Born in Manila to mainland China parents, Alexi Tan aims torevive interest in the sub-genre of Western films known as spaghetti westerns.These films are characterized by thepresence of more action and violence compared to Hollywood westerns. Spaghettiwesterns were particularly popularduring the ‘60s and ‘70s.The photographer-turned-filmmaker grew up in the capital ofthe Philippines before he studied in London. He then took up film courses at New York University's Tisch School of the Artswhile waiting for the opportunity to make the jump from fashion photography tofilmmaking.
Alexi's chance finally came in 2004 when John Woo and Terence Chang were impressed byhis short film/music video Double Blade. Since then, the Manila-borndirector has been collaborating with the two for his directorial debut, BloodBrothers.
This period film was co-produced by Taiwan's CMCEntertainment, Terence Chang's Lion Rock Productions and Hong Kong filmdirector John Woo. It tells the story of three friends who becomeinvolved with drugs and gangs in Shanghai during the ‘30s. The Mandarin-language movie stars Liu Ye (Curse ofthe Golden Flower), Daniel Wu (Everlasting Regret) and Chang Chen (CrouchingTiger, Hidden Dragon).
PEP (PhilippineEntertainment Portal) was able to talk with Alexi via email, wherein he sharedinformation about Blood Brothers, which was chosen as the closing filmof the 64th Venice International Film Festival last September 8.
PEP: Haveyou always wanted to become a director?
Alexi: I wanted to become adirector but I never thought I could. Every time I did a still photo shoot orTV commercial and had the chance to bring in someone who worked on film, be itan actor or someone in the technical field, I would do it so I would feelcloser to the film world. Blood Brothers was completely unexpected.
PEP: Who and what are yourinfluences?
Alexi: I am a big cinema fanso to name all my influences would take up to much time so I will mention thosefor Blood Brothers. I've been inspired by HK [Hong Kong] cinemaespecially John Woo's early films like A Better Tomorrow, Bullet inthe Head and The Killer. I am a huge fan of Sergio Leone. His spaghettiwesterns were a heavy influence on this film. Music also plays a big part, forthis film it was Ennio Morricone.
[Ed.'s note: SergioLeone is an Italian filmmaker best known for making European westerns. His mostfamous works are the films of the so-called "dollars-trilogy": AFistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and TheGood, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).]
PEP: How did BloodBrothers come about?
Alexi: I was tryingto figure out my first feature. One day, I visited John Woo at a hospital in LA[Los Angeles, California]. He was recovering from a minor illness. We had acasual chat and he told me about his childhood and some "characters" that hegrew up with-and that if he did not make some wise choices he may not be wherehe is today, that his life would definitely take a different path. I thought tomyself, this would make a good concept for a film. John said, it has alreadybeen filmed, it's called Bullet in the Head. So I went and viewed thefilm again. The characters then became the foundation for Blood Brothers.This was the first part.
My late grandmother was Shanghainese and she was the student of the great operastar, Mei Lan Fang. Growing up, I listened to so much stories about oldShanghai that it became a part of me, so I've always wanted to set a film inold Shanghai. I was also looking for a setting that emulated the wild wild Westbecause of my love for spaghetti westerns. So setting the film in Shanghai inthe thirties was perfect.
PEP: How long did ittake you to finish the shoot?
Alexi: It was spacedout between three months.
PEP: Can you share ananecdote or two while on the movie set?
Alexi: We had apretty international crew. The DP [director of photography], Michel Taburiauxwas from Paris. My costume designer was Tim Yip who won an Oscar for CrouchingTiger, Hidden Dragon. My production designer was Alfred Yau who did all thesets for 2046 and In the Mood For Love and anyone familiar withChinese cinema knows we have the best young actors from China, Hong Kong andTaiwan who are working for the first time in this film. And I am a first timefeature film director. But the fact that everyone came from different culturaland cinematic backgrounds, they had no choice but to look to me to set astandard. That actually ended up working to my advantage!
PEP: Is Blood Brothers going to be shown here in the Philippines?
Alexi: As far as I know, there is no distributor in the Philippines. I justcame from Venice Film Festival where Blood Brothers was the closingnight film and am now in Toronto where we will have a gala presentation. ThePusan Film Festival screening will follow shortly in October. The film can beseen in these events.