In her native Taiwan, Sylvia Chang was a wild child who quit school to become a radio DJ. After breaking her acting contract with Golden Harvest because she didn’t want to be pushed around, Chang instead became best friends with the studio’s legendary boss Raymond Chow. Now based in Hong Kong, she has a much quieter demeanor, but is a major force in Greater Chinese cinema as one of Asia’s most accomplished multi-hyphenates. The Busan Film Festival sees her as actress in Jia Zhangke’s “Mountains May Depart,” director and producer of “Murmur of the Hearts,” and writer, star and playwright of Johnnie To’s “Office.”
Which of the three movies came first?
“Office” because it was an adaptation of my play “Design For Living.” Johnnie said he wanted to make it, but I didn’t take him seriously, because he doesn’t normally make that kind of film. Not his style. Even after he convinced me he was serious, I still thought he’d do it as an action film. Instead, it is a drama with music. Something different for him.
In “Mountains” you get to play a bilingual version of China’s future set in Australia. What the heck?
How does the future play out? It is a fantasy. That’s what attracted me to the role. I told Jia that the first two parts of the film are things we know well from his earlier films. But the switch to this woman of the future belongs to a lot of Asian people, it opens a topic for so many people.
“Hearts” was your first film as director in seven years. Why this?
The story by Taiwan-based Japanese writer Yukihiko Kageyama triggered in me a realization of family things and influences in the past that we did not know were there at the time. Kageyama was sent to me by the financier and came and pitched. I was very grateful the movie came with finance attached, as it had to be done this way.
Whenever I direct I think I should stick to that, and not produce so much. If “Hearts” was Taiwan, then “Office” is metropolitan, Hong Kong. The next one will be China, involving three generations of women. I haven’t settled on a title. Since the Cultural Revolution, nobody introduces their husband as their husband. They say: ‘This is my lover.’ Maybe that’s the title.