Not really. It turns out this post is all about Hong Kong cinema.
Other interesting tidbits will appear later this week.
Well, now it’s been *two* weeks since the last post. Apologies. Since I’ve actually got a day job now, I have to learn how to manage my time. And I was experiencing technical difficulties. I discovered that my ability to use Microsoft Office did not extend to my shiny new MacBook. I had to buy the software all over again. So, a few days went by while I grumbled loudly to myself about having to shell out $120 for the software or $80 for a *four-year* (university) license for the software. Apparently now you don’t get the option of hanging on to your outdated software unless you’re willing to spend more money. Grumble, grumble, grumble.
Anyhoo. First (and last, as it turns out), I’m very excited about the San Francisco Film Society’s Hong Kong Cinema program, screening October 4 – 6 at the Vogue Theatre. If I make it up there, I’ll be especially looking forward to director Johnnie To’s new film, Blind Detective (2013), starring the fine Andy Lau (who is also a hugely famous pop star). Lau has starred in a number of excellent Hong Kong films, including Infernal Affairs (remember, I mentioned it last time–the movie The Departed is based on?) and Wong Kar-wai’s As Tears Go By (1988) and Days of Being Wild (1990). He’s also been in some classic oddball Hong Kong films, including God of Gamblers (Wong Jing, 1989) with Chow Yun Fat and Running on Karma (2003), a Johnnie To/Ka-Fai Wai film, in which Lau plays a monk turned bodybuilder who can “see into people’s lives.” (Spoiler alert: There are several shots of Andy Lau’s naked rear end–or is that part of the body suit?)
Blind Detective appears to be unrelated to To’s other disabled policeman officer from 2007’s Mad Detective—which is AH-mazing on all fronts: great direction; Ching Wan Lau as the eponymous detective; and a plot that involves multiple personalities, live burial, and a lot of shark fin soup.
To is also responsible for a slew of other stylish police procedurals and thrillers: The Mission (1999), PTU (2003, stands for Police Tactical Unit), Triangle (2007), and Exiled (2006). Many of these films star some combination of Anthony Wong, Simon Yam, and Lam Suet, all Hong Kong greats. Most of To’s films are available via Netflix; Exiled and The Heroic Trio (1993)—for some lady bad-assery with HK stars Michelle Yeoh, Anita Mui, Maggie Cheung—are streaming. Election is available on Hulu.
Here’s one of three trailers for Blind Detective on YouTube–you’ll know a lot more about the plot (and the goofy HK sense of humor) if you watch the others.
If you’re unfamiliar with HK film, you can be forgiven for thinking where’s the funny in that story? One of the many (many) delights of discovering HK film is discovering the bizarre–to American audiences–combination of tones in one film. Scenes will often careen from one mood to another mood that seems mutually exclusive in ways that sometimes appear (or are) nonsensical. In fact, HK filmmakers used to color-code the reels by genre, and, according to David Bordwell, at least one film production company, Cinema City, used to “demand that each reel contain at least one comic scene, one chase, and one fight.” Something for everyone in the audience! Bordwell points out that this strategy “influenced most directors who emerged in the 1980s, even the elusive Wong Kar-wai. His wispy plots look more structured when you realize that they’re built up reel by reel in postproduction” (The Poetics of Cinema 104). This is especially helpful to keep in mind when watching Wong Kar-wai’s haunting 2046 (2004), for example.
Oh dear. I don’t seem to have gotten very far.
Another treat at the HK Cinema screenings is the chance to see The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1977) on a big screen. Starring the awesome Gordon Liu (Chia-Hui Liu), who more recently played the Bride’s exacting kung fu master, Pai Mei, in Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004). The SFFS describes 36th Chamber as an “essential kung-fu film.” The screening is a tribute to its director, Lau Kar-leung (aka Liu Chia-liang), who died in June, a martial arts master, and Gordon Liu’s teacher. Also screening is Lau Kar-leung’s Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984), also starring Gordon Liu.
There are, of course, some other, more sedate films, which also look wonderful. Two intimate dramas, one about a woman who agrees to be a surrogate mother in order to pay for her brother’s surgery (A Complicated Story), are also screening. And for the obligatory historical epic, there’s The Last Tycoon, directed by the aforementioned Wong Jing and featuring the delectable God of Gamblers star Chow Yun Fat.
Last but not least is a mystery/thriller directed by Oxide Pang, Conspirators. Oxide is the twin brother of Danny Pang. The brothers have collaborated on many films, including the genuinely creepy The Eye (2002), which received the backhanded American compliment of being remade (in 2008, with Jessica Alba), and both versions of Bangkok Dangerous (2008, 1999), which are surprisingly different films despite the same basic plot. Oxide is on his own with Conspirators, which looks fun, but maybe not as visually exciting as some of the Pang brothers’ other films.
You can see the rest of SFFS’s Fall Season here.
This roundup has gone off the rails, if I may mix my metaphors. I do have some other tidbits, including interesting items from the recent Toronto International Film Festival. First up, however, will be a long overdue post on World War Z. Stay tuned.
Will the real Blind Detective please stand up?
Is it this movie?
Or this movie?
Or perhaps this one?