To look back at the films of Cathay is to look back at glory. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) will show 12 of Cathay's Mandarin classics, starring Grace Chang, Lucilla You Min, Jeanette Lin Tsui and Julie Yeh Feng, and 10 outstanding Cantonese films directed by Tso Kea to mark the 75th anniversary of the Cathay organisation and its glorious work.
The HKFA's new film programme, "It was 75 Years Ago….Celebrating Cathay's Anniversary", will be held from Friday (October 1) to October 31 at the Cinema of the HKFA.
The Mandarin films to be screened are: "Mambo Girl" (1957), "Our Sister Hedy" (1957), "Our Dream Car" (1959), "Forever Yours" (1960), "The Wild, Wild Rose" (1960), "Bachelors Beware" (1960), "The Greatest Civil War on Earth" (1961), "Beauty Parade" (1961), "A Night in Hong Kong" (1961), "Sun, Moon and Star" (Part 1 and Concluding Episode) (1961) and "Romance of the Forbidden City" (1964).
Director Tso Kea's Cantonese films to be screened are "Three Stages of Love" (1955), "Love Lingers On" (1957), "Hen-pecked Husband" (1957), "The Sorrowful Lute" (1957), "The Kingdom for a Husband" (1957), "The Kingdom for a Honeymoon" (1958), "The Tender Age" (1957), "The Magic Box" (1958), "Memories of Love" (1958) and "True Love" (1958).
To complement the screenings, a small scale exhibition will also be on display on the 1/F of the HKFA to celebrate Cathay's 75 glorious years.
To enhance understanding of Cathay's Cantonese film production, veteran film critics Ms Wong Ain-ling and Mr Keeto Lam will share their views on director Tso Kea's work in a seminar, "The Cantonese Films of Tso Kea at Cathay", to be held at 4.30pm on October 9 at the Cinema of the HKFA. The seminar will be conducted in Cantonese. Admission is free.
Cathay entered the film business in the 1930s, first operating theatres in Singapore, later producing films in Hong Kong in the 1950s with the satellite company International Films, and then going into full flower with the establishment of Motion Pictures and General Investments Film Co (MP & GI). Modelled after the highly effective Hollywood system, MP & GI became one of Hong Kong's largest studios in the 1950s and 60s, producing more than 200 Mandarin and Cantonese films.
Be they melodramas, comedies, musicals with young people breaking into song and dance, newlyweds sharing sweet moments before and after a fight, or songstresses and dancers frolicking on stage and bickering backstage, the stories on screen corresponded to the emerging metropolitan life outside the theatre in the 1950s and 60s, projecting a dream of bourgeois utopia, not quite reality but about to be attained. Cathay has produced some of the finest works of Hong Kong cinema.
Cathay contributed greatly to the preservation of Hong Kong's film heritage by donating a large quantity of artifacts and, most significantly, depositing its entire library of films with the HKFA.
The award-winning masterpiece "Sun, Moon and Star", the closest Mandarin version to "Gone with the Wind"; Grace Chang's "The Wild, Wild Rose" and "Mambo Girl", the latter establishing her as the premium star of the Mandarin musical's golden years; the delightful drama "Our Dream Car", about a young couple's obsession with a new car and their struggles to make payments; the award-winning film "Our Sister Hedy" starring Julie Yeh Feng and Jeanette Lin Tsui --these are some of the favourite Cathay classics.
It's easy to neglect Cathay's Cantonese films, given the endearing quality of its Mandarin products and the studio style they collectively invoke. The Cantonese films do not have as strong a branding, yet Cathay actively made Cantonese films since 1954 under the banner of International Films and continued into the MP & GI years, resulting in a glorious stable of works. Its Cantonese films have better production qualities than other Cantonese films and tend to deal with more challenging topics. Directors were given more creative freedom and most of their films turned out to be works with more literary and less populist touches.
Director Tso Kea, who entered the film industry in 1937, directed 17 Cantonese films at Cathay, contributing greatly to the golden period of Cantonese films in the 1950s.
His works are highly personal and daring, stamped with the mark of an auteur. As he had a fondness for literature, he often adapted literary works or film classics and frequently served as his own scriptwriter. "Three Stages of Love" and "Love Lingers On", for example, are based on esteemed novels by Ba Lin and Emily Brontë, respectively, while "The Sorrowful Lute" is adapted from the Hollywood musical "Love Me or Leave Me" (1955) .
Tso's works are marked by a strong personal vision, executed with his fluency in the visual as well as narrative vocabularies of cinema. The studio conditions of Cathay not only allowed him to pursue subject matter seldom covered in Cantonese, such as disturbed psychology and obsessive love, but also enabled him to produce colourful works like "My Kingdom for a Husband" and "The Magic Box". The influence of these films can be traced back to Ernst Lubitsch, Michael Powell and Cantonese opera's Sit Kok-sin, extending possibly to Jeff Lau and Stephen Chow in their masterpiece "A Chinese Odyssey" (1994).
The films to be screened are in Mandarin or Cantonese.
Tickets priced at $30 for the screenings are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Detailed programme information can be obtained in the "ProFolio 54" distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
Credit card booking can be made on 2111 5999 or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk . For enquiries, please call 2739 2139/ 2734 2900 or browse the websites: www.filmarchive.gov.hk or www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp .
Ends/Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Picture shows a film still of “Sun, Moon and Star (Concluding Episode)” (1961).
Picture shows a film still of “Romance of the Forbidden City” (1964).
Picture shows a film still of “The Kingdom for a Honeymoon” (1958).