EVENT / MEET THE AUDIENCE / HIGHLIGHT | 02/04/2018
Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, one of the most acclaimed and distinguished actresses in contemporary cinema, illuminated the 42nd HKIFF in the Face to Face seminar — this year’s most anticipated event, the Filmmaker in Focus programme — which celebrates her achievements. On 31 March, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre was packed with fans, all of whom were eager to meet the legendary actress and hear her share her insights on film, art and life — and even a hug. One of her closest friends, the producer Nansun Shi, was invited as the guest moderator.
Lin’s acting career began at the age of 17, when she was spotted by a talent scout and was cast by renowned Taiwanese director Sung Tsun-shou for the female lead in his film Outside the Window (1973). Although she came from a conservative family, Lin was a movie fan and had a strong curiosity and interest in filmmaking. Playing a high school student in her debut film, Lin said that her first time at acting was a dutiful adherence to the director’s instructions.
After becoming an overnight sensation, she worked in more than 50 films between 1974 and 1980. “I didn’t have any good sleep in those seven years,” she recalled. When Shi asked Lin how she could distinguish each and every “I love you” that she said many times in various romantic movies, Lin replied that she said it with “all her heart,” and “even from the stage to real life.” She “begged” Shi not to continue the joke by proclaiming, “Nansun Shi, I love you!”
Moving her career to Hong Kong at the age of 22, Lin had her breakthrough in playing the male role of Jia Baoyu in The Dream of the Red Chamber (1976), directed by Li Han-hsiang. During the three-month shoot, she acquired the Cantonese dialect. Despite achieving success in Hong Kong, she became exhausted and strained after making so many movies. At the end of 1979, she decided to leave the film industry and went to America. But life has its own way of setting a course, and she unexpectedly took up the role in Patrick Tam’s Love Massacre (1980) in the U.S. and encountered William Chang, the renowned art director and film editor who later became her long-time collaborator and close friend.
After that, her acting career in Hong Kong flourished. In Tsui Hark’s Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1982), Chang created a brand new image, transforming her into a charismatic angel. Though she had always portrayed “a pure, innocent girl” in previous films, she was then hailed as “China’s top beauty.” Lin smiled and said, “This flattering title added enormous pressure on me. Luckily William was there to support me.”
Asked about the difference in filmmaking between Hong Kong and Taiwan, Lin observed that parent roles were absent in Hong Kong cinema, whereas fathers and mothers were ubiquitous to prevent their children from falling in love in Taiwanese films. Having worked in over 100 films, Lin said only two directors worked without a script — Liu Chia-chang and Wong Kar-wai. While she could still mildly understand her elusive role in Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time (1993), she was totally lost during the shooting of his film from that same year, Chungking Express. In that film, she played a femme fatale, wearing a blonde wig and sporting sunglasses. She had no idea when her eyes would appear before the camera, and so she made up her eyebrows everyday before the shoot. In the end, she never removed her sunglasses in the film. Thanks to Wong Kar-wai’s Jet Tone Productions Ltd., rare footage of Chungking Express that had been cut was back on the screen during the seminar. Audience members were mesmerized by her captivating performance as an outdated star in this modern classic.
Lin said, “I will never forget that Taiwan is the place that nurtured me. I’m always Taiwan’s daughter, whereas Hong Kong is the place that offered me many opportunities and never treated me as an outsider. I have, in fact, become Hong Kong’s wife. In recent years, I have often gone to Mainland China for location shooting and it’s the place where my parents were born and my relatives live. To me, Mainland China is my close relative.”
Before she left the stage, Lin reminded the younger generation in the audience to devote themselves to things they are most interested in. “Young people should have dreams. Even impossible dreams may come true one day,” she stressed. Like herself, making films and writing books were once beyond her imagination, but now she has become a successful actress and author. “When an opportunity arises, put your back into it,” she encouraged everyone.