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So, today... mostly on Hong Kong cinema

I am now within two chapters of finishing the revisions on Grass King. Then it gets sent out into the cold wide world. I hope someone loves it.
Today I learnt that the snake-hawk form is very rare. Only one family learns it. (Yes, I've been watching very old king fu films. That comes from Snuff Bottle Connection. which is notably mainly for the peerless Hwang Jang-Lee in his white-haired villain mode, and stunt work from a 19 year-old (or) so Yuen Biao.
There was an adorable nine week old husky puppy on the local news. I have dog envy.
I capped the day by watching my upgrade dvd of The Prodigal Son (Bai Ga Jai) (Hong Kong 1981), which is one of the great martial arts movies (it regularly makes Top Ten lists even nearly 30 years on). Yes, predictably, it stars Yuen Biao, aged 24 in his third lead role. This was the film where his acting (as opposed to martial arts/acrobatic) really came together and he shines. The joy of the film is that it has no villain, though there is an antagonist and there are characters who are not necessarily nice. The plot covers the familiar grounds of martial training and revenge, but the core of it is that those with power need to grow up and act responsibly. Both protagonist and antagonist follow that arc, learn and survive. Re-watching it made me realise how much I miss debating and discussing Hong Kong cinema. I've lost track of the last few years of HK film: the cycle of production moved out of wu-xia and action into triad films and rom-coms which I like less, and many of my favourite actors have retired or moved on elsewhere. There are newer stars whom I like a lot -- Gillian Chung Yan-Tung springs to mind, and Richie Jen Hsian-Chieh (though he's on his second wind as an actor) but even the big names of the mid to late 90s, like Ekin Chen Yi-Kin are fading now and actors take some time to settle. And while I continue to buy and enjoy the big historical epics, I do miss the 80s style action comedies -- like Paper Marriage and Shanghai Express, which are gone as a genre -- recent ones don't have that pool of opera-trained action actors.
Still, Yuen Biao is making a come-back as a major supporting actor in both tv and film, and the generation that are stars now grew up watching and admiring him, and, I suspect, want to work with him. (This is certainly the case with Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung, who is another actor who has recently gone from teen pin-up to serious lead, and has admitted being a YB fan). I can hope...


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 9th, 2010 08:07 am (UTC)
I love that film--I took Wing Chun classes during the height of my Shaw Bros. Fever and this was by far the best film I found focused on the form...unless my brain is betraying me into making a foolish mix-up. I should rewatch it, actually...and good luck with your ms!
Jan. 9th, 2010 10:00 am (UTC)
If you can find a copy, see the UK dvd from Hong Kong Legends, which includes a long interview with Sifu Guy Lai, who was the Wing Chun consultant on the film and was taught in a direct line of descent from Leung Chang. The dvd is worth it for this alone.
I'm not a martial artist, alas, but I do love the genre.
And hi, lovely to meet you, btw!
Jan. 9th, 2010 11:32 pm (UTC)
...you know, I had absolutely NO idea you were into HK cinema. So little idea, in fact, that I had to check that this post was by you and not my friend who's doing a PhD in Chinese cinema. :)

(I'm into it too, though I don't know as much about it as you do, I think; my expertise mostly lies in Japanese cinema.)
Jan. 10th, 2010 11:04 am (UTC)
You have a friend who is doing a PhD in Chinese cinema? Oh, PhD envy... I have a book/string of articles I want to do on film-maker Fok Yiu Leung, but no-one is interested (he's the Hong Kong answer to Ken Russell and he's extraordinary).
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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