SOUL: Profile of Director Chung Mong-Hong

Chung Mong-Hong (aka, Chung Mang-Wang) has written and directed five films: Doctor (2006), Parking (2008), The Fourth Portrait (2010), and the segment, “Reverberation” in the anthology celebrating Taiwan’s Centenary, 10 + 10 (2011), and now Soul.

Born in Pingtung, Taiwan, Chung studied information technology engineering at National Chiao Tung University and film as a graduate student at the Art Institute of Chicago. In an interview with Ho Yi at The Taipei Times, Chung shares what inspired him to become a filmmaker:

 I had lived in the countryside in Pingtung until high school. Going to a movie was the ultimate form of entertainment. We saw lots of Bruce Lee (李小龍) and Michael Hui (許冠文) films. I was particularly fond of the James Bond movies because they were like pornography for us kids. [He laughs.]

In high school I had a chance to see Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence. There is one scene where David Bowie kisses Ryuichi Sakamoto. It got me to start thinking, “Wow, movies can show so many special things, things I don’t understand.”

He has directed over one hundred commercials, but in an interview with Ryuichi Sugiyama at the Tokyo International Film Festival’s blog, he indicated a desire to move away from commercial film-making.

When shooting Parking, I had tried not to fall into the habit of making commercial films, which ended up in vain. So with that in mind, in making The Fourth Portrait, I took the utmost care in simple film making, but I don’t think I am thoroughly successful in that sense. My assignment is to get rid of the habit of making commercial films….I think my experience in TV commercial making is an obstacle when making movies. The fact that most of the directors with TV commercial career are not making a big success in Taiwan might be the proof.

He told The Taipei Times that he decided to start his feature career with a documentary, Doctor, “Documentary filmmaking is the opposite of commercial filmmaking.” And elaborated:

You must divide the two. Have you seen any movies made by television commercial directors? Basically they all fail. It hurts me to see my colleagues fail. The problem is if you look at a 100-minute project with an eye trained for a 30-second ad, you are bound to be crushed.

Styles and forms are not sins in and of themselves. But the most important thing is to return to the basic question: what do you want your audience to see? It would be wrong if a director plays with a [visual] style thinking, “Wow, it’s cool!” and repeats it for 100 minutes. As a commercial director, you have to give up what you excel in — images and combinations of images.

Doctor follows a Taiwanese-American doctor who loses his son to suicide and a patient to cancer.

Parking starts with a parking dispute and escalates into much more. It stars Chapman To, Chang Chen, Jack Kao and Kwai Lun-Mei and frequent Chung collaborator, Leon Dai, who also appears in Soul.

And where Parking was influenced by the paintings of Edward Hooper, The Fourth Portrait features art made by Felix, the boy who committed suicide in Doctor.

However, as Chung tells Ryuichi Sugiyama at the Tokyo International Film Festival’s blog:

Doctor is a documentary, but I have a special feeling for it because it is my first feature film. It is very true that the picture drawn by Felix had a great influence in making the The Fourth Portrait, but I am thinking of saying goodbye to Felix after this film. I’ve made up my mind to get over his past and go on to a completely new direction for the next film….It is going to be a very scary horror film featuring schizophrenia.

 Make sure to read both interviews and then see what new direction Chung has taken with Soul.

SOULScreening Times:
Monday, Sept 9th, 6:15 PM SCOTIABANK 11
Tuesday, Sept 10th, 6:15 PM SCOTIABANK 3
Saturday, Sept 14th, 12:00 PM SCOTIABANK 10
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