Flying kicks, ferocious punches and deadly "nunchakus" strikes are some of Bruce Lee's most memorable moves. But long before he mesmerised the world as a kung fu star, Bruce Lee was an actor. In fact, he made his filming debut at the age of just one month - in December 1940 - for the film "Golden Gate Girl" (1941).
2010 marks the 70th anniversary of Bruce Lee's birth. As a tribute to the legendary star and actor, the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) will present "The Kid is All Right: Remembering Bruce Lee", a programme of Lee's early films, on his birthday (November 27).
Four films: The Kid (1950), A Son is Born (1953), Thunderstorm (1957) and The Orphan (1960) will be shown at the Cinema of the HKFA from 11am to 9.30pm. All films are in Cantonese. "The Kid" and "The Orphan" have English subtitles.
A seminar, conducted in Cantonese, will also be held at 4.30pm on November 27 after the screening of "A Son is Born", when film critics Po Fung and Ka Ming will share their views on the theme "The Art of Bruce Lee's Cinema". Admission is free.
The son of noted Cantonese opera star and film actor Lee Hoi-chuen, young Bruce grew up in the film industry and appeared regularly in movies before he left for college in the United States.
He was already a highly accomplished actor in that early phase, winning not only a starring role in "The Kid" at the age of 10 but also critical accolades, crowned, for example, by one critic as "a genius child actor".
He was a born actor and an instinctive star, blessed with acting skills that effectively delivered a wide range of emotional expression and a charisma that compels adoration. By turns physical and sensitive, with great control of body and mind, he evinced an understanding of character and story only the best child actors can naturally possess.
The young Bruce Lee was also symbolic of his time. He mostly played two kinds of roles - a child who suffers the harshness of an unforgiving world or a juvenile delinquent led astray by the seductive but exploitative side of urbanity. In some ways, he was Hong Kong personified.
Lee proved in "The Kid" that he was a gifted performer, delivering a lively and vivid performance as a child actor. The film revolves around Lee's character, an orphan raised by a poor teacher played by the great Yee Chau-shui, making a living by renting and selling comic books.
Bruce Lee's range as an actor can be seen early by comparing his performance in "A Son is Born" with that in "The Kid". "A Son is Born" is a morality tale that exposes the selfishness and cruelty of the idle rich. Lee plays a child who suffers from abuse, abandonment and great social injustices. He displays great control of emotion as his character is forced to endure increasingly difficult hardships, delivering a heart wrenching performance that establishes the pathos for the rest of the film.
Bruce Lee appears in a Zhongshan uniform at the age of 17, his hair coiffed and greased, personifying naiveté and innocence! "Thunderstorm" is adapted from Cao Yu's play of the same title, among the most cherished theatre works of modern China. Directed by Ng Wui, it is a manifestation of the social and moral tradition of 1950s Cantonese melodrama. The film features an all-star cast and Lee more than holds his own among them.
"The Orphan" is the last film Lee made before he left Hong Kong. His performance in this 1960 classic is so compelling, his character so symbolic of the times that the role has come to stand for the rootlessness and sense of lost innocence that marked Hong Kong in the 1950s and 1960s. A petty teenage criminal with an attitude at once endearingly charming and achingly sympathetic, the film's title character has become an icon almost as powerful as the one established by Lee's kung fu films. In a wonderful expression of his character, young Bruce, a devotee of cha cha, shows off his dance moves in some scenes.
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 55" booklet distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
Credit card bookings 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, November 9, 2010
A film still of "The Kid" (1950).
A film still of "The Orphan" (1960).