With themes like pursuing small-time dreams and courting girls, Cheng Kwun-min's Cantonese songs are still popular today. Cheng, who was also an actor, earned the nickname "Elvis Presley of the East" with his stylish pompadour hairstyle, charming smile and cashew-shaped eyes, as well as his playful mannerisms and superb talent in playing villainous and comedic roles. To commemorate the passing of Uncle Min two decades ago, the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) "Morning Matinee" series, which is being held at 11am on Friday mornings, will present in August and September a retrospective entitled "Elvis Presley of the East - Cheng Kwun-min" to showcase a wide range of Cheng's memorable works.
The films to be shown respectively on August 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 will be "Save Your Water Supply" (1954), "Two Good-for-Nothings" (1959), "An Orphan Was Born in Thunderstorm" (1960), "The Song of the Nightingale" (1961) and "Every Day is Sunday" (1974). On September 5, 12, 19 and 26, the films to be shown will be "Glass Slippers" (1959), "Woman's Affairs" (1961), "The Bloody Devil, Part One" (1965) and "Charlie Catches the Cat" (1969).
Uncle Min came from a well-to-do family and, against his family's wishes, he entered a theatre troupe and later joined Radio Macau as an announcer. He participated in more than 200 films. He played mostly villainous parts early in his career and switched later to comedic roles. He began acting in television in the 1960s and gained even greater popularity. In addition to acting, Cheng also became a local cultural icon as a popular Cantopop singer, performing Cantonese covers of popular Western songs and Cantonese opera songs with English lyrics. His music was known for its down-to-earth, grass-roots flavour.
The retrospective will cover different genres. The five screenings in August will showcase Cheng's villainous roles. In "Save Your Water Supply", Cheng plays a mean-spirited man who has a constant battle with neighbours in getting fresh water during the days of water rationing. He is at his best with this charismatic but despicable playboy role. In "Two Good-for-Nothings", Cheng is the son of a paper shop owner and always plays tricks on people. Starring comedians Tang Kei-chen and Sun Ma Si-tsang, the comedy is full of laughter and fun. Uncle Min is at his most deliciously evil as the conniving family patriarch in "An Orphan Was Born in Thunderstorm". The screen lights up when he partners with Fung Wong Nui's mouthy and rude matriarch.
Based on a novel by Li Ngaw, the twist-filled melodrama "The Song of the Nightingale" sees Cheng go from being a wealthy heir to becoming a poor, desperate scammer. In "Every Day is Sunday", Cheng play a disreputable con artist whose cheating tactics are more funny than vile. As the producer of this film, Cheng exhausted his connections to bring in popular television actors for cameos in this starry comedy.
The four films in September incorporate Cheng as the hero or the comic relief. "Glass Slippers" is a remake of "Cinderella" with Cheng giving a hilarious performance as an incompetent secretary, delivering long-winded, tongue-twisting dialogue that frustrates other characters but tickles the audience's funny bone. In "Woman's Affairs", Uncle Min plays the dutiful errand boy of a wealthy woman and is game to take on all the embarrassing things thrown at him by the director. Starring Connie Chan Po-chu and Josephine Siao Fong-fong, "The Bloody Devil, Part One" has Cheng playing a martial arts mentor similar to his previous classic role of Haunted Spirit Old Man in "Moslem Sacred Fire Decree" (1965). Cheng's performance as a happy-go-lucky painter's disciple with worn baggy pants and oversized shoes in "Charlie Catches the Cat" is equally great, this time with Cheng emulating Charlie Chaplin.
The "Morning Matinee" series is guest-curated by film researcher Yuen Tsz-ying. All films are in Cantonese with no 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 73" 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/Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:31
A film still of "Two Good-for-Nothings" (1959).
A film still of "An Orphan Was Born in Thunderstorm" (1960).
A film still of "The Song of the Nightingale" (1961).
A film still of "Every Day is Sunday" (1974).
A film still of "Glass Slippers" (1959).
A film still of "Woman's Affairs" (1961).
A film still of "The Bloody Devil, Part One" (1965).
A film still of "Charlie Catches the Cat" (1969).