Arts

‘Like the Wind’: a swansong to the cinematic genius of Christopher Doyle

The most recent film from award-winning documentary filmmaker Ted McDonnell, Like the Wind, inspires and reassures those late to find a calling in life.

Premiering as part of the Sydney Film Festival, Like the Wind recounts the madness and brilliance of Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Describing himself as the Keith Richards of cinematography”, Doyle has been instrumental in the aesthetic of Hong Kong cinema since his debut in the early ’80s.

“I used to think I was the Mick Jagger of cinematography, but everybody knows I’m the Keith Richards of cinematography.”

Christopher Doyle. Image: Like the Wind, 2021
Christopher Doyle. Image: Like the Wind, 2021

You definitely know his films but, like most, you may be unfamiliar with the genius that is Christopher Doyle. Though he spent most of his life abroad, he is unmistakably Australian in his candidness, openness, and his ability to tell captivating stories through film, which has resulted in some of the most powerful and influential films both in Hong Kong and at home.

Throughout Like the Wind, those who have worked with Doyle are routinely asked about what he is like to work with, and why he is such a gifted storyteller. Funnily enough, they all seem to have similar things to say.

As a foreigner, Chris’s outside view of Hong Kong afforded him a unique perspective; the ability to see the city for the first time, every time he steps behind a camera.

Image: In the mood for love (2000)

Doyle came to Hong Kong after leaving Australia in his early 20s, working on cargo ships for free travel. He entered the world of cinema later in life, first venturing into film by accident as he helped a friend on a documentary about traditional Chinese music at age 31.

Whilst Like the Wind explores Doyle’s eccentric life and career, it seems to communicate a deeper message to its audience, one of authenticity and striving to find one’s passion. Chris had zero experience and training in film, but quickly discovered a passion for it like none other.

The film emphasises that dedication supersedes skill or formal training, as Doyle is now regarded as one of the great cinematographers of our generation.

Image: Gatopardo

“It’s not a so-called career, it’s a life”, he said.

Though most would be unfamiliar with Christopher Doyle by name, many have already witnessed his brilliance through his work on the screen.

Chris worked on the cult classic Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, which was remade by Martin Scorsese in 2006 under the title The Departed. He also helmed the Australian film Rabbit-Proof Fence that explored the horrors of the stolen generation.

Image: Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)

Director Jenny Suen described working with Doyle as so:

“A lot of people come up to me and ask what it’s like to work with Christopher Doyle and I say if you’re not careful, he’ll change your life.”

Like the Wind is a love letter to Doyle’s work ethic and his total dedication to his art, but also a middle finger to convention and the notion that one needs years of formal education to be considered a filmmaker.

The film inspires those who are yet to have found a calling in life, and teaches the audience to go out and “do” rather than “watch”, to pick up a camera and make videos with their friends, however awful they may be at first.

Image: Infernal Affairs (2002)

A problem that plagues many creatives is often “where do I start?”, but the message of this documentary is that starting, no matter how late in life, is better than never starting at all.

Like Chris, you may just stumble upon your gift and like the wind, you should be ready to howl at a moment’s notice.

 

Like the Wind will be running at participating cinemas as part of the Sydney Film Festival from the 3rd to the 21st of November.

To buy tickets and find out more about the program, follow this link.