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December
Film Archive to show Hong Kong-style "Jane Bond" films
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Yu So-chau, Connie Chan Po-chu and Nam Hung, treasure hunter Jeanette Lin Tsui, Robin Hood-like heroine Josephine Siao, the mysterious sisters Suet Nei and Fung Bo-bo... The "Jane Bond" films of the 1960s are a uniquely Hong Kong genre featuring a female version of James Bond, in which the leading actresses are usually brave, intelligent, sexy and well-dressed.

Organised by the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA), the retrospective "Licensed to Kick (Men) – The Jane Bond Films" will be held from January 26 to March 2, 2008, at the Cinema of the HKFA. The programme will showcase films of the Jane Bond genre made in the 1960s, together with a film made in the 1990s to illustrate how much the Jane Bond figure embodies the qualities that make Hong Kong what it was and what it is today.

Selected films include "Black Rose" (1965), "Spy with My Face" (1966), "The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-fa" (1966), "The Story of Wong Ang the Heroine" (1960), "The Golden Buddha" (1966), "The Precious Mirror" (1967), "The Mysterious Sisters" (1969), "Temptress of a Thousand Faces" (1969) and "92 the Legendary la Rose Noire" (1992).

To complement the screenings, a mini exhibition will be held on the first floor of the HKFA to show a selection of "Jane Bond" moving images in a video collage.

The Jane Bond genre is likely the only one in the history of world cinema in which women are the primary dispenser of violence and where the violence is readily embraced by a predominantly female audience.

The genre came into being in the mid-1960s and was the product of diverse historical and cultural factors: the Jade Girl tradition of Chinese cinema, post-war youth culture, a rising feminist sensibility, a trendy Western lifestyle and traditional Chinese values, to name a few. Enjoying a short-lived popularity, Jane Bond films disappeared within a few years.

As 1960 was an important transition period in the development of Hong Kong cinema, the HKFA will present throughout 2008 a series of programmes on 1960s cinema to coincide with the publication of "Hong Kong Filmography volume VI (1965-1969)" and the "Oral History Series: 1960s".

Skilfully and enthusiastically incorporating Western influence in his work, director Chor Yuen's introduction of James Bond elements into "Black Rose" likely kickstarted the Jane Bond genre. Thrown into this mix was Cantonese cinema's penchant for combining the relatively new Jade Girl phenomenon with a Robin Hood-like figure who robs the rich and gives to the poor. The film was a box-office success, inspiring imitators that quickly materialised into a genre.

A sequel to "Black Rose", the "Spy with My Face," further set the Jane Bond genre on its course with an army of thugs, secret hideout headquarters, and an endless array of high/low-tech devices. Connie Chan Po-chu, with her embodiment of both the fairy Jade Girl and the fierce fighting woman, established herself as the Jane Bond prototype.

The modern version with the same theme, "92 the Legendary la Rose Noire" was not only a surprise hit when it was released in 1992 but also a phenomenon that defined its time. The film's irreverent drama, and director Jeff Lau's genius in taking the audience through time and space, captured the spirit of early 1990s Hong Kong and the then colony's awkward awareness of its own history.

"The Dark Heroine Muk Lan-fa" was adapted from a popular pulp fiction series in the 1960s about a Shanghai flying heroine. This cinematic update infuses the colourful plot with Bond elements, from spy characters to secret hideouts to death-ray watches. The casting of Suet Nei as the action woman in black tights represented a validation of the Jane Bond formula, which was proven to work without the iconic superstars.

"The Golden Buddha" directed by Lo Wei is a prime example of a Shaw Brothers' action movie of the mid-1960s, with generous production budgets that allowed for explosive action sequences and international locations, filming in Thailand to add an exotic touch. The Bond influence is evident at every turn, but the film’s unbridled machismo differed greatly from the women-centred sensibilities of the"Spy with My Face", which was released the same year in Cantonese.

"Temptress of a Thousand Faces" successfully captured the fancy of male viewers as a Mandarin spy flick that was more male-oriented than its Cantonese counterparts. The Jane Bond figure in the film is a cop with all the requisite trimmings, yet she is regularly paraded in situations that highlight actress Tina Chin Fei’s sexuality.

"The Golden Buddha" and "Temptress of a Thousand Faces" are in Mandarin; the other films are in Cantonese. "The Golden Buddha", "Temptress of a Thousand Faces" and "92 the Legendary la Rose Noire" have Chinese and English subtitles.

Tickets priced at $30 for the screenings are available at all 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 http://www.urbtix.hk .

Detailed programme information and various discounts can be obtained in "ProFolio 40" distributed at all performing venues of the LCSD. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website: http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp .

Ends/Thursday, December 27, 2007
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