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An Emerging Modernity: Revisit the roaring 60s at HK Film Archive

   Mini skirts and dancing A-Go-Go, factory queens and teddy girls, youth movies and new martial arts, Buddha's Palm and Beatles… were the icons of Hong Kong in the 1960s, verging between economic and social suppression and youthful restlessness. The rebellious Hong Kong youth, who looked for avenues to vent their frustration and looked forward to the Western lifestyle as liberation, gave birth to a constantly updated and ever-stimulating urban sensuality.

    Hong Kong Film Archive's (HKFA) new retrospective revives the memory of the roaring 60s.  The exhibition "An Emerging Modernity: Looking Back on the Cinema of the 1960s" to be held from August 2 to October 26 at the HKFA's Exhibition Hall, will present Hong Kong cinema within the historical and social spectrum to inspire new dialogue on Hong Kong experience via movie images of the 1960s.

    A new book in Chinese, "Oral History Series (5) An Emerging Modernity: Hong Kong Cinema of the 1960s" will also be published.  With oral history from film veterans, articles and photos, readers can revisit the urban modernity and lifestyle in the 1960s.

    To tie in with the exhibition and the new publication, a film programme entitled "An Emerging Modernity: The Roaring 60s" will be held from August 15-31 at the Cinema of the HKFA.  Ten local films from the 1960s will be shown - "The Young Swordsman Lung Kim-fei, Part Four", "The Student Prince", "Song of Orchid Island", "Girls Are Flowers", "The Strange Girl", "Winter Love", "The Jade Raksha", "The Single-Armed Holy Nun", "The Youth" and "Yesterday Today Tomorrow".  All the films reflected in different degrees the change of the film trend and audience taste in a particular period of the 1960s.

    The 1960s was a period of rapid economic growth during which the generation born during the war and in the immediate post-war years came of age.  The gap between rich and poor remained wide, the restless younger generation, with its penchant for Western style of living longed for adventure and embarked on a voyage of self-discovery and identity.  The cinema of Hong Kong as a mirror of society morphed from edifying realists to out-and-out dazzling entertainment and targeted a more youth-oriented industry.

    Cantonese cinema saw a surge of effects-driven martial arts fantasy in the early 1960s followed by a string of colourful musicals celebrating youthful exuberance making a splash in the latter half of the decade. In the Mandarin camp, Shaw Bros unleashed the new style martial arts picture that utilised a mix of heavy-handed, gory combat and a healthy dose of passion and mystery.  Taking a cue from the West, both technically and creatively, melodrama offered some disturbing exploration of the darker side of the human psyche.

    Tso Tat-wah's martial arts series on Buddha's Palm was not only popular but appeared in many other films including Stephen Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle".  "The Young Swordsman Lung Kim-fei, Part Four" (1964) features Tso mastering the highest level of the mystery, the Ten Thousand Buddhas to wipe out the deviant disciples. 

    Director Ho Meng-hua appeared in the credits of many new style martial arts films that Shaw Bros churned out in the 1960s.  A story of assassination and revenge, "The Jade Raksha" (1968) with leading actress Cheng Pei-pei, blended a genre of wenyi (martial arts), fantasy and horror.  Candidly mimicking director Chang Cheh's box office hit "One-armed Swordsmen" (1967), the "Single-Armed Holy Nun" (1969) was produced to cash in on the new style martial arts craze.  The spectacular display of combat and passion scenes sent a chill down the spine.

    The rise of new youth movie genre in the 1960s attracted countless young people into theatres.  A delightful teen drama, "The Student Prince" (1964) not only captured the bourgeois scene, it also made Alan Tang the new popular teen idol.

    Connie Chan Po-chu and Josephine Siao Fong-fong were perhaps the most popular idols at the time with fan clubs dedicated to the two stars.  In "Girls Are Flowers" (1966), director Wong Yiu captures the ache and joy of a bittersweet romance. With melodic theme songs striking a chord with the populace, the film was an instant hit, and catapulted Chan to the pinnacle of fame.  In "The Youth" (1969), director Chor Yuen offers a fascinating look at a myriad of relationships among a dozen of college students: falling in and out of love, dreaming of stardom and drug trafficking.

    Starring Josephine Siao and Patrick Tse Yin, Chor's other work "Winter Love" (1968) is a love triangle among a novelist, a taxi dancer and her ex-convict husband.  The director employed the language of European cinema and fused it with recollections, flashbacks and psychological portrayal.  Erotic, mysterious and haunting, "The Strange Girl" (1967) is a chillingly twisted work with cinematography and the stylised composition like Hollywood's psychological horror films.  Actress Patsy Kar Ling left an indelible impression with her performance.

    A political allegory "Yesterday Today Tomorrow" (1970) tells a story about Hong Kong being struck by an unknown deadly disease.  It takes a female doctor and the discovery of a serum globulin to put an end to the epidemic.  Pointed, technically accomplished and mercilessly critical, it is Patrick Lung Kong's most memorable work.

    "Song of Orchid Island" (1965) reveals conflicts brought about by interracial marriage, culture differences, cohabitation of aboriginals, settlers and migrants.

    "The Jade Raksha", "The Youth" and "Song of Orchid Island" have English subtitles.  Tickets priced at $30 for all screenings are available at all URBTIX outlets.  Half-priced tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients.  Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009, or on the internet at

    Detailed programme information can be obtained in the "ProFolio 43" distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.  For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website: or

Ends/Tuesday, July 29, 2008


A film still from "The Young Swordsman Lung Kim-fei, Part Four" (1964).


A film still from "The Strange Girl" (1967) featuring Patsy Kar Ling.


A film still from "Winter Love" (1968) featuring Josephine Siao Fong-fong and Patrick Tse Yin.



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