1. What film made the biggest impression on you as a child?
Like most kids, when I was small, I watched whatever was on TV, but in particular I loved comedy. I liked the comedy movies of Stephen Chow (Châu Tinh Trì), not only for the entertainment factor, but also for the way he experimented with character. He acted in a lot of his own films, and though in each film he appears outwardly to be totally different, at his core he always channels the same characteristics, the same soul.
Stephen Chow in ‘Kung Fu Hustle’, 2004.
2. What was your favourite film as a teenager?
For a long while it was still anything by Stephen Chow! But when I grew up, I realised there was so much more out there, so I stopped watching him and got into stuff featuring Buster Keaton and Jackie Chan. Now that I’ve grown up, I’ve drifted away from comedy slightly and tend to watch more films that focus on real life experiences.
3. What is the most memorable or iconic scene from a film you have watched?
There are several movie scenes that are memorable to me, so it’s hard to choose, but one scene that I think is truly iconic is the corridor fight scene in Old Boy (2003) by Park Chan-wook. The whole scene was filmed in just one single shot. The setup was really simple but so effective; dim lights and with the camera sliding horizontally along, smoothly surveying the main character fighting his enemies. No complicated gear or camera tricks were needed, yet the scene still made a huge impact. As well as this, I always remember the recurring oranges in The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola. I guess it’s not exactly a scene, but it definitely made a big impression on me. They would appear subtly in the frame as a symbolic message, whenever someone was going to get killed. I don’t know if oranges mean something in Italian culture, or in the gangster underworld. It’s intriguing, but at the same time I don’t want to explore it yet, I want to leave it for when my film knowledge is riper. At the moment, I’m enjoying how mysterious the oranges are…
Min Sik Choi in ‘Oldboy’, by Park Chan-wook, 2003.
4. Whose work inspired you to step into the filmmaking industry?
Actually there was no specific artist or filmmaker, it was more of a process of watching many films and finding the ones that resonated with me, that led me to love filmmaking. I would watch movies, and when impressive scenes came up, I would want to remake those kinds of scenes myself. I love the kind of scenes that are simple but able to deliver a story clearly. But there wasn’t a specific scene or single movie that pushed me to do to this job. Right now I still just want to learn a lot and absorb as much as possible, so I can produce new films and scenes in my own creative way.
5. What is the best film you have watched recently?
Recently I rewatched Mùi đu đủ Xanh (Scent of the Green Papaya) by Trần Anh Hùng. I was greatly impressed by the simple setup and the authentic feeling it conveys. It depicts a fictional world, but somehow it still feels real. The setting is a typical old-style Vietnamese house, but it does not limit itself to a specific province or area. The first time I watched it I did not understand much, I just liked the cinematography and the beauty of the scenes it presented. Now rewatching it after learning about filmmaking techniques, I notice different aspects of the movie, and have a deeper understanding of it. Trần Anh Hùng’s characters are humane, organic and multi-dimensional. A nouveau-riche wife does not just sit on her chair waiting to be fed, we also see her cooking and doing things for herself. It’s a great interweaving of human behaviours and cultures. It’s like a view of old Vietnam, but from the perspective of a Vietnamese-born French filmmaker.
‘The Scent of Green Papaya’, Trần Anh Hùng, 1993.
6. What do you find most exciting in the world of contemporary film?
Travelling videos from young YouTubers are really exciting these days, and they do influence me a lot. I like how they use match cuts and fast cuts, so it’s fast paced but still tells a meaningful story. A great example is a video I saw online called Watchtower of Turkey, by a filmmaker called Leonardo Dalessandri. Inspired by that style, I edited a video for RiceChannelTV last month called The Essence of Phu Quoc, experimenting with similar editing techniques to create an fresh and energetic look.