A visionary and an exceptional director of Hong Kong cinema, Patrick Lung Kong was ahead of his time in farsighted portrayals of neglected issues and bold confrontations of sensitive social topics. He left an indelible imprint as one of the most original and uncompromising auteurs of the 1960s and 70s. His unique approach to filmmaking might have been met with mixed reactions but his influence is long-lasting.
As a contribution to the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF), the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) has organised a retrospective "Hong Kong Auteur, Lung Kong" to showcase the work of the outstanding filmmaker.
A selection of 15 titles of Lung's works together with three reference films will be shown in 16 screenings during the HKIFF from March 19 to April 6 and in 15 screenings from April 16 to May 8. All films will be screened at the Cinema of the HKFA.
The selected films are his work for director Chun Kim in "The Big Circus" (1964), "Pink Tears" (1965) and "Mimi-Private Eye" (1965); his directorial debut Prince of Broadcasters" (1966), his celebrated titles "Story of a Discharged Prisoner" (1967), "Teddy Girls" (1969), the highly controversial "Yesterday Today Tomorrow" (1970) and "Hiroshima 28" (1974), feminine-based "The Call Girls" (1973) and "My Beloved" (1971), melodrama "Pei Shih" (1972) and touching love stories "The Window" (1968), "Mitra" (1977) which was shot in Iran and sci-fi "Laugh In" (1976); his being the producer for director Patrick Tam's "Love Massacre" (1981) as well as reference films from three directors: John Woo's "A Better Tomorrow" (1986), Chor Yuen's "The Joys and Sorrows of Youth" (1969) and Derek Yee's "The Lunatics" (1986).
To complement the screenings, an exhibition titled "A Creative Journey with Lung Kong" will be held from March 19 to May 16 at the Exhibition Hall of the HKFA. Apart from introducing Lung's directorial life, the HKFA will also collaborate with the Hong Kong Arts Centre to invite artists of the new generation to create visual art works that echo with the film world of Lung Kong. Admission is free.
A new book "Oral History Series (6): Director Lung Kong" will be released in late March. The publication not only includes detailed interviews with the director, but also essays from famed critics and scholars expounding their views on Lung's work. Priced at $120, the book is in Chinese and the English edition will be in CD-ROM.
Two seminars will be held at the Cinema of HKFA. Director Lung and film critic Lawrence Lau will share their experiences and memories in "The Cinema of Lung Kong" at 5pm on March 20. Director Vincent Chui, artists Chow Chun-fai, Rita Hui, Sham Ka-ki and Au-Yeung Shing who have responded their work in the exhibition will have "A Dialogue with Lung Kong" at 7.30pm on March 23. Both seminars will be conducted in Cantonese. Admission is free.
Lung Kong started his film career in the 1950s as an actor of the Shaws Studio. He learnt directing from veterans Chow Sze-luk and Chun Kim. He was dedicated to elevating Cantonese cinema to new levels by pushing the envelope of Hong Kong film practice. He made films that tackled explosive subject matters, courting controversy with unflinching fervor. When works of this nature failed at the box office, he came up with a "one-in-three" strategy, directing three films of commercial appeal for every one of personal vision to make sure that his investors would enjoy profit from their ventures.
Lung is a director of strong personal vision, expressing highly opinionated views and telling stories with sensational treatment. He cared deeply about Hong Kong, addressing in his films such social issues as rehabilitation of ex-convicts, career criminals, juvenile delinquency and prostitution. He championed an active institutional role in dealing with these social issues at a time when such an idea was as novel as it is commonplace today.
He never ceased to pursue new ways of filmmaking, experimenting on camera works and editing techniques. While not addressing social issues, he would venture into new territory like the erotic desire of young women or introducing concepts of dream interpretation and suppressed memories.
Before directing his own films, Lung served as the assistant producer and assistant director respectively on Chun Kim's "The Big Circus" and the melodrama "Pink Tears" starring Julie Yeh Feng. He co-wrote the script of "Mimi-Private Eye" with Jeanette Lin Tsui playing a teenage detective.
Lung's directorial debut "Prince of Broadcasters" was so powerful and so forward-looking that critics raved about it and audiences flocked to the theatre. Lung's insight in recognising the influence of the new medium of radio and his ability to situate the film in a class context were markers of great things to come.
His second film "Story of a Discharged Prisoner" established him as a key figure in the history of Hong Kong cinema. His creation of a compelling hero and his skilful depiction of the social milieu in its many splendors plus his missionary zeal for aggressive social intervention stamped the film with a visionary brand that defined Hong Kong cinema for a long time. John Woo's "A Better Tomorrow" is the most vivid evidence of Lung's profound influence.
Lung's directorial skills are in full display in "The Window", a love story between a career criminal and a blind girl. Also starring Josephine Siao Fong-fong, "Teddy Girls" was a rare production that dared to confront the dark side of youth head-on. Lung deftly balanced social realism with sensational portrayal of juvenile delinquency, greatly enhanced by the great performance of young actresses like Lydia Sum, and Nancy Sit Kar-yin.
The quixotic dimension of Lung's cinema reached its first apex in his controversial "Yesterday Today Tomorrow", the story of a massive epidemic. The film was met with sometimes intense criticism from quarters of diverse ideologies. The film failed at the box-office, yet he continued to court controversy in "Hiroshima 28", confronting audiences with the issue of nuclear disarmament, long before it became a globally recognised concern. While showing "Hiroshima 28" at a film festival in Tehran, he managed to make a small-scale film with a global reach,"Mitra" - a romance between a married movie star and an ethnic Chinese girl in Iran.
Lung turned his camera on the middle class, dealing with sex and marriage in the melodramas "My Beloved" and "Pei Shih". He conducted extensive research for "The Call Girls", another film with a taboo subject matter, featuring the stories of five prostitutes. His fondness for parallel storytelling was put to good use, the flamboyance of his style echoing the sensationalism in both topic and treatment.
A flying saucer cutting across the sky of Victoria Harbour, represented Lung's shift in imagination in "Laugh In", using the sci-fi format as the vehicle to convey his laments on societal ills and human frailty. Lung served as the producer for Patrick Tam's "Love Massacre", a stylised thriller using colour patterns to tell his story. The print shown was restored by the HKFA, integrating the images of one print and the sound track of another to present the film in a format closest to its original condition.
Apart from Woo's "A Better Tomorrow", the other reference films shown are Chor Yuen's "The Joys and Sorrows of Youth", another topical film about the emerging youth culture made in the same year as "Teddy Girl", and Derek Yee's directorial debut "The Lunatics", which addresses the social issue of the mentally ill in an approach similar to that of Lung.
Tickets for all screenings are priced at $30. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Ticket arrangement for films screened during the HKIFF will follow those of the festival with postal booking from Sunday (February 28) to March 6 and at HKIFF website (www.hkiff.org) from February 28 to March 10.
Counter bookings at all URBTIX outlets and internet booking at www.urbtix.hk for all screenings are available from March 11. Phone reservations can be made at 2734 9009 from March 12.
Except "The Lunatics", all films have English subtitles. Detailed information and various discounts can be obtained in "The 34th HKIFF Programme and Booking Folder" or "ProFolio 51" distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For programme enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the websites: www.filmarchive.gov.hk or www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp.
Ends/Thursday, February 25, 2010
A still from "Story of a Discharged Prisoner" (1967).
A still from "Teddy Girls" (1969).