HK's To shoots 2nd romance aimed at Chinese market


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HONG KONG – Stepping up his push into the mainland Chinese market, Hong Kong director Johnnie To is now shooting his second romance in a row, in a break from the stylish crime thrillers that helped him win international acclaim.

The veteran filmmaker is regarded as one of the last holdouts of Hong Kong-style action cinema as his fellow directors flock to the mainland to make crowd-pleasing historical and kung fu epics. But even To now acknowledges the need to balance his artistic aspirations and commercial pressures.

On Thursday, the maker of films like "PTU," "Election," "Sparrow" and "Vengeance" was shooting a wedding banquet scene at a Hong Kong hotel for his new romantic comedy starring Hong Kong heartthrob Louis Koo, actress-singer Sammi Cheng and mainland actors Gao Yuanyuan and Wang Baoqiang. The film, called "High Altitude Romance II" in Chinese, doesn't have an English title yet.

It's his second straight romance in a row geared at mainland audiences after "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," which also starred Koo and Gao and will be released in March. To said he sees an opening for light comedies in the mainland amid a spate of big-budget costume dramas and that it's also a genre that's easier to clear by Chinese censors wary of sex, violence and political undertones.

"This is intentional. We need to cultivate our mainland market. It's difficult to do that with the kind of movies we typically make. In order to avoid problems and excessive edits with the censors, we are making softer movies like love stories and comedies," To told reporters. "If we make a crime movie or one of our more personal films, there will be more obstacles."