Renowned Cantonese opera artist Hung Sin Nui (1927-2013) was a legend in the world of the arts. Although she is best remembered for her unique "Nui Qiang" singing style, she was also a natural born movie star. Whether playing a modern woman, a dutiful wife or darker characters, she performed marvellously and left many memorable images in Cantonese movies. As a tribute to this great artist, who passed away recently, the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s Special Matinee in February and March will present the retrospective "A Myriad of Charm - In Commemoration of Hung Sin Nui" to showcase Hung's inspiring performances on-screen.
"A Myriad of Charm - In Commemoration of Hung Sin Nui" will screen on Saturdays and Sundays on February 15 and 16 and March 1, 2, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23. The films to be shown respectively are "The Judge Goes to Pieces" (1948), "Poor Mother" (1951), "Girl in Red" (1952), "A Mother's Tears" (1953), "Mutual Understanding" (1954), "Eternal Love" (1955), "The Rouge Tigress" (1955), "Wilderness" (1956) and "Romance at the West Chamber" (1956).
The HKFA will also hold an exhibition from February 14 to June 2 at the 1/F Lobby of the HKFA. Admission to the exhibition is free.
Named after a glamorous female warrior of Tang dynasty literature, Hung lived a life that was nothing short of legendary. On the eve of World War II, the 10-year-old Kwong Kin-lim took up the stage name Siu Yin Hung and became a disciple of her aunt, Cantonese opera performer Ho Fu-lin. At the age of 13, opera star Leng Siu-fung changed that stage name to Hung Sin Nui. To escape the fires of war, Hung roamed across the country with opera troupes. In the process, she met Cantonese opera staple Ma Si-tsang. The pair became the opera world's star couple upon their return to Hong Kong after the war.
Hung was already a major Cantonese opera star at the young age of 20. In 1947, she took up screen acting in the films "Unforgettable Love" and "I'm Crazy About You". When playing a modern woman or a dutiful wife, Hung exuded the aura of a gentle, virtuous woman with the will to stand up to any obstacle in her way. Her moving performances created some of the most unforgettable moments in Cantonese classics.
In 1955, Hung accompanied Ma Si-tsang back to the Mainland to lead the Guangdong Opera Troupe, promoting and evolving the art of Cantonese opera. Despite suffering during the Cultural Revolution, Hung eventually returned to the opera world. Nicknamed "Red Bean of the South", Hung helped to elevate Cantonese opera from a local folk tradition to an important traditional art form with government recognition.
In 1985, Hung received the Outstanding Artist Award from the Asia Society's Center of Performing Arts and an Outstanding Artist Award from the United Nations, and she later received further awards and recognition. In 1998, the Guangzhou city government established the Hung Sin Nui Art Center in Hung's honour. Hung lived a life filled with ups and downs, but her strong will carried her through tough times and made her remarkable in the world of the arts.
The period comedy "The Judge Goes to Pieces" is based on a classic Beijing opera work and was adapted as Cantonese opera by Ma Si-tsang. The film features Hung's art of singing at its height, Ma's whimsical acting and singing, and plenty of smart and well-timed dialogue from the ever-quarrelling couple.
In "Poor Mother", Hung embodies three personas - a shy young girl, a bullied concubine and a humble servant - and she manoeuvres through all three of them at ease to create a sincere performance.
In director Lee Tit's "Girl in Red", Hung plays a charming taxi dancer who is a woman of simple vanity, spoiled by flattery and intoxicated by the lifestyle of her trade. In director Lee's "Eternal Love", Hung also plays a woman facing her fate. In this film, Hung stars as a girl of humble origins who faces her fate with her head up, a role that perhaps resonated with Hung's real-life personality.
Adapted from a hit radio drama, director Chun Kim's "A Mother's Tears" was a phenomenal blockbuster. In the film, Hung is left alone to bring up her children. The eldest son is a spoilt brat who goes astray, the daughter is a materialistic girl and only the youngest son is positive and hardworking. With her exceptional performance, Hung enlivened the role of a mother who dedicates her life to her children. In director Chun's melodrama "Mutual Understanding", which features the conflict between a wife and her mother-in-law, the striking performances of Hung, Cheung Ying and Wong Man-lei make the film a timeless classic about an age-old conflict.
In director Lee Tit's "Girl in Red", Hung plays a charming taxi dancer who is a woman of simple vanity, spoiled by flattery and intoxicated by the lifestyle of her trade.
Chun Kim directed "The Rouge Tigress" as the Kong Ngee film company's debut work. The film sees Hung play a young songstress consumed with a desire to avenge her mother's death. She methodically seduces the heartless man responsible for her mother's death as well as the man's son, turning them against each other, and runs away with her lover, played by the up-and-coming Patrick Tse Yin. The versatile Hung turns in a magnificently complex performance embodying both the beauty and the verve suggested by the title. In "Wilderness", adapted from a drama work by Cao Yu, Ng Cho-fan displays his usual brilliance as a bigoted man with a grudge, but the major highlight comes in Hung's performance as a charming yet shrewish ex-lover who shines bright in this dark thriller.
"Romance at the West Chamber" was the first Cantonese opera film of Union Film. Based on the popular drama of the same title, the film is marked by its highly cinematic mise-en-scene, staging scenes with naturalistic settings, fluid camera movements and editing that highlight the storytelling capacities of framing. The actors meanwhile tone down their more stylised moves, resulting in graceful opera-lite motions that enrich the film experience. This is a rare Cantonese opera film that features Hung and a precious record of her craft before she left Hong Kong.
All films are in Cantonese without subtitles. Post-screening talks in Cantonese will be conducted by Shu Kei and Mary Wong.
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 . For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2014sm/2014sm_index.html .
Ends/Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:35
A film still of "The Judge Goes to Pieces" (1948).
A film still of "Poor Mother" (1951).
A film still of "Girl in Red" (1952).
A film still of "A Mother's Tears" (1953).
A film still of "Mutual Understanding" (1954).
A film still of "Eternal Love" (1955).
Film still of "The Rouge Tigress" (1955).
A film still of "Romance at the West Chamber" (1956).
A film still of "Wilderness" (1956).