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Venice festival honors Chinese director John Woo


Director John Woo poses during a photocall at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 3, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Director John Woo poses during a photocall at the 67th Venice Film Festival September 3, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - The Venice film festival on Friday honored Hong Kong director John Woo, one of the few Asian filmmakers to enjoy box office success in Hollywood as well as at home.

The 64-year-old was awarded a lifetime achievement Golden Lion at the world's oldest film festival on the same day it showcased his latest film "Reign of Assassins," which he co-directed with Su Chao-Pin and also produced.

Woo, best known for his choreographed action sequences, was active in Hong Kong during the 1970s and 1980s, and in 1989 he released "The Killer," which drew the attention of U.S. filmmakers and helped him make the jump to Hollywood.

He moved there in 1993, and directed Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Hard Target" the same year.

Three years later he made "Broken Arrow" starring John Travolta, and teamed up with the actor again in 1997 in "Face/Off," a financial and critical hit.

In 2000, Woo directed Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible II," which was the world's biggest earner that year, but his next two U.S. projects failed to match that success.

He has since returned to China to direct.

"Since I'd been working in Hollywood for over 16 years and learned a lot ... I think it is about time to bring what I have learned in Hollywood into Asia," Woo told reporters in Venice.

"On the other hand, I find we have so many good stories from our culture.

"I work in quite a few foreign countries and I find people in general don't know much about our culture and history. Some people are only familiar with our kung fu films.

"That's why I made a decision to make a movie like 'Red Cliff' and produce a movie like of Reign of Assassins," he added. "It doesn't mean I've given up Hollywood. I still have several projects in Hollywood and I would love to work both in China and the United States."

Red Cliff is a two-part period epic that is billed as the most expensive ever Asian-financed movie. It also broke box office records in the region.

Asked how he felt about being officially recognized by the Venice festival, Woo replied:

"When (festival director) Marco Mueller mentioned he was giving me this lifetime achievement award, my first reaction was of shock. The second reaction was I thought he was kidding."

Reign of Assassins, set in ancient China, stars Michelle Yeoh as a skilled assassin who is on a mission to return the remains of a mystical Buddhist monk, believed to hold special powers, to their resting place.

Along the way, she falls in love with a man named Jiang, whose father was killed by her gang.

Unaware that he also is a trained martial artist, love blossoms but tensions arise as the truth of her past unfolds.

(Editing by Steve Addison)

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