With its dual commitment to artistic excellence and the moral responsibilities of filmmaking, the Union Film Enterprise (Union Film) transformed Cantonese and Hong Kong cinema in the 1950s and became one of the most important companies in the history of Hong Kong film. Indeed, Union Film stands out in Cantonese cinema's "golden era", along with its famous motto "All for One and One for All", taken from the classic "In the Face of Demolition" (1953).
To celebrate the Hong Kong Film Archive's (HKFA) 10th anniversary and as a contribution to the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF), the HKFA has organised the retrospective "All for One and One for all: Union Film" to showcase Union Film's glorious work. Counter bookings are now available at all URBTIX outlets.
Twenty-two productions by Union Film will be shown during the HKIFF from March 20 to April 5 and the full catalogue of 44 films will be shown from April 9 to May 29. All screenings will be held at the Cinema of the HKFA.
Films with English subtitles include the adaptations of Ba Jin's novel "Torrent Trilogy": "Family", "Spring" and "Autumn"; film adaptations of foreign literature in "An Orphan's Tragedy", "Eternal Love" and "Anna"; films featuring family values "Love (Part 1)", "Love, the Sequel" and "Parent's Hearts", and films on social realism "In the Face of Demolition", "Sworn Sisters" and "The More the Merrier".
"Family" (1953), which launched the Union Film legacy, "Spring" (1953) and "Autumn" (1954) are adaptations of Ba Jin's highly regarded novel "Torrent Trilogy". In "Family", director Ng Wui skilfully condenses the voluminous first part of the novel into an emotionally powerful and intellectually focused story of youngsters struggling to survive oppression and repression in a feudalistic family. This well-received film quickly established the company's reputation.
In the second chapter "Spring", director Lee Sun-fung reworked the novel's structure to streamline its dramatic impact, realising the story with several evocatively staged scenes that string together the sorrowful developments of the characters' lives. In the trilogy's final instalment "Autumn", director Chun Kim manages to mould an emotionally intense story that animates the sadness and triumphs of a generation grappling with a stifling social order.
One of the most cherished of the tenement films, "In the Face of Demolition" (1953), a story of families and individuals sharing a partitioned flat, powerfully depicts the living conditions and human interactions of post-war Hong Kong. A rare gem about an underprivileged sector of society, "Sworn Sisters" (1954) is the tale of five live-in maids, one of the lowliest professions in Hong Kong. Each woman has her unique personality and life story, and when combined, their lives offer a vivid portrait of society.
An emphasis on quality script is a Union Film hallmark, illustrated by the company's eagerness to adapt foreign literature and transplant the stories onto Chinese soil. "An Orphan's Tragedy" (1955) reworks Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" by focusing on class inequality and the corruption of the feudalistic order. In its early segments the film features child actors Bruce Lee and Josephine Siao Fong-fong.
Based on Theodore Dreiser's novel "Sister Carrie", "Eternal Love" (1955) switches to 1950s Hong Kong and Macau and is a prime example of Union Film's excellence in adapting literary work. It portrays how a man’s pursuit of happiness is repeatedly thwarted by cruel fate during changing times. Another excellent adaptation is "Anna" (1955), adapted from Leo Tolstoy's voluminous "Anna Karenina", with the courageous heroine transformed into a traditional Chinese woman, victimised by a feudalistic order that refuses to fade away.
"Love (Part 1)" (1955) is a commemorative production that marks the second anniversary of Union Film, depicting parental love and sisterly loyalty. Part II "Love, the Sequel" (1955), features family bonds, marriage ties, romantic love and kindness to strangers. The two-part omnibus film is team-directed by the company's directors and features an all-star cast.
"Parents' Hearts" (1955) is one of the best Hong Kong films on parent-child relationships. It is the tale of a modern nuclear family, struggling to find a better future for its children. On another perspective, "The More the Merrier" (1955) is a contemplation on the meaning of child bearing, filtered through the story of several families troubled by their inability to have children or their inability to stop having children.
Other films, in Cantonese but without English subtitles, include: "A Son is Born", "Story of Father and Son", "Big Thunderstorm", "The Wall", "A Beautiful Corpse Comes to Life", "Romance at the West Chamber", "The Precious Lotus Lamp", the sequel and part three, "Money", "A Home of a Million Gold", "Blood Money", "Long Live Money", "The Water Margin Booty Captured", "Adultery", "Murderer in Town", "A Borrowed Bride", "The Cruel Husband", "Autumn Comes to Crape Myrtle Garden", "The Tormented Beauty", "Road", "Human Relationships", "Wonderful Partners", "We Want to Live", "Humanity", "The Cruel Hand", "The Fairy", "The Bloody Sucker", "The House of Murders", "Sea", "Under Hong Kong's Roof" and "The Bloody Paper-man".
To complement the screenings, an exhibition titled "The Union Spirit: One for All" will be held from March 18 to May 29 at the Exhibition Hall of HKFA. Film posters, photos and synopses will be displayed under the themes, "Literary Adaptations", "Nightmares of War", "Costume Classics" and "Sketches of Humanity". Admission is free.
HKFA's new publication, "One for All: The Union Film Spirit", with an English edition in CD-ROM will be released in late March, featuring essays contributed by renowned writers and scholars looking at Union Film and its work from various perspectives, by turns historical, aesthetic and cultural.
Two seminars, "The Union Film Spirit" and "The Genre Films of Union Film", will be held at 4.30pm on April 16 and April 30 respectively at the Cinema of HKFA. Some of the screenings will have post-screening talks. The seminars and post-screening talks will be conducted in Cantonese. Admission is free.
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. Internet booking at www.urbtix.hk and credit card bookings at 2111 5999 for all screenings are now available.
Detailed information and various discounts can be obtained in the 35th HKIFF booking folder and the "ProFolio 57" 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/Wednesday, March 16, 2011
A film still from "In the Face of Demolition" (1953).
A film still from "Spring" (1953).
A film still from "Sworn Sisters" (1954).
A film still from "The More the Merrier" (1955).
A film still from "Murderer in Town" (1958).
A film still from "We Want to Live" (1960).