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Hong Kong Japan early co-productions showcase cherished Takarada-You Trilogy

The popular cross-cultural trilogy, “A Night in Hong Kong”, “Star of Hong Kong” and “Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu”, all starring Hong Kong’s superstar Lucilla You Min and Japan’s Takarada Akira will be featured in the Hong Kong Film Archive’s (HKFA) new programme “Hong Kong and Japan: Early Co-productions”.

Takarada will make a special appearance in Hong Kong at the seminar “Another Night in Hong Kong: Hong Kong-Japan Film Exchange in 1950s and 60s” at 4.30 pm on October 8 at the Cinema of the HKFA. He may also meet audiences at some of the screenings on October 7 and 8 if his schedule allows.

He will share his experiences working on Hong Kong and Japan co-productions especially the much cherished “Hong Kong trilogy” with You Min. The seminar will be conducted in Cantonese and Japanese. Admission is free.

In addition to the Takarada-You trilogy, four other Hong Kong films shot on location in Japan in the 1950s and 60s will also be shown. The retrospective will be screened from September 23 to October 9 at the Cinema of the HKFA and the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum.

In Autumn 2002, the HKFA assisted the Japan Foundation in Tokyo for the programme “Golden Age of Hong Kong Cinema” which featured a highlight on the Takarada-You trilogy.

As Part of the “Japan-Hong Kong Year 2005”, the “Hong Kong and Japan: Early Co-productions” which also highlight the Takarada-You trilogy, is presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, sponsored by the Japan Foundation and supported by Takarada Planning Office.

Hong Kong and Japan co-productions date back to the early 1950s when Hsin Hwa company went on location in Japan. MP&GI went on a similar excursion to make a Cantonese film “The Lone Swan” and the cross-cultural partnership escalated in the 1960s, resulting in the popular Takarada-You trilogy co-produced by MP&GI and Toho.

In the 1970s, Shaw Brothers signed long-term contracts with director Inoue Umetsugu and cinematographers Nishimoto Tadashi and Miyaki Yukio, whose work contributed greatly to the technical maturity of Hong Kong cinema.

“A Night in Hong Kong” (1961) is the film that starts the cherished series of co-productions between MP&GI with Toho. It introduces to the world the pairing of the elegant You Min and handsome Takarada. The courtship of the two takes audiences through a series of adventures in beautiful scenery. Despite the bumpy start among crew members during the collaboration, the finished film turned out to be a huge hit, making You Min a sensation in Japan.

Part two of the trilogy, “Star of Hong Kong” (1963), again sparks off romance when the beautiful medical student meets the handsome man in Japan. You Min embodies the new Asian woman by shunning marriage for an altruistic career, yet her meek, delicate dispositions portray the stereotype of a Chinese woman of desire.

The final instalment of the trilogy, “Hong Kong, Toyko, Honolulu” (1963) sets the rendezvous romance across the Pacific in Hawaii. The love story is spiced with the parallel developments of two women, Takarada’s ex-girlfriend as an unhappy war bride adapting to her new immigrant identity and You Min who searches for her blood sister.

Capitalising on Takarada Akira’s popularity, MP&GI cast the matinee idol in another culture-cross drama “The Longest Night” (1965) with popular Hong Kong star Betty Loh Ti. A Japanese army photographer is mistaken for a peasant’s lost son. The daughter-in-law dares not reveal the truth. Yet affection brews between them despite their opposite positions in the war.

Shot in Japan, “Blood Will Tell” (1955) is Hong Kong’s first Eastmancolour production. All prints of the film were at one time considered lost. The 35 mm print used in the retrospective was reproduced from an archival copy kept by the Kawakita Memorial Film Institute of Japan.

Starring Li Lihua, “Madame Butterfly” (1956) is an interesting rendition of the famed Puccini opera. The film was shot almost entirely in Japan with the Toho dance troupe and the legendary Takarazuka staged song-and-dance numbers, paving the way for the Hollywood style musicals that would come into vogue on the Mandarin screen a few years later.

Director Lee Sun-fung’s “The Lone Swan” (1955) was the first Cantonese feature to be shot on location in Japan. Inspired by the noted visual iconoclasm of Japan, director Lee turns the film into one of Cantonese cinema’s most formalistic exercises. With location scenes being staged in majestic snow scenery and interior scenes artfully composed, it resulted with beautiful images seldom realised in Hong Kong films.

The three films on You Min and Takarada are in Mandarin, English and Japanese, with Chinese subtitles while “Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu” has also English subtitles; “Blood Will Tell” is in Mandarin with Japanese subtitles; “The Longest Night” is in Mandarin while “Madame Butterfly” and “The Lone Swan” are in Cantonese.

Tickets priced at $40 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or on the Internet at .

Programme details can be found in the “ProFolio 28” at all the LCSD’s performing venues. For programme information, call 2739 2139/ 2734 2900 or visit .

Ends/Tuesday, August 23, 2005
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