One can see the world differently from the standpoint of a child. Through innocent eyes, life can be exciting, full of pleasant surprises; it can also be lonely, bitter, melancholic and absurd, where dreams can be lost and found. "Through the Innocent Eyes - Filmmakers on Childhood" features masterpieces by eight film directors, each with his own style and notions, and what each film has in common is the sense of the sincere and pure heart of an artist.
Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the eight films from different eras will be screened from June 4-25 at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive and the Lecture Halls of the Hong Kong Space Museum and the Hong Kong Science Museum.
The selected films on childhood include Charles Chaplin's classic "The Kid", a silent film with laughter and tears; Albert Lamorisse's "The Red Balloon", a beautiful film with romantic imagination; "The Night of the Hunter", which witnesses the complicated adult world through a child's naive eyes; François Truffaut's touching autobiographical film "The 400 Blows"; Andrei Tarkovsky's poetic masterpiece "Ivan's Childhood"; Ken Loach's "Kes" portraying the genuine life of the British lower class; the Swedish film "My Life as a Dog", on episodes of a child's growing up; and the charismatic "The White Balloon" from Iran, depicting the sadness and happiness of children living in deprived environments.
With unique cinematic images, these films are not only touching but also enable audiences to understand more about life in different countries and the arduous and intricate paths of children growing up.
To complement the screenings, a seminar entitled "Childhood in Films" will be held at 4.30pm on June 19 at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Space Museum. Speakers will include film critics Mr Law Kar, Ms Wong Ain-ling and Mr Fung Ka-ming. The seminar will be conducted in Cantonese and admission will be free.
Charles Chaplin's first feature film, "The Kid" (1921), was not slapstick but a melodrama with laughter, tears and social criticism. A vagabond and an abandoned kid are like father and son. They try to make a living but often bump into bad guys, policemen and social workers. The birth mother starts looking for her child once she gets rich. There are touching scenes when the mother and child meet but do not know each other, and when a social worker tries to snatch the boy from his adoptive father. The film was a box office hit when it was first released. The director and actors are so lively that the film still feels refreshing after so many years.
Director Albert Lamorisse, a genius who died young, made use of beautiful images in "The Red Balloon" (1956) to demonstrate his artist's mind and imagination, which were as pure and boundless as those of a child. The red balloon goes out with the child, and they jump, play, misbehave and share adventures and experiences together through the bustling city as close friends. Humour, sadness, irony and romantic feelings abound in the film. Even without any dialogue, the 34-minute movie is of such infinite interest that it has won numerous international awards including the Golden Palm for Best Short Film at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival and Best Original Screenplay in the 1957 Academy Awards.
Political white terror in the 1950s suppressed free thought in the United States, and McCarthyism introduced anti-communist censorship and persecution in the arts and culture sector. As a response to the restrictions, many noir films were made during this period to depict the dark side of human nature and society. "The Night of the Hunter" (1955) features a missionary preaching in villages and towns in the name of love, but he is actually pursuing his own selfish interests and creating hatred and fear. Through the naive eyes of a little brother and sister, the horrible darkness of the adult world and the injury done to innocent women and children by hypocrisy are exposed. Director Charles Laughton tells a fable of love and hatred with expressive technique and exaggerated contrast to highlight the eerie forms of things.
The French New Wave director François Truffaut achieved instant fame with his debut film "The 400 Blows" (1959), the first of five pictures chronicling the growth of Antoine Doinel. It is also a projection of Truffaut's own childhood, the lack of parents' love and care, the seeking of comfort from friendship, novels and films, and the perplexing flight from home to chase warmth and freedom. Everybody has his childhood stories, yet Truffaut could tell them in such a vivid and relaxed manner, with self-reflection but not self-pity, with sincerity but not overstatement. The film won Best Director at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and was named Best Foreign Language Film in the 1959 New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
Russian film master Andrei Tarkovsky showed his exceptional talent in his first film, "Ivan's Childhood" (1962). It features a 12-year-old orphan who volunteers to fight against the enemy because his whole family was killed by the Nazis. His will and confidence are stronger than those of adults, yet he is fragile when he sees his mother in dreams. The film was originally someone else's work. Tarkovsky rewrote the script to make it a stunning film with haunting and poetic images. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1962.
Selected by the British Film Institute as one of the 10 Best British Films of the Century, director Ken Loach's "Kes" (1969) vividly and incisively exposes the deep conflicts of the working class. It portrays a 15-year-old Billy surrounded by people with no hope in life, and his own existence is thus hopeless and directionless until the appearance of the falcon Kes. The nurturing and training of Kes rekindles the boy's dreams and hopes. The film won Best Supporting Actor and Most Promising Newcomer at the BAFTA Film Awards in 1971 and the Best British Screenplay Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award in 1971.
Set in a Swedish town in the 50s, Lasse Hallström's "My Life as a Dog" (1985) is a touching story about growth, with the director's emotions filling every single frame. When his mother is gravely ill, the mischievous adolescent Ingemar has to move to a relative's home and is forced to learn how to face life, death, love and even sex. It seems like an ordinary story, yet the narration teems with sweetness and bitterness. The film won Best Foreign Language Film in the 1987 New York Film Critics Circle Awards and Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes in 1988.
"The White Balloon" (1995) was written by the Iranian cinema master Abbas Kiarostami for his student, Jafar Panahi, to make his debut. The story is simple, the tone light-hearted, yet the details are charismatic and exquisite. A little girl who has begged and managed to get some money from her mother sets off to buy her favourite goldfish on New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, amid the hustle and bustle, she loses the money and has to ask strangers for help. Through the eyes of the child, the director reflects on urbanites and the audience cheers and cries over the girl's innocence, stupidity and bravery. The film won the Golden Camera at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995 and Best Foreign Language Film in the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in 1996.
English subtitles or intertitles are provided for the films.
Tickets priced at $55 are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made at 2111 5999 or via the Internet at www.urbtix.hk. Detailed programme information can be obtained in a leaflet distributed at all URBTIX outlets. For enquiries, please call 2734 2900 or browse the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp.
Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2011
A film still from "The Kid" (1921).
A film still from "The Night of the Hunter" (1955).
A film still from "Kes" (1969).
A film still from "My Life as a Dog" (1985).