From acquisition and restoration to research and publications on Hong Kong film history, it is the Hong Kong Film Archive's (HKFA) mission not only to preserve the heritage of Hong Kong cinema but also to share it with the public through different activities. Twenty-five film classics that are documents of their times as well as timeless works of art will be shown in "The Best From the Archive Collection" to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the HKFA.
The screenings of "The Best From the Archive Collection" will be held at the Cinema of the HKFA from January 2 to February 27, 2011.
The films include "The Soul of China" (1948), "Sorrows of the Forbidden City" (1948), "Awful Truth" (1950), "Should They Marry?" (1951), "Mysterious Murder" (1951), "Blood-stained Azaleas" (1951), "The Dream Encounter Between Emperor Wu of Han and Lady Wai" (1954), "It Was a Cold Winter Night" (1955), "The Rouge Tigress" (1955), "Wine, Women and Money" (1957), "The Legend of Purple Hairpin" (1959), "The Three Murderers" (1959), "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" (1960), "Motherhood" (1960), "The Eternal Love" (1960), "How to Get a Wife" (1961), "The Song of Love" (1962), "Garden of Repose" (1964), "The Story Between Hong Kong and Macau" (1966), "Violet Girl" (1966), "The Strange Girl" (1967), "Story of a Discharged Prisoner" (1967), "Wong Fei-hung: The Duel Against the Black Rascal" (1968) and "A Touch of Zen" (1971).
To complement the screenings, three lectures on the topics, "The 1950s Golden Period of Cantonese Cinema", "Early Hong Kong Comedies" and "Three Great Cantonese Cinema Directors: Lee Tit, Tso Kea and Chun Kim" will be held at 4.30pm on January 22, February 13 and 19, 2011, at the Cinema of the HKFA. The HKFA's programmer, Mr Sam Ho, film critics Mr Longtin Shum, Mr Thomas Shin and Mr Shu Kei, will host the lectures. Some of the screenings will also have post-screening talks. The lectures and post-screening talks will be conducted in Cantonese.
To commemorate the Film Archive's 10th anniversary, an exhibition "Glamour Everlasting" is being held at the HKFA's exhibition hall. Rarely seen photos and archival items donated by film stars are on display. Admission is free for the exhibition. To coincide with the exhibition, a "star cards gift box" containing some of the finest photos of film stars will be on sale at $88 in January at the HKFA.
Hong Kong cinema has a rich and eventful history. In the past 10 years, the programmes of the HKFA have inclined towards the less recent, largely because the HKFA is eager to focus on the neglected, the less familiar and the long lost. In the same spirit, the films in "The Best from the Archive Collection" are chosen from the "pre-gong chan pin" era, a time when Hong Kong films were not identified as such but as either Mandarin films or Cantonese films.
The "gong chan pin" (meaning, literally, Hong Kong-made films) era refers to the period after Cantonese became the primary language of Hong Kong cinema. The cut-off date is in dispute but the HKFA subscribes to the use of the film "The House of 72 tenants" (1973) as the milestone that began the era. The 25 films are therefore chosen from a time when Hong Kong cinema included both Cantonese and Mandarin films.
Film master Zhu Shilin's "Sorrows of the Forbidden City", which stars Zhou Xuan, is a vitally important film in the history of Hong Kong cinema. The historical epic had a heavy investment of over $1 million. It's not only a highly accomplished work that testifies to the creative capacity of director Zhu but also a historical drama that had an enormous impact on its times.
The director was well versed in Chinese regional opera. Adapted from a classic of Puxian opera in Fujian province, his film "The Eternal Love" is a poignant examination of the woman's role in the traditional family, exposing the injustice maintained by the feudalistic order. With lyrical style, Zhu presents the melodramatic turns of the story with skilful orchestrations of mise-en-scene and calibrated control of narrative rhythm, building the film to its operatic climax.
Adapted from novelist Ba Jin's work, Zhu's masterpiece "Garden of Repose" is one of the best cinematic realisations of the influential writer's work. Zhu's interpretation is less sensational than the original on the corruption of Chinese values, focusing instead on the human tragedy caused by the "spare the rod and spoil the child" mentality that has plagued generations of Chinese families.
