They Shot Pictures Episode #13: Johnnie To

The latest episode of They Shot Pictures, wherein we discuss Hong Kong filmmaker Johnnie To is now available over at the website, or on iTunes. After six weeks and 50 or so movies watched, we were a bit disappointed to find that most of the Johnnie To studies we found focused almost entirely on his crime movies, ignoring his comedies and romantic films. So this podcast is an attempt to produce a unified theory of Johnnie To as an auteur, a way to integrate both halves of this highly prolific director’s career and examine the thematic ideas and visual styles that run through all his work, not just the more critically-esteemed action art films.

The discussion focuses on his 2002 Sammi Cheng-starring romantic comedy My Left Eye Sees Ghosts, his 2006 gangster-Western Exiled and his 2004 judo movie Throw Down, but as usual those films are only jumping off points for wider considerations of his work. Unlike other episodes, though, we manage to remain mostly spoiler-free.

Over at letterboxd I have a list of all 42 of the movies I’ve seen so far directed or produced by Johnnie To and/or his frequent collaborator Wai Ka-fai. I also wrote here about his early crime film The Big Heat, and about how the films Infernal Affairs and The Departed highlight certain unique aspects of To’s work in relation to Hollywood and Hong Kong films. I also created the Johnnie To Whimsicality Index, which is exactly what it sounds like.

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