After doing my fair of research on the director, I have reached the conclusion that he has a narcissistic personality disorder which stems from Asperger syndrome. He also has an attention deficit disorder (e.g. he claimed that he didn’t want to work for Wong Kar-Wai any more due to his long schedules). The below quotations illustrate this. As for what I have to say, there is a particular incident in 1995 which worsened his symptoms. The incident was the 1995 Hong Kong Film Awards where there were two nominated Kar-Wai films which he worked on as a cinematographer i.e. Chungking Express and Ashes of Time.
Christopher Doyle also worked on these films in this capacity. In 1991, Doyle had won an award for Kar-Wai’s Days of Being Wild. As would later happen with Ashes of Time, Andrew had filmed the second unit footage and did not get nominated. Doyle claimed that Andrew shot 85% of Chungking Express, which they were both nominated for; yet Doyle gets mentioned more. Unlike Doyle, Andrew has only won once. At the 14th Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony in 1995, Doyle’s name came before Andrew’s despite being the secondary cinematographer for Chungking Express. Regardless, Peter Pau had won Best Cinematography for Treasure Hunt.
Like any person diagnosed with Asperger’s, Andrew refuses to accept criticism to the extent that he will make the same mistake. In 1995, Andrew directed Mean Street Story in the same style as NYPD Blue. In a Miles Wood book (Cine East: Hong Kong Through the Looking Glass), Andrew acknowledged that people didn’t like the nauseating style yet he would do the same thing on subsequent films. Unlike Wong Jing, Andrew (much like other one-dimensional directors) isn’t prone to changing his ideas.
It’s very easy to get the impression that Andrew is the sort of director who would rather win Best Cinematography or Best Director than Best Film. This mentality is reflected in his firing from his first Hollywood movie i.e. The Flock (starring Dick Gere and Claire Danes). Andrew is egotistical to the point of being delusional. He claimed to work as a cinematographer on Mr. Vampire despite not being credited, although he did work on Mr. Vampire 2.
There is a perfect example of comparative analysis when comparing Andrew’s 1990 and 1991 films with what Jing did. In 1990, Andrew made a Danny Lee cop movie (Against All) that doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. Jing’s attempt (The Big Score) has stood time’s test. This is because he is an auteur whereas Andrew is an amateur. In 1991, Andrew made a period Lam Ching-Ying Taoist priest movie (The Ultimate Vampire) that doesn’t have much to recommend whereas Jing made a contemporary version (Money Maker) that is another beast altogether. This is because Andrew is generic whereas Jing is sui generis.
It is Andrew, not Jing, who usually makes poor man’s versions of other movies. A prime example is the Chinese title of The Legend of Speed being Full Throttle II. With The Avenging Fist (a.k.a. Tekken), Andrew could’ve bettered the mixture of CGI and martial arts that was previously seen in Stephen Chow’s Shaolin Soccer. Both movies were released in the same year except Andrew’s movie was released much later (i.e. December instead of July). The difference between Stephen and Andrew is that the latter was more interested in showcasing CGI (to get more plaudits) than the cast’s physical abilities. If this was an adaptation of Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat then it would be acceptable.
In a Bullets of Love critique for Love HK Film, a critic sums up Lau’s selfishness:
“He’s a competent storyteller, but his films are ultimately glossy exercises, and his use of style is nothing more than attention-getting excess. His directorial choices aren’t always in the service of the film, and that seems to be the case here.”
In a critique of The Flock for IMDB, a person typed in 2009:
“1) The massively irritating and quirky way the film is directed and presented which dilutes and in effect destroys the first rate acting of the leads and obscures the story considerably. Hence a prime example of how the ego/interference of a director etc. spoils an otherwise good show.”
In an interview for Hong Kong Cinemagic in 2004, Andrew said:
“I like directing, so I can be in control of the cinematography, the acting, etc. In Hong Kong, normally the actors have a lot of control, but I need to fully control everything. When I was a cameraman, I was very upset sometimes because I could not control everything.”
In an interview with Scott Murphy for the HK Magazine website in 2006, Andrew spoke about his youth:
“I was the country boy going to the urban city. Every summer holiday, I would go there for about two weeks. I’ve got six brothers and sisters, so my parents didn’t have enough time to concentrate on all of us. This gave me a chance to concentrate on my camera. I tried to develop film myself, set up a darkroom in my house. The tempo has to be fast. I was not that patient with actors. I would always shoot and push, faster, faster. Hong Kong is very fast. I want those kinds of things in my work.”
In an interview with Anjali Rao for CNN in 2007, Andrew said:
“When I am on set as a director, I get crazy. My temper is not that good. No matter who you are, when you do something wrong I will say hey. I’m not Andrew, it’s like an animal on the set because, you know, these few years – the Hong Kong film industry is very tough. We’re facing a lot of problems. When I have a chance to make some movies, I am 200 percent to concentrate on my works.”
In an interview with Penny Zhou for HK Magazine in 2010, Andrew said:
“I had really bad grades in school. I fell asleep in the classroom all the time. But I was very into music and sports.”
In a critique of Legend of the Fist for Slant Magazine in 2013, Rob Humanick typed:
“The caffeinated, impatient camerawork only manages to further highlight how unfocused the film’s non-action sequences are. The exquisite art direction would scintillate more if the camera would only hold still.”
In a critique of The Guillotines for Slant Magazine in 2013, said critic typed:
“Lau’s frequently restless crane shots mostly backfire, killing any sense of pacing through their imbued impatience, while the many battle sequences want not only for more expansive coverage, but an editing scheme that suggests characters actually occupying the same physical space.”
Andrew Lau is one of Hong Kong’s worst directors for comedies, martial arts films and action movies. He needs to learn that directing is not so much about what the camera is doing as what it is depicting. I have nicknamed him: “Andrew Lousy.”