Chinese language cinema

Consulate worker by day, film historian by night: one French author’s love affair with Hong Kong cinema

Arnaud Lanuque has literature on Cantonese films on show at the Hong Kong Book Fair, and says local directors need to be more daring

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 10:25pm

“Once you put your finger on it, you go deeper and deeper. From that point on, I knew it was too late – I was doomed.”

That was how Arnaud Lanuque described his accidental encounter with Hong Kong cinema and the unexpected journey that ultimately saw him relocate to the city.

The 39-year-old French author and journalist has his literature on Cantonese films on show at the Hong Kong Book Fair, which runs until Tuesday. The seven-day event is one of the world’s largest book fairs.

Lanuque, who went to law school before venturing into literature, said that despite his intense interest in the film industry, Hong Kong cinema did not really grab him at first.

“I liked it, but it was nothing really outstanding to me,” he said, citing early action films starring martial artist Jackie Chan.

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“Back in France, [Hong Kong movies] were considered very commercial, not artistic enough, so they didn’t have that recognition.”

It was not until the rise of the crime and action genres in the 1980s, especially those directed by John Woo, that the Hong Kong industry began to catch Lanuque’s attention.

“My image of Hong Kong was [acquired] through cinema, and sometimes it got a bit distorted,” he said, recalling the culture shock he experienced on first visiting the city in 2000.

In 2012 he decided to move to Hong Kong for good, reuniting with his Chinese wife, whom he had met when she was travelling in France.

Describing himself as a “normal employee” at the French consulate, Lanuque had been writing for blog and film review websites before making the leap this year to publishing a book on police and gangster films.

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“It was supposed to be five or six chapters – one about comedy, one about cops and triads, one about martial arts … but then I realised it would take me 10 years to make that [happen],” he said.

Asked if he would publish anything in English, he said he would have to gauge the possible reaction, such as by making an appearance at the book fair, where he was invited this year to share his experiences of film.

Looking ahead, he hoped the Hong Kong government would continue supporting local cinema.

“[Hong Kong films] create a lot of good interaction, a good image [of Hong Kong], and revenue, but the government has never properly assessed it and tried to promote it, and now it’s [a bit late],” he said.

He also encouraged directors to be more daring, citing titles such as The Midnight After and Get Outta Here as good examples – both small-screen productions which catered to a local audience.

“I got curious about Hong Kong films because they provided a different kind of vision of the world, energy and freedom,” he said.