Love Never Ends: A Tale of Three Cities

London Film Festival Features Wartime Love Story Inspired by Jackie Chan’s Parents

It’s the time of year that London Film Festival showcases films from directors and producers across the globe. Hong Kong director Mabel Cheung’s A Tale of Three Cities is one of those that can touch you with a poignant love tale, tremendous scenes and beautiful cinematography.

“This is the kind of background that wasn’t rare at the time of our parents’ generation. People always escaped from one city to another, to find a place where they can settle down.” – Mabel Cheung

Written by long-time collaborators in film, duo Mabel Cheung and Alex Law, A Tale of Three Cities jumps into the real-life story of Jackie Chan’s parents with only some minor adaptations. “Jackie said he wanted to watch it by himself in a screening room, no body should be there,” Law revealed. “He cried and cried, until the end of the film, and then he said ‘now I know what happened to my father’.”

The romance begins in an ancient city in Anhui province, where Yuerong (an opium smuggler, played by Tang Wei) meets Dalong (a spy, played by Sean Lau). Devastated by the violence of the Sino-Japanese War, which caused many families to flee across the country, the lovers become separated from each other. Later, through sheer twists of fate, the couple meet again in Shanghai, and finally in Hong Kong.

In the midst of the struggle, one of the most tense, moral scenes is also one of the last. We see how Dalong shows a KMT (Kuomintang) agent chief the way to safety, saving his life, despite the chief having tried to kill Dalong many times before. “It warped up the whole thing,” Mabel comments on the nature of this scene. “Whatever you did or whatever tragedy you went through or whatever enemy you have, at the end of the day, you are just at the same level. Forgive and forget.”

We met the director Mabel Cheung, and learnt some insight of the production.

The Plus: Could you tell us a little bit about casting?
Mabel Cheung:
I wanted to have tang Wei and Sean Lau in the very beginning, I am huge fan of them. I was really happy to meet them everyday on set, that’s the major reason. Of course I think they showed great chemistry and especially during the romantic senses – I suspected they spent a long time getting out of the roles.

TP: What about the sets, what’s the creative process?
I didn’t want to build sets, but to shoot in real environments. So in Shanghai we tried to find the real Longtang (lanes that connected residential developments/community).

TP: How was Jackie Chan’s involvement in the production?
In fact, he only gave us his authorisation (of using the story). He said he doesn’t want to get involved in the creative side, and he doesn’t want to meet the actors because that will give too much pressure to them.

TP: What’s the memorable moment during the shoot?
The last scene was an underwater one that required Tang Wei diving to the bottom of the water. She didn’t even realise she was scared of being under water. We tried several times during the days, and at the end I told her that we have to shoot this because there is a close-up of her and we couldn’t use a stuntwoman. So Sean said, “let me help you, and I will dive with you.” Tang Wei trusted Sean and they both went under the water.

TP: Where is the next stop for this film?
We are going to bring it to Hawaii Film Festival as their closing film.

Director: Mabel Cheung
Producers: Alex Law, Nansun Shi, Dajun Zhang
Screenwriters: Mabel Cheung, Alex Law
Casts: Sean Lau, Tang Wei, Qin Hailu, Jing Boran, Huang Jue, Elaine Jin

A Tale of Three Cities shows in VUE West End Cinema on Friday 16 October