Dubai honoree Tsui Hark looks back

Says films go back to happier time in Hong Kong

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DUBAI -- Clad in black, Tsui Hark nurses a generous brandy, puffs a cigar and reflects on the desert sunset. The hotel terrace ignores the compact Hong Kong film legend. He's calm as can be, but full of ideas.

"I feel like I just started my work yesterday," said Tsui, 58, the China-born writer, producer, director and actor honored this week with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Dubai International Film Festival alongside Terry Gilliam and Rachid Bouchareb.

Tsui chose to screen two films in Dubai that remind him of a happy time in Hong Kong, before the territory's return to China. After breaking ground in martial arts action films in his early career, Tsui said he was "not satisfied to work in only one genre."

"Shanghai Blues" (1984), the first film he made, broke the mold of the popular Hong Kong action-comedy with a nearly all-female cast in a romance set on the eve of the Japanese occupation of Shanghai.

"This movie is about migration because of political unrest," said Tsui, who's now mulling another film on a similar theme, one he said could paint a picture of the Chinese living and working in the early Western U.S. "It's never been very clear what they looked like," Tsui said.

Tsui holds up "The Blade," made in 1995, as a good example of the martial arts films he's best known for in the West. But he won't be pigeonholed. His head's too full of ideas. He's also been thinking lately about making a movie about forgery, he said.

Has his lifetime achievement award come too soon?

"I hope so. I really hope so." Tsui said. "There's so much to do."