Artist of the Year 2021: John Woo

Movies are listed in watch order

鐵漢柔情 The Young Dragons (1975)

Still from The Young Dragons

女子跆拳群英會 The Dragon Tamers (1975)

Watched with pretty janky subtitles. Rarely incomprehensible, one could always feels the texture of Mandarin grammar beneath the English words. When so much of modern media is made easy to access, there was something nostalgic and exhilirating about watching something endearingly bootlegged.

Still from The Dragon Tamers

帝女花 Princess Chang-Ping (1976)

Still from Princess Chang-Ping

少林門 Hand of Death (1976)

Still from Hand of Death

豪俠 Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)

Still from Last Hurrah for Chivalry

錢作怪 From Riches to Rags (1980)

Has exactly two good jokes in it, and they’re subtle enough that they might not have even been intentional.

Still from From Riches to Rags

摩登天師 To Hell with the Devil (1982)

Still from To Hell with the Devil

八彩林亞珍 Plain Jane to the Rescue (1982)

The slapstick stuff doesn’t do much for me, but there’s a comedy of desperation throughout that’s biting and quite good. The tunnel scene alone, of people recognizing their power having stopped the machine of the city, and extracting mahjongg/pop concerts/free tunnel tolls for life is a particularly fun power fantasy to see on screen.

Still from Plain Jane to the Rescue

英雄無淚 Heroes Shed No Tears (1986)

Still from Heroes Shed No Tears

英雄本色 A Better Tomorrow (1986)

A startling stylistic leap from Heroes Shed No Tears. I expected to see a more gradual discovery of style.

Still from A Better Tomorrow

英雄本色2 A Better Tomorrow II (1987)

Still from A Better Tomorrow II

喋血雙雄 The Killer (1989)

Still from The Killer

義膽群英 Just Heroes (1989)

Having characters in your film talk about being fans of the movie you made 3 years ago is a bold move.

Still from Just Heroes

喋血街頭 Bullet in the Head (1990)

Still from Bullet in the Head

縱橫四海 Once a Thief (1991)

Woo is haunted by A Better Tomorrow’s Mark. Revived, then referred to as a known fictional character, and now found rolling across a kitchen on a skateboard. Mark is too fun of a character to not see his echoes everywhere.

Still from Once a Thief