Triangle's surrealism fits just right

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am

Strange bedfellows they may seem, but Hong Kong cinema and surrealism found themselves curiously entwined yesterday evening with the international premiere of Triangle, a collaboration by veteran filmmakers Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam Ling-tung and Johnnie To Kei-fung.

And what better place for the film to be unfurled than in France, the birthplace of the surrealist movement?

Triangle was unveiled as an out-of-competition entry at the Cannes Film Festival around midnight yesterday, with the three filmmakers and the three lead characters - Simon Yam Tat-wah, Leo Koo Tin-lok and Sun Honglei - present at the event.

The film is completely set in Hong Kong, with the narrative backbone being the ill-fated efforts of three broke men trying to amass a quick fortune by cashing in on an ancient relic they unearthed under the Legislative Council building.

If that sounds surreal - if not absurd - it's probably because the three filmmakers never worked on the set at the same time: instead of coming up with one coherent story, each director was responsible for only one-third of the film.

It was partly inspired by their experience working in television serials - in which it's common for different individuals to oversee different episodes of the same series - and also partly by the game of Exquisite Corpse, a creative approach invented by the surrealists in the 1920s in which the artist adds another part to a piece after the previous contributor has finished.

The project came out of a six-hour dinner meeting the filmmakers shared a year ago, said Lam, and they committed themselves not to interfere with the others' work while the film was still on the drawing board.

'So we had the freedom to follow our own styles, and none of us has sacrificed anything,' Lam said at a press conference before the screening. 'It will be up to the fans of Mr Tsui and Mr To to spot which parts they did.'

While the critical response has been mixed - the film was greeted with silence at the press screening - Triangle is surely an inventive if sometimes jarring effort, as the three filmmakers just swung the narrative into their own aesthetic terrain when they took over. The only female character in the film - played by Kelly Lin as the unfaithful wife of Yam's character - is an example of this. Tsui's part has her down as a psychotic, before Lam adds another layer by making her the former wife of Yam's character, an angelic doppelganger.

And true to form, To - well-known for making films brimming with masculinity - said quite simply: 'I didn't have anything to say about her.'