Johnnie To preserves old Hong Kong in new film

Tue Feb 12, 2008 3:58am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - Director Johnnie To aims to preserve something of the old Hong Kong in new film "Sparrow" before his native city changes forever.

In competition at the Berlin Film Festival, "Sparrow" is a light-hearted story of a group of pick-pockets led by Kei who become entranced by a beautiful, mysterious young woman who is constantly running away from someone.

When they discover that she is trying to escape the clutches of a big gangster boss, they cannot resist trying to save her, no matter what the risk.

The action takes place in Hong Kong's old streets and alleyways, and the nostalgic feel and upbeat soundtrack led several critics to compare it to the 1964 French musical hit "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

"The main point of the movie is to capture the flavor of Hong Kong," To told reporters after a press screening.

"The city is undergoing a lot of changes and the Hong Kong government has torn down a lot of buildings so in my film I wanted to capture the old Hong Kong.

"The profession of the pick-pocket is actually dying out as we enter a new era, and in way these pick-pockets are a bygone age of Hong Kong and that's why they are in the movie," he added, speaking through an interpreter.

Asked why the movie had such a Western feel, he added:   Continued...

<p>Director Johnnie To poses during a photocall to present his film "Sparrow" running in the competition at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, February 11, 2008. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele</p>