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Counter bookings for "Novel * Drama * Melodrama" now available

Melodrama, tragedy, poverty, social differences and family crisis are images often associated with Cantonese films of the fifties and sixties. But over the next few months, audiences will be able to enjoy another side of Cantonese filmmaking, with classics such as "Anna", "Sunrise" and "The Lone Swan". These films, with their lavish scenery, exquisite costumes and sophisticated stars like Pak Yin, Mui Yee, Cheung Ying, Ng Cho-fan, bring a world of glamour to the big screen.

As its contribution to this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF), the Hong Kong Film Archive has organised a retrospective, "Novel * Drama * Melodrama", to showcase 40 Cantonese and Mandarin literary adaptation films. The films will be shown at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive from April 6 to June 13.

The retrospective comprises two sections. Twenty-five Cantonese classics will be screened during the HKIFF from April 6 to 30, and 15 Mandarin classics will be featured in the second instalment from May 1 to June 13. Counter bookings for the Cantonese movies start today (March 25) at all URBTIX outlets, and bookings for the second series will start on April 1.

A three-month exhibition at the Exhibition Hall of the film archive from April 9 to July 1 will complement the screenings, as will related seminars and workshops and a publication on veteran director Lee Sun-fung. The activities aim to enhance audiences' understanding of the relationship between Hong Kong cinema and literature.

The Cantonese classics screened during the HKIFF include melodramas adapted from Chinese and Western classics by Ba Jin, Cao Yu, Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy.

Highlights include the works of director Lee Sun Fung, "It was A Cold Winter Night" (1955) and "Anna" (1955), both starring Pak Yin, the Greta Garbo of Cantonese cinema. With her deep, husky voice, she plays superbly either a tough, open-minded new woman or a woman trapped in a miserable marriage.

The classic masterpiece, "In the Face of Demolition" (1953) by director Lee Tit, is a realistic drama focused on neighbours helping each other. A young Bruce Lee gives a captivating performance as a newspaper boy. Tit's talent is also reflected in the tragic "Everlasting Love" (1955) and "Father is Back" (1961), both starring Ng cho-fan.

Other features include "An Orphan's Tragedy" (1955), which is a contemporary version of Dickens' "Great Expectations", "Love and Passion" (1964) by Wong Yiu, and "Winter Love" (1968), which makes extensive use of European film techniques to lend a Western flavour to the story adapted from Yee Tat's popular novel.

The 15 Mandarin works include "A Widow's Tears" (1956), which features actress Hsia Moon at her best, and director Zhu Shilin's last work, "Garden of Repose" (1964), which is based on Ba Jin's novel.

Based on Guy de Maupassant's novel, the comedy, "The Story of a Fur Coat" (1956), stars Grace Chang and Peter Chen Ho. In "The Long Lane" (1956), Chang plays the role of King Hu's sister in a feudal tale about the need for a son to be the family heir.

Li Han-hsiang's directorial debut, "Blood in Snow" (1956), successfully recreates the streets and alleys of old Beijing within the confines of a studio. The film is enriched by the folk traditions and street culture of northern China.

"Sorrows of the Forbidden City" (1948) is regarded by many as the first and possibly the finest of a genre of Hong Kong-produced Qing Court dramas focusing on palace intrigue. Shaw Brothers' later production "The Empress Dowager" is set in the same period.

Based on Tolstoy's "Resurrection", the story of "An Unfaithful Woman" (1949), is conveyed in flashbacks by actress Bau Guang, and the tale is complemented by her soulful singing.

Adapted by Tao Qin from a Soviet play, "The Unknown Father" (1952), takes a light-hearted approach, calling for respect for the unborn and also for the mothers who bear them.

"The Eternal Beauty" (1957) portrays vividly all the characters from the original Guan Hanqing's operetta. Film buffs can also get a glimpse of the beautiful Betty Loh Ti before her Shaw Brothers era.

Other notable Mandarin titles include the romantic "Always in my Heart" (1956) and Lu Xun's bittersweet classic "The True Story of Ah Q" (1958), which won Kwan Shan the Best Actor Award at the Locarno Film Festival in his first performance as a leading man.

Audiences can also watch the Cantonese and Mandarin versions of "Sunrise" and "Thunderstorm" by different directors.

Tickets for both Cantonese and Mandarin films are priced at $30. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients.

Tickets for the Cantonese films are also subject to further discounts as part of the HKIFF programme.

For detailed information about the Cantonese films, see the 28th HKIFF booking folder and for information about all the films, see the Hong Kong Film Archive's booklet, Profolio (issue 21).

For programme information call 2734 2900, 2739 2139 or visit . Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or on the internet at .

Ends/Thursday, March 25, 2004
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