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An interview with well-known Fre 爱上海nch-Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung

French-Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung Photo: Tao Mingyang/GT


Tran Anh Hung is a master of controlling the atmosphere of a room. 


“Have you seen any of my films?” “Do you really like it?” With only a bit of chit chat before taking questions from the media, he put everyone in the room at ease. 


Clean, tidy and fashionable, the well-known director looked far younger than I imagined. You would probably never guess by looking at him that this Vietnamese-born French film director is just three years away from 60.


Although Tran worked with Chinese actor Tony Leung on his second film Cyclo which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1995, Tran has not been involved very much in the Chinese film industry over the years. Looking to change this, Tran decided to head to Beijing to attend the 2019 Asian Film Week, which is being held as part of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC). 


As a master of atmosphere, music is a vital source of inspiration for Tran. Tran told the Global Times, he always listens to music when planning his films, instead of drawing on other films for inspiration.


With the help of a ,上海龙凤论坛vyxj,translator on Wednesday, I sat down with Tran to learn more about his success, ideas on film and nostalgia for the past.


Never giving up 


“When I was young, my mom once told me a story,” said Tran. 


“There’s a kind of turtle with a soft shell that when it bites you, it never lets go, even if its head gets chopped off.” 


It is with a similar type of insistence that Tran has tackled filmmaking. His screen debut became a huge success after releasing in 1993. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won two top prizes at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.  


Such an outstanding film debut would be a life-changing experience for anybody, but surprisingly Tran said that the success of the film only intensified his belief in filmmaking. 


“People need to ask themselves if they are certain that an idea is worth doing. If the answer is yes, you will have the courage to overcome any difficulty, and the result will always be beyond people’s expectations,” said Tran. 


Then he took the experience of shooting in Japan as an example, at that time, he wanted to establish the whole structure of Japanese society. 


“This is a very grand thing. I have had many Japanese assistants, but none of them ever believed that my ideas were possible to film and present to audiences. However, in the end, they all witnessed how I solved each problem one step at a time.”


Emotional filmmaker


Like many other filmmakers and writers, Tran is more sensitive and in touch with his feelings than most people. Every film he has made is a reflection of himself. 


Tran’s noted that his numbers among his favorite films because of how the book the film was based on, Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s novel of the same name, resonated with him.  


“The melancholy and sense of loss in the novel touched me most. And there were two kinds of losses, one was the people had gone, the other was the loss of a desire and enthusiasm towards life,” said Tran.


“When we reach a certain age, we will find that we are not as young as when we were full of yearning for life. When we become aware of this, we feel very sad. I think this sadness touched me the most.


Although the director immigrated to France at the age of 13, Vietnam, where he shoot most of his films, is still an irreplaceable part of him. 


“Vietnam means a lot to me. It’s the source of my primitive emotions,” said Tran. 


“When I eat a cucumber with Vietnamese sauce, it immediately pulls me back to Vietnam thousands of years ago. I feel like I am part of its history. I don’t think anything or anywhere else can make me feel that way, only Vietnam.”


The best partner


In addition to Tran’s mom, who played an important part in forging his personality, his wife, Tran Nu Yen Khe, is a figure that cannot be overlooked. She has not only been a great partner for Tran on a personal level, but also professionally as the actress has appeared in four of his six films. 


According to Tran, their cooperation began quite by accident. 


“When I started my career, she always gave me some filmmaking advice. Sometimes I felt that her ideas are not proper for that particular film but still really interes,爱上海ybno,ting and worth a try. I loved to shoot scenes in the way she suggested after a cut, and things end up happening one after another,” Tran told the Global Times. 


With advice from his wife, Tran was able to maintain a clear vision for what he wants from film. According to him, he always focuses on what kind of film he wants to make instead of giving in to pressure from the public. 


Tran wasn’t a complete open book when it came to his relationship with his wife. When I asked how he and his wife fell in love, he was rather coy with his answer. 


“I won’t tell you,” laughed Tran. 


“Perhaps I will tell her,” Tran said, glancing at our interpreter.
Newspaper headline: Taking a bite out of life