Ma Siu-ying and Lam Mui-mui were both memorable actresses who played shrews on the silver screen. Ma's embodiment of the evil mother-in-law and ruthless stepmother and Lam Mui-mui's roles as the scheming concubine and wicked woman displayed their genius. Veteran actor Lau Hark-suen was dubbed "The King of Villains" for his versatility in portraying various degrees of villainy, appearing in roles ranging from tyrants to small-time thugs. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Morning Matinee" will screen films with these three villain characters at 11am on Friday mornings in October and November.
"Two Screen Shrews: Ma Siu-ying and Lam Mui-mui" will be screened on October 5, 12, 19 and 26 at the Cinema of the HKFA. "Mother and Son in Grief" (1951) and "Second Spring" (1960) see Ma playing the bullish mother-in-law, while "Leung Foon and Lam Sai-wing" (1955) and "Pleasure Daughter" (1956) feature Lam as the cynical concubine and mean wife.
"The King of Villains: Lau Hark-suen" will be shown on November 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 with a line-up of "Midnight Bells" (1950), "Silver Phoenix" (1955), "How Chan Kwun Reprimanded Cho" (1957), "The Three Chivalrous Girls of the Northeast" (1961) and "A Detective's Affairs" (1962), all featuring Lau displaying various degrees of wickedness. Each of Lau's performances is ingenious, be it a good-for-nothing son, a wicked father-in-law, a violent warlord, a debt collector or a triad gangster.
A total of nine films from the 1950s and 1960s will be shown. The programme is guest curated by film researcher Yuen Tsz-ying.
Ma Siu-ying (1908-1978) and Lam Mui-mui (1912-1968), both started their careers in the 1930s and were character actresses who helped make Hong Kong cinema of the 1950s and 1960s golden and memorable. Ma became a Cantonese opera actor when she was 15 and made more than 500 films. The two inhabited the characters so completely that they brought a dangerous mix of ruthless, mean-spirited, overbearing and bullish behaviours into their roles.
In "Mother and Son in Grief", a widow played by Pak Yin is bullied by the blind matriarch Ma Siu-ying and her elder sister-in-law Lam Mui-mui. Ma gave an extraordinarily performance as a superstitious blind woman, particularly in the scene in which spirits are summoned in the hope of curing her son. Ma also played the domineering mother-in-law in "Second Spring", showing remarkable command of extreme emotions, moving from being a queen of hysterics to a Madonna of humility. As her fingers move along prayer beads and words of both praise and curses roll off her tongue, Ma is in a league of her own.
Lam's effortless delivery of edgy characters - most notably as a sassy siren or a spoiled-rotten kept woman - made her a rare breed. She plays the scheming concubine in "Leung Foon and Lam Sai-wing" with graceful, cynical, unruly and shrewish facets. In "Pleasure Daughter", she and comedian Leung Sing-po play a mean-spirited couple who switch to fawning and cooing overnight when they get wind of a huge inheritance that the maid (played by Fong Yim-fun) will collect.
Veteran actor Lau Hark-suen (1910-1983) acted in over 500 films. He is best known for his villainous roles, particularly in his signature rolling of the eyes before unleashing his menacing glare. One of the first students at the Guangdong Professional Union for Cantonese Opera Performers, Lau was a professional opera performer before entering the Hong Kong film industry with a role in "Mourning of the Chaste Tree Flower" (1934). In addition to acting, Lau directed seven films, many of which he also acted in. In his later years Lau became active in television, with the "Don't Look Now" series (1980) successfully transforming him into a kind, humorous father figure. Lau left behind a rich body of work that shows his invaluable contribution to Hong Kong's film and television world.
Lau is at his villainous best in "Midnight Bells", in which his character uses his family wealth to force a maiden to marry. With his signature evil glare, he even gets to unleash his character's menacing persona at Sek Kin - another legendary villain in Hong Kong cinema. Lau gave another splendid performance as an evil bully father-in-law in "Silver Phoenix", assisting his son to coerce Fong Yim-fun into his family and intending to force her into committing suicide once she gives birth.
Lau directed and acted in "How Chan Kwun Reprimanded Cho". In the film, he brilliantly brings the wicked legendary warlord Cho Cho to life with his signature eye roll and simple gestures. Just seeing the opera singing technique of Lau and Sun Ma Si-tsang is already worth the ticket price for any Cantonese opera enthusiast.
Starring alongside Wu Lai-chu, Yu So-chau, Mui Lan and Tso Tat-wah in "The Three Chivalrous Girls of the Northeast", Lau plays an infamous debt collector. Despite playing a wicked villain once again, Lau has a chance to stretch his comedic abilities. Decades before "Infernal Affairs" (2002) and "Election" (2005), "A Detective's Affairs" is a comedy of two undercovers, Woo Fung and Tang Bik-wan, who infiltrate the triad society in their investigation. Lau's comment in the film, "Unless there are fundamental changes, there is no way to completely get rid of the triads", is most remarkable.
All the films are in Cantonese. Tickets for "Two Screen Shrews: Ma Siu-ying and Lam Mui-mui" are now available at URBTIX outlets. Tickets for "The King of Villains: Lau Hark-suen" will be available from October 2 onwards. Tickets are priced at $20. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and their minders, 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 65" leaflet, which is distributed at all performance venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2011mm/2011mm_film.html .
Ends/Saturday, September 29, 2012
A film still from "Mother and Son in Grief" (1951).
A film still from "Second Spring" (1960).
A film still from "Leung Foon and Lam Sai-wing" (1955).
A film still from "Pleasure Daughter" (1956).
A film still from "Midnight Bells" (1950).
A film still from "Silver Phoenix" (1955).
A film still from "How Chan Kwun Reprimanded Cho" (1957).
A film still from "The Three Chivalrous Girls of the Northeast" (1961).
A film still from "A Detective's Affairs" (1962).