Also adapted from Ba Jin's work "Wintry Night", "It was a Cold Winter Night" is an emblem of the Cantonese cinema's 1950s golden age. It was directed and written by Lee Sun-fung, one of the cinema's best, at the height of his creativity. With Ng Cho-fan and Pak Yin playing the lead roles, the melodrama tells the story of a man, his wife and his mother, the difficulties of the relationships burdened by the weight of tradition, the devastation of war and clash of personalities.
Directed by Li Pingqian, a comedy veteran, "Awful Truth" was a huge commercial success, playing to full houses for a continuous 82 performances. Set in Shanghai at a time of economic collapse, the film takes sardonic jabs at capitalism and mocks the cult of greed and deception in the business world.
"The Legend of Purple Hairpin" is one of the best Cantonese opera films ever made. Its testifies to the creative fertility of the artistic team that realised the work: Yam Kim-fai, Pak Suet-sin and Leung Sing-po, stars of the Sin Fung Ming Opera Troupe, and Tong Tik-sang, its librettist, and director Lee Tit, who helmed the film adaptations. The film translates the star's performance to screen, retaining the operatic stylisation while adapting to the realism of film.
Starring Hung Sin Nui and the young Patrick Tse Yin, director Chun Kim's "The Rouge Tigress" offers one of the strongest female characters in Cantonese cinema. With a magnificently complex performance, Hung embodies the title character, who methodically seduces both the man who forced her mother to suicide and his son, turning them against each other.
Director Chun's "How to Get a Wife" is as modernistic as a Cantonese film can get. The delightful comedy offers witty takes on office politics and heartfelt sympathy for the disreputable taxi-dancing profession. Starring Patrick Tse Yin and Patsy Kar Ling, the film is an example of urban sophistication on the rise in 1960s Hong Kong.
A landmark film in more ways than one, not only embodying the chaotic energy and moral confusion of the 1960s but also inspiring the hero film of the 1980s, "Story of a Discharged Prisoner" unequivocally establishes Lung Kong as an important director, his ability to work within the premises of Cantonese melodrama while also rising above it is a testament to his exceptional talent.
The brilliance of "A Touch of Zen" is an illustration of director King Hu's artistry in creating a work uniquely his own by bringing together diverse elements. Adapted from Pu Songling's ghost story "Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio", he invests political intrigue into it, animates it with choreographed martial arts, spices it up with Peking opera elements and tops it off with a touch of religious mysticism. And everything coalesces into a beautiful, magical mosaic. The stunning film won significant critical acclaim and is the first Chinese action film ever to win a prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
All the above films have English subtitles.
Other highlights that are in Mandarin or Cantonese but are not subtitled include director Richard Poh's "The Soul of China", which was considered lost after a showing in the early 1990s until a print in the United Kingdom was tracked down by the HKFA; "Mysterious Murder" which is one of Cantonese cinema's best "wenyi" dramas; "Blood-stained Azaleas", a film rare in 1950s, with a rich widow who seduces and then tries to corrupt an upstanding young man; "Wine, Women and Money" with Grace Chang playing a role that is polar opposite to that in "Mambo Girl"; director Chor Yuen's extraordinary film "Violet Girl" which blends suspense drama, detective story, romance and comedy; director Tso Kea's melodramas "Motherhood", "The Song of Love" and "The Story Between Hong Kong and Macau", and "Wong Fei-hung: The Duel Against the Black Rascal", one of the best in the long-running Kung Fu series starring master Kwan Tak-hin.
Tickets priced at $30 for screenings and $80 for lectures 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. Credit card bookings can be made on 2111 5999 or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be obtained in the brochure "ProFolio 56" distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139/2734 2900 or browse the websites: www.filmarchive.gov.hk or www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp .
Ends/Friday, December 31, 2010
A film still from "The Soul of China" (1948).
A film still from "Sorrows of the Forbidden City" (1948).
A film still from "Should They Marry?" (1951).
A film still from "The Legend of Purple Hairpin" (1959).
A film still from "How to Get a Wife" (1961).
A film still from "The Story Between Hong Kong and Macau" (1966).
A film still from "Wong Fei-hung: The Duel Against the Black Rascal" (1968).
A film still from "A Touch of Zen" (1971).