The multi-talented Wong Hok-sing was not only a Cantonese opera performer, but also a director who made nearly 200 Cantonese films, with most of them being lively Cantonese opera films. To support Cantonese Opera Day 2013, the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s new programme "Tribute to Wong Hok-sing" will screen two of the director's films.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the "Ten Brothers", a group of 10 Cantonese film directors including Wong Hok-sing, Mok Hong-si, Wu Pang, Lee Tit and others. The HKFA is presenting a retrospective on their works in its "Morning Matinee" programme. In addition, two films, "Emperor Zhengde's Night Visit to the Dragon and Phoenix Inn" (1958), starring Yam Kim-fai, Lai Yee and Fung Wong Nui, and "A Merry Maid" (1967), starring Connie Chan Po-chu and Ng Kwan-lai, will be screened at 2pm and 4.30pm respectively on November 24 as a tribute to director Wong.
Wong Hok-sing (1913-1994) picked up his craft at the Guangdong Professional Union for Cantonese Opera Performers. With experience working in troupes led by Sit Kok-sin and Ma Si-tsang, Wong became an up-and-coming Cantonese opera performer. While touring in the United States, he began working as a director for the Grandview Film Company, producing films like the colour film "White Powder and Neon Lights" (1947). In 1948, he returned to Hong Kong to continue his stage work, but he soon focused his career on directing Cantonese films and produced renowned films such as "Seven Phoenixes" (1961), "Romance of the Phoenix Chamber" (1962) and "The Pitiless Sword" (1964), as well as other contemporary films and comedies.
Wong retired from filmmaking in the late 1960s. Between the 1930s and the 1960s, Hong Kong provided an ideal environment for the crossing over of opera singers and filmmakers and nurtured unique filmmakers like Wong, whose career embodied the lively spirit of Hong Kong cinema and its entertaining Cantonese opera films.
A year before director Li Han-hsiang made his famous "huangmei diao" film "The Kingdom and the Beauty" (1959), director Wong's "Emperor Zhengde's Night Visit to the Dragon and Phoenix Inn" already featured the same folk story. In Wong's version, Yam Kim-fai plays the emperor who falls in love with a beautiful commoner, here played by Lai Yee, and chooses the beauty over his kingdom. Fung Wong Nui's superb performance as a jealous empress is among the film's highlights. Due to the damage on the film's original colour print, only the black and white version will be screened. However, the grand sets and elegant wardrobe created for the film can still be seen clearly on the big screen.
Cantonese films lost their popularity in the late 1960s. "A Merry Maid" was the last spark before Wong's retirement. The film starred Connie Chan Po-chu as the legendary scholar Lun Man-chui, and the actress is at her spunky best when Lun faces off against other literary scholars in battles of words. Equally impressive were Ng Kwan-lai in her role as the clever housemaid and So Siu-tong playing the smart scholar Lau Sin-hoi. Wong's filmmaking style is simple yet always interesting, creating elegant images to fill his widescreen frame.
Both films are in Cantonese and without subtitles.
Tickets are available at URBTIX and will be sold out soon. Detailed programme information can be found in "ProFolio 69", distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2734 2900 or 2739 2139, or browse the webpage: www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2013op/2013op_index.html .
Ends/Friday, November 15, 2013
Issued at HKT 18:50
A film still of "Emperor Zhengde's Night Visit to the Dragon and Phoenix Inn" (1958).
A film still of "A Merry Maid" (1967).