Mar - Apr 2014:
Canton Flavour: Director Chan Pei
Chan Pei, original name being Chan Siu-lam, was expert in directing Cantonese sing-song films and comedies. His father was renowned Cantonese opera performer Leng Chuen. Before entering the film industry, Chan was active in the Cantonese opera, theatre and vinyl recording arena both as performer and organiser around Hong Kong and Guangzhou. He founded his silent film company, the Mantianhong Company, and directed a silent film, Romances Are Not for Me, in the 1920s. However, his debut could not be shown due to the Canton-Hong Kong strike. He went on to establish the Yellow Dragon Record Company and worked under the Electric and Musical Industries Ltd. With his experience in running and working in record companies, Chan acquired his skills in scheduling and catering to the needs of the audiences and the professionalities of individual performers. His network and interactions with artists in various performing art forms also paved his way in collaborating with different talents in the early developing years of the Hong Kong film industry.
He started his film career with an adaptation of his frequently performed drama, The Fop. Instead of playing the protagonist, Third Master Sha, as he had on stage, he played a side cast, Tam Ahyan, and assisted the director of the film, Sit Kok-sin. This led him to direct his own film The Pain of Separation in 1936, which was adapted from a renowned nanyin repertoire. His directorial debut was well-received, and soon he became a popular Cantonese film director with an excellent box office track record. The following year he was able to recruit more than 50 stars to film the first "sing-song film" in Hong Kong film history, A Mysterious Night. This was the first film to “replace all the dialogues by singing”, which became the prototype for subsequent “all-singing” films.
Cantonese sing-song and opera film productions was at its peak in early 1950s. Chan Pei worked closely with librettist Ng Yatsiu to produce “all-singing” films with his proficient skills in both stage and film production. He managed to produce as many as 17 films annually and made over 150 films in his life. This programme showcases nine films from his existing repertoire to exhibit his multitalents covering various genres of his works in order to honour his contributions to Hong Kong cinema.
Chan Pei’s Morning Matinee programme is guest-curated by Stephanie Ng
Jan - Feb 2014:
Yu Lai-zhen, Queen of the Art of Dan
Known as the "Queen of the Art of Dan", Yu Lai-zhen (1923-2004)worked in the Hong Kong arts world for more than three decades.Before the war, Yu performed on stage in Cantonese Opera shows. She began acting in films in 1947, working with many renowned actors, directors and scriptwriters. In 1959, Yu formed Lai Si Films Limited with her husband Lee Siu-wan. With Lee serving as writer and Yu as the star, the pair produced many Cantonese Opera-films with supernatural elements. Emphasising vocals and martial arts as selling points, these films also used innovative cinematographic and editing techniques, as well as special effects to create their fantastic supernatural elements. Under the context of Hong Kong Cantonese Opera and film history, these films reflected Hong Kong’s unique societal, economical and political environment of the 1950’s and 60’s. Furthermore, they were the Cantonese opera world’s way of opening up and keeping up with the times. At the same time, these films also epitomized Yu’s career strategy of going against the audiences’ expectation of the beautiful Dan, never hesitating to put her looks aside to play unattractive characters on stage and in films. Her sacrifice of her beautiful looks was key in the realisation of these films’ supernatural approach.
2014 marks the 10th anniversary of Yu Lai-zhen’s death. This retrospective serves as both a tribute to her work and a showcase of Lai Si’s films. The films all feature Lee Siu-wan as writer or producer and three of Lai-zhen’s most frequent collaborators: Directors Wong Hok-sing, Fung Chi-kong and Chu Kea. Covering genres such as Cantonese opera films, martial arts films and contemporary dramas, these films offer a diverse look at the work of the "Queen of the Art of Dan".
Yu Lai-zhen’s Morning Matinee programme is guest-curated by Winnie Chan
The contents of the programme do not represent the views of the presenter.
The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.