A cult director with a special vision and a distinctive style, Kuei Chih-hung was one of Hong Kong cinema's foremost innovators in the 1970s. Sensational, excessive and exploitative, Kuei's Shaw Brothers films express a profound concern for social injustice. He was also a pioneer in location shooting, using the streets of Hong Kong and public housing estates to create an authentic backdrop.
The retrospective "Kuei Chih-hung, the Rebel in the System", co-curated by the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) and the 35th Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) will show nine cherished films by director Kuei from April 10 to May 28 at the Cinema of the HKFA. The programme also forms part of HKFA's celebration activities for its 10th anniversary this year.
The selected films to be screened include the director's gangland films "The Delinquent" (1973), "The Teahouse" (1974); the thriller "The Killer Snakes" (1974); the reality-based crime films "The Deaf Mute Killer" (1976) and "Arson" (1977); the martial arts classic "Killer Constable" (1980); the witchcraft horrors "Hex" (1980), "Hex after Hex" (1982) and "The Boxer's Omen" (1983).
To complement the screenings, the new bilingual publication "Kuei Chih-hung, the Rebel in the System" priced at $54, is now available at the HKFA. A seminar on "The Films of Kuei Chih-hung", conducted in Cantonese, will be held at 4.30pm on May 8 at the Cinema of HKFA.
Co-directed by Chang Cheh and Kuei Chih-hung, "The Delinquent" is a fierce proto-thriller with smart action and experimental lensing set in the mean streets and housing estates, making it a forerunner to Hong Kong cinema's "New Wave".
A shock-and-gore epic with a cult reputation, "The Killer Snakes" features a Yau Ma Tei shack loner who is perpetually bullied, leading him to use snakes to exact a venomous revenge. Star Kam Kwok-leung stuns and appalls in an uncompromising role, by turns tugging on audience's sympathy and violating all tenets of good taste.
In the milestone triad movie "The Teahouse", delinquent kids expect a slap on the wrist for their crimes, the rich assume they are above the law and gangsters stake out their turf in housing estates that are still under construction. Quickly followed by "Big Brother Cheng" (1975), Kuei's efforts reveal a troubling and pessimistic picture of the city's developing fringe society.
Real-life Hong Kong horrors are the focus of "The Criminals", a five-part compendium of crime shorts with Kuei Chih-hung serving as principal contributor. Joining the series in Part II with "The Deaf Mute Killer", Kuei elevated his efforts to shock cinema with black-and-white aesthetics, giving a bleak though sympathetic 1950s-set account of a helpless young villager who is wrongly accused of rape and driven to a bloody confrontation with the law. In Part III "Arson", Kuei revisits a 1976 firebomb attack on a nightclub and the tense investigation that follows.
"Killer Constable" is the only "wuxia" film directed by Kuei. The Empress Dowager's ruthless security chief is tasked to reclaim the stolen palace treasure, only to find his followers bumped off one by one and have his faith in the system shaken by the horrors and corruption he witnesses. Kuei's elaborate swordplay saga draws on the Shaw Brothers studio's martial-arts pedigree and pushes forward with a tough emotional core of honour and moral quandary.
"Hex" is a sordid tale of sorcery showdowns, featuring outrageous monster effects and whacked-out images. A new housemaid turns up for work at the rocky household of a sick wife and foul-tempered husband, and melodrama ensues. Kuei turns the third installment in this series, "Hex after Hex", into a goofy comedy by mixing gambling thrills and horror spills.
"The Boxer's Omen" is another film with outrageous monster effects, flying heads, stop motion, exaggerated optical distortions and, between sorcery showdowns and shower scenes, hints of cynicism in a sordid tale.
All films are in Cantonese with English subtitles.
"The Killer Snakes", "The Teahouse", "Arson" and "Hex" are classified as Category III and only ticket holders aged 18 and above will be admitted.
Tickets priced at $30 are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price 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 at 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be obtained in the "ProFolio 57" distributed at all performance venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 / 2734 2900 or browse the website: www.filmarchive.gov.hk or www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp.
Ends/Friday, April 8, 2011
A film still from "The Delinquent" (1973).
A film still from "The Deaf Mute Killer" (1976).
A film still from "Killer Constable" (1980).
A film still from "Hex after Hex" (1982).
A film still from "The Boxer's Omen" (1983).
A film still from "The Teahouse" (1974).
A film still from "Hex" (1980).