Ten famous, outstanding and prolific Cantonese film directors who swore to become the "Ten Brothers" out of fun 50 years ago made vast contributions to the Hong Kong film industry, churning out altogether more than 1 500 titles in their film careers. These 10 directors in order of seniority were Wong Toi, Mok Hong-si, Lung To, Wu Pang, Fung Chi-kong, Lee Tit, Ng Wui, Wong Hok-sing, Lo Yu-kei and Chu Kea. Besides making Cantonese films, they also directed films in Mandarin and the Chaozhou and Amoy dialects, and many of their films are classic works. As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the "Ten Brothers", the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Morning Matinee" will feature some of their classic works at 11am on Friday mornings from October to December to reminisce on and pay tribute to the 10 directors for their lifetime contributions to the film industry.
The "50th Anniversary to Hong Kong Cantonese Cinema's Ten Brothers" retrospective will screen on October 4, 11, 18 and 25 respectively "The Beautiful Heaven" (1964), directed by the "Ten Brothers"; Wong Toi's "How Jing-Ngo Slew the Tiger" (1960); Mok Hong-si's "False Alarm" (1962); and Lung To's "The Poor Child" (1960). On November 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, the films to be screened respectively will be Wu Pang's "South Dragon, North Phoenix" (1963), Fung Chi-kong's "The Story of Heroine Fan Lei-fa" (1968), Lee Tit's "The Feud" (1956), Ng Wui's "The Story of Sima Sheung-yu"(1957) and director Wong Hok-sing's "Prince Flying Dragon" (1960). Four other films to be screened on December 6, 13, 20 and 27 respectively are director Lo Yu-kei's "To Sell a Human Head" (1963); Chu Kea's "Follow the Husband" (1959); Mok Hong-si's "An Affair between a Man and a Ghost" (1965), made in the name of "Nine Brothers" in memory of their late "brother" Wong Toi; and "Let's Build a Family" (1969), made in memory of director Mok after his passing.
The 10 directors decided to become sworn brothers in 1963, when one of the directors was playing a drinking game with members of the "Nine Sisters", a coalition of nine actresses. Beaten by the nine of them, he jokingly said that he would form "Ten Brothers" with other directors and the pact-making ceremony was subsequently held at Sun Sun Restaurant on June 1. Over the years, they met on the ninth day of every month and together they founded the Ten Brothers Motion Picture Enterprise Co. This retrospective focuses mainly on period films starring famous opera and movie stars.
"The Beautiful Heaven" was a joint effort of the "Ten Brothers" and was completed within a few days with a star-studded cast including Ng Cho-fan, Pak Yin, Lam Fung, Tso Tat-wah, Yu So-chow and Yam Kim-fai, as well as the directors playing cameo roles. The comic acting of the ensemble cast and Leung Sing-po filled the omnibus plot with gags and made the film highly watchable. "How Jing-Ngo Slew the Tiger", a historical palace drama directed by Wong Toi, features the heroic deeds of a palace maid, Jing-ngo, in saving Princess Cheung-ping. The feather fan dance and sword dance performed by Ng Kwan-lai shows off her graceful figure and acrobatic skills. In "False Alarm", director Mok Hong-si, who was known as the "Master of Comedy", teamed up with the clown king Leung Sing-po as well as Cheng Kwun-min and Liu Enjia to make the film a hilarious comedy.
Director Lung To combined period drama about unjust cases with ghost scenes in "The Poor Child", and added a thrilling soundtrack to the film. The story sees a bad guy hire a killer to kill a man whose wife he covets. Lan Chi Pak, who plays Judge Bao, performs superbly and dominates the final scene with his powerful singing and operatic skills, and the acting of child star Fung Bo-bo and a monkey makes the story even more riveting. "South Dragon, North Phoenix" was one of the best works of veteran director Wu Pang, who was known as the "Father of Kung Fu Movies". It tells a story of heroes becoming friends through fighting. The film features stuntmen from both southern and northern schools. It is also the first film in which Lau Kar-leung and Tong Kai are credited as martial arts choreographers.
In "The Story of Heroine Fan Lei-fa", director Fung Chi-kong unprecedentedly cast superstar Connie Chan Po-chu as a swashbuckling heroine. She demonstrates her kung fu skills of the northern school as well as her singing. Another attraction of the film is Yu Kai, who demonstrates his special skill of wielding a cudgel. Director Lee Tit balanced melodrama and action in "The Feud". In addition to presenting spectacular fight scenes, he renders Pak Suet-sin's expressions as even more charming and coquettish with meticulous close-ups.
Based on a Cantonese opera, director Ng Wui's adapted film "The Story of Sima Sheung-yu" retains the most moving key scenes of the source opera. Ng always shot Cantonese opera films in the form of stage documentaries, and in this film he brought the elegant characters played by Ho Fei-fan and the charming Mui Yee to life on the big screen. In a departure from his usual style, director Wong Hok-sing focused on melodrama and moral beliefs in "Prince Flying Dragon". Yam Kim-fai plays Prince Fei-lung and Lam Kar-sing plays his unruly son, who throws his mother down a well and seals it with a giant boulder.
In director Lo Yu-kei's "To Sell a Human Head", Leung Sing-po plays an oriental Robin Hood based in Chicken-claw Mountain. The complex plot is full of characters with different personalities, like the chivalrous brothers played by Kwan Hoi-shan and Yu Kai and the feminine roles of Lam Fung and Chan Ho-kau, all aiming to expose corrupt officials. "Follow the Husband" was the last film starring Fong Yim-fun before her marriage. Director Chu Kea cast an ensemble of veteran and character actors, making the film rowdy and hilarious.
"An Affair between a Man and a Ghost" was directed by Mok Hong-si and made in the name of the "Nine Brothers" in memory of their late "brother" Wong Toi. It features a concubine, played by Law Yim-hing, being pushed down a cliff by her husband's wife. She returns as a ghost to take revenge and finally is able to reunite with her son. Similarly, "Let's Build a Family" was made in the name of the "Eight Brothers" in memory of director Mok after his passing, but in fact the film was directed by Mok's apprentice Yeung Kuen. Based on Mok's classic work "Crossroads" (1955), it features four households in a shared apartment, resulting in a series of hilarious events.
The "Morning Matinee" series is guest-curated by film researcher Yuen Tsz-ying. "South Dragon, North Phoenix" is in both Cantonese and Mandarin while the other films are in Cantonese. All are without subtitles.
Tickets priced at $20 are available at URBTIX. 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 69" 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/Monday, September 16, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:30
A film still of "The Beautiful Heaven" (1964).
A film still of "How Jing-Ngo Slew the Tiger" (1960).
A film still of "False Alarm" (1962).
A film still of "The Poor Child" (1960).
A film still of "The Story of Heroine Fan Lei-fa" (1968).
A film still of "Prince Flying Dragon" (1960).
A film still of "To Sell a Human Head" (1963).
A film still of "Let's Build a Family" (1969).