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Archive - 9th Five Flavours Film Festival

Once a Thief

Zong heng si hai
Hong Kong 1991, 103’
subtitles: Polish and English
director: John Woo
screenplay: John Woo, Janet Chun, Clifton Ko
cinematography: Poon Hang-sang
editing: Dawid Wu
music: Man Yee Lam
cast: Chow Yun-fat, Leslie Cheung, Cherie Chung
producer: Terence Chang, Linda Kuk
production: Golden Princess Film Production Limited, John Woo Film Production, Milestone Pictures
language: Cantonese, English
colouration: colour

Film description

The director whose name is the synonym of powerful action cinema and a funny, light romantic story with a roguish touch set on the French Riviera? Why not. The films made by Woo at that period are his personal journey through genres and conventions. This time he tried out comedy.

The biggest names of Hong Kong film industry - Chow Yun-fat, Leslie Cheung and Cherie Chung, play three orphans raised to be thieves, specializing in art theft. As it often happens, for their last job they pick taking over a certain cursed painting, which gets them in quite a pickle.

Both "The Killer" and “Bullet in the Head” were artistic successes, but did not bring the expected revenue. Therefore, Woo turned towards a lighter genre, to regain the trust and the heart of his audience. "Once a Thief," made in just 10 weeks, turned out to be perfect for the job, revealing the lesser known face of the filmmaker.

There are references to the lighter Hitchcock and "Pink Panther," but also to Truffaut's "Jules and Jim" and Coppola's "Godfather." The humor, often turning into slapstick, is mixed with action scenes and shooting ballets of the highest quality.

Marcin Krasnowolski

John Woo

Born in 1946 in southern China, raised in Hongkong. Started his career as an assistant of the director in the legendary Shaw Brothers Studio (he worked with Chang Cheh, the legend of wuxia cinema). He debuted in 1973, but the breakthrough came only in 1986, with "A Better Tomorrow," made with Tsui Hark. Woo's subsequent Hongkong films confirmed his reputation of the master of action sequences. After 1992, he moved to Hollywood and gained acclaim for "Face/Off" and "Mission: Impossible II." He returned to China to direct his newest, two-part production, "The Crossing."

Selected filmography:

1986 Lepsze jutro / Better Tomorrow
1987 Lepsze jutro 2 / Better Tomorrow II
1989 Killer
1990 Kula w łeb / Bullet in the Head
1991 Był sobie złodziej / Once a Thief
1992 Hard Boiled. Dzieci Triady / Hard Boiled
1997 Bez twarzy / Face/Off
2000 Mission: Impossible 2 / Mission: Impossible II
2015 The Crossing

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