he had lived in Taiwan in the 1950s as a child.
Set during the country's anti-communist period called White Terror, the film describes how the persecution of air-force officer Sun (Joseph Chang) and his wife (Zhu Xuan) shatters the lives of their young daughters.
While in Singapore to promote Prince Of Tears at the recently- concluded Hong Kong Film Festival, Yonfan shared his film-making experiences with my paper.
You're well-known for your films' artistic images and cinematic language. How would you react to criticism that your films are more style than substance?
I think it's flattering for critics to say so, because I've never put that much of an effort into the styling of my movies.
I just have a natural instinct towards what could be considered as beauty and good style.
The critics might not have intended their comments to be kind, but the world is full of unkindness.
I think I'm very fortunate to have these criticisms from time to time, aside from admiration.
It helps me to become more tolerant and liberal-minded.
Fan Chih-wei plays Uncle Ding, a close friend of Sun, in Prince Of Tears. Did he complain about appearing with an ugly scar on his face, as his role required?
Actually, Fan read the script and said he would love to take on this role of a villain with different layers. This was despite the fact that the "scar" was an uncomfortable piece of plaster that had to be glued to his skin every day of the shoot.
As Prince Of Tears is based on historical events, weren't you hung up on research and accuracy while preparing to shoot the film?
This is a movie, not a documentary. So I'm creating art, not recreating events. The main plot is based on Chiao Chiao's life story, but I also picked ideas from my memory and fabricated the dialogues and certain story developments.
Of course, there were details, like costume design, where I had people conduct the required research. But what's more important are the feelings the film evokes - that's the essence of an artistic creation.
Prince Of Tears is showing exclusively at The Picturehouse.
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