No one has saved the Hong Kong film industry more times than Andrew Lau. But he’s also one of the few directors working today who’s just as famous for his skills as a cinematographer as he is for his hit movies. Starting out as an assistant cameraman on the legendary Shaw Brothers Movietown lot in its final years (he worked on Lau Kar-leung’s 1982 classic, Legendary Weapons of China), he went on to become the director of photography for some of the most iconic movies of the 80’s including Sammo Hung’s Millionaire’s Express (1986), Jackie Chan’s Armour of God (1987), Ringo Lam’s City on Fire (1987), and Wong Kar-wai’s As Tears Go By (1988). Although Christopher Doyle is known as the cinematographer behind Wong Kar-wai’s look, Lau is just as responsible for Wong’s unique visual style, sharing the cinematography duties on Days of Being Wild (1990), and Chungking Express (1994) with Doyle.
In the early 90’s, Lau began a lucrative period of collaboration with Hong Kong’s evil genius of the box office, Wong Jing, who produced Lau’s first big box office hit, Raped By an Angel (1993), a movie so popular it spawned six sequels. A few years later, Lau and Wong Jing teamed up again to produce (Wong JIng) and direct and shoot (Andrew Lau) Young & Dangerous (1996), a massive box office hit that launched a successful franchise and became a pop culture touchstone at a time when the Hong Kong film industry was undergoing a painful recession.
But Lau had even more tricks up his sleeve. In 1998, at the film industry’s lowest point, he directed The Storm Riders, a special effects martial arts extravaganza that was a huge box office hit. Storm Riders saved the entire industry, becoming one of the only blockbuster hits of the late 90’s and getting sold around the world, offering the local industry a much-needed jolt of self-confidence . Lau followed it with a series of medium-sized movies, before scoring another monster hit with 2002’s Infernal Affairs, a movie that redefined Hong Kong film for the next decade and was remade by Martin Scorsese as The Departed. Since then, he’s directed the hit drift-racing movie, Initial D (2005), and is currently shooting Green Dragons, a Chinatown-set crime film executive produced by Martin Scorsese and now filming in New York City.