Hong Kong cinema and Cantonese opera have long had a close-knit relationship characterised by mutual influence. In the early years of Chinese-language cinema, most of the opera veterans were also stars of the silver screen.
To support Cantonese Opera Day 2011, the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s new programme "Screening Opera" will show four films featuring some of the most beloved stars of stage and screen such as Yam Kim-fai, Pak Suet-sin, Fong Yim-fun, Fung Wong-nui, Mak Bing-wing, Leung Sing-po, Lam Kar-sing and Lan Chi-pak. The programme will provide an interesting glimpse of the complex relationship between Hong Kong cinema and Cantonese opera and has been guest curated by film critic Mr Bryan Chang.
"Screening Opera" will be held on November 27 at the Cinema of the HKFA. The films to be shown are director Tong Tik-sang's "The Story of Tung Siu-yuen" (1950); "The Lion's Roar" (1959), starring Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin; "The Impartial and Incorruptible Bao Gong" (1967), starring Lam Kar-sing, Leung Sing-po and Lan Chi-pak; and director Fung Fung's "Ten Years Dream" (1961), starring Fung Wong-nui and Mak Bing-wing. All the films are in Cantonese without English subtitles.
To complement the screenings, a seminar entitled "Film & Cantonese Opera" will be held on November 27 at 5pm at the Cinema of the HKFA. The programmer of the HKFA, Mr Sam Ho, and Mr Chang will be the speakers. The seminar will be conducted in Cantonese. Admission is free.
Directed by the great opera librettist Tong Tik-sang, "The Story of Tung Siu-yuen" is surprisingly light on opera touches. Tong tells the story less with opera devices like song and choreography and more with the cinematic apparatus, making use of lighting, composition and editing to create drama. The graceful performance of Cantonese opera star Fong Yim-fun, sharing the screen with Wong Chin-sui and Wong Hok-sing, vividly portrays the embattled life of a Han lady in a male-dominated society.
The battle between the sexes is a favourite theme of Cantonese opera. The comedy "The Lion's Roar" tells the much-loved story of a husband's attempt to subjugate his spouse. The film generates its drama largely through filmic animation of opera aesthetics, striking a fine balance between the two art forms. It is also noted for the chemistry between the opera stars Yam Kim-fai and Pak Suet-sin.
Judge Bao stories are popular fodder for Cantonese opera. In "The Impartial and Incorruptible Bao Gong", a merchant played by Leung Sing-po is murdered by a potter, who places his ashes in a black urn. The victim's aggrieved spirit reveals itself to a scholar played by Lam Kar-sing and a woman martial artist played by Ng Kwan-lai, who team up to help him find justice at Judge Bao's court. The film is a fantastic blend of opera essentials and film techniques, with traditional staging and acrobatics mixed with fanciful montage.
Mak Bing-wing and Fung Wong-nui were a popular romantic team on the opera stage and the movie screen with their performances mostly depicting affectionate feuding between lovers. "Ten Years Dream" is an inspired variation of this routine, in which both characters are blind and fall in love without seeing each other. When their eyesight is restored, they cannot recognise each other. Director Fung Fung presents the film with a self-conscious acknowledgement of its opera dimension, opening and closing most scenes with stage-like tableau compositions, complete with curtains on both sides.
Tickets priced at $30 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 found in "ProFolio 60", distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900, or browse the webpage www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2011so/2011so_index.html.
Ends/Monday, November 21, 2011
A film still from "The Lion's Roar" (1959).
A film still from "Ten Years Dream" (1961).
A film still from "The Impartial and Incorruptible Bao Gong" (1967).