‘Infernal Affairs’ Marathon Set for Hong Kong Film Festival

A marathon screening of all three “Infernal Affairs” films has been announced for the much delayed 46th edition of the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The three films, all restored and upgraded to 4K digital prints, lead off a six- film section of Chinese-language restored classics at the festival.

The HKIFF was this year postponed from its usual March-April slot to August, due to the fifth wave of the COVID pandemic which closed Hong Kong cinemas for the first months of 2022. It will now take place from Aug. 15-31 for 17 days, again adopting a hybrid format, featuring screenings and audience-engagement events in theatres and online.

Other titles in the section include: Ann Hui’s “Boat People” from 1982; Lou Ye’s “Suzhou River” from 2000; and Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “Millennium Mambo” from 2001.

Delivered in 2002 and featuring a narrative about an undercover cop battling a triad mole, “Infernal Affairs,” was one of the most successful and iconic films of the 21st century, cementing Hong Kong’s reputation as a global hub of stylish hard-boiled crime movies. The festival has called it, “arguably, the definitive [Hong Kong] film of the post-1997 era,” a reference to the date when Hong Kong ceased to be governed by the United Kingdom and was formally returned to Chinese control.

The film also had a galvanizing effect on the careers of co-director Andrew Lau (aka Lau Wai-keung), who also produced through his Basic Pictures, and established screenwriters Alan Mak and Felix Chong.

It was a success for Cantopop ‘Heavenly King’ Andy Lau (aka Lau Tak-wah) who was lead star opposite Tony Leung (aka Leung Chiu-wai). Coming quickly after his roles in Wong Kar-wai’s “In The Mood For Love” and Zhang Yimou’s “Hero,” the film also cemented Leung as one of Asia’s top acting stars.

The first film was quickly followed by prequel “Infernal Affairs II,” in 2003, and by finale “Infernal Affairs III” later the same year. Parts of the trilogy were used by Martin Scorsese to make “The Departed” in 2006 starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. “The Departed” collected four Oscars, including best picture and best adapted screenplay (for William Monaghan).

Much has changed in the Hong Kong film industry since the “Infernal Affairs” days. These include a loss of market share by local titles, an embrace of co-production and co-financing with mainland China, and a 2021 revision to Hong Kong’s censorship law that injects national security considerations into the city’s film classification system.

Several filmmakers, performers and artists have since left the territory, including Anthony Wong and Chapman To who played key supporting roles in “Infernal Affairs.”

Some commentators have pondered whether, under current conditions, “Infernal Affairs” could be made today, given that its themes of police corruption and organized crime are essentially taboo in mainland China.

Despite such doubts, China’s Tencent Video has unveiled plans to make an online series adapted from “Infernal Affairs.” The rights deal was handled by Media Asia, the local studio that was film’s original sales agent and which retained the Chinese-language rights. Warner Bros., the Hollywood studio behind Scorsese’s “Departed” retains rights, including remake rights, in most other territories.