New life in death

New life in death
Director Juno Mak on his vampire flick Rigor Mortis (above), which stars veteran actor Chin Siu Ho.

With the recognition that vampire flick Rigor Mortis has been getting, first-time director Juno Mak shakes off the image of him as the pop singer with a rich dad.

Impressively, the Hong Kong entertainer has breathed new life into a moribund genre and the film was nominated for Best New Director, Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup & Costume Design at the prestigious Golden Horse Awards last week.

While it did not win in those categories, it received the International Federation of Film Critics Prize.

Apart from critical recognition, the movie has also been performing healthily at the box office. The HK$15-million (S$2.4-million) film was released in Hong Kong on Oct 24 and has remained in the top five for four weeks, grossing more than HK$17 million to date. It has also earned NT$45 million (S$1.9 million) in Taiwan. It opens here tomorrow.

What makes the film's success even more fascinating is that its creation had seemed so improbable.

After all, Mak had started out in 2002 as a Cantopop singer. A year later, he picked up an award for "best interpretation" at the TVB Jade Solid Gold Awards - to boos from the audience.

His prominent businessman father Clement Mak, chairman of CCT Telecom, was subsequently investigated for an alleged music industry bribery case. The charges were eventually withdrawn, but Mak's reputation was tarred.

Then there were the tabloid stories over his rivalry with fellow actor-singer Edison Chen. Not only did they lock horns with competing fashion lines, but Mak's then reported girlfriend, actress Gillian Chung, was also among those whose photographs were leaked in Chen's sex-photo scandal.

Rigor Mortis, then, is the culmination of his rehabilitation as a serious artist.

He has long ago abandoned bubblegum pop for a darker sound and also picked up film festival Best Actor accolades for the gory thriller Revenge: A Love Story (2010), for which he co-wrote the script.

It is a great story, but one that Mak, 29, has no wish to buy into.

Sounding calm and unruffled over the telephone from Hong Kong, he says: "I guess the press have their own angles and I can't relate to what other people think. At the same time, I guess people grow up. Handling yourself is quite a mission already, you don't have the luxury to care too much about what people think.

"I stopped reading magazines and newspapers maybe 12 years ago. I'm past that stage where I have to prove anything to anyone."

And yet, prove himself he has.

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