"Critics' Choice" to feature six films on occultism (with photos)

     Occultism covers a wide range of captivating topics including aliens, extra sensory perception, religion and witchcraft. "Critics' Choice 2017 – Cinema of occultism" will screen six films selected by six critics, namely Thomas Shin, Lam Kee-to, Cheng Chuen-wai, Stephanie Ng, Lau Yam and Bryan Chang, taking audiences on a mysterious occult cinematic journey.
     The series is presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and organised by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society. Films will be screened from November 4 to January 21 next year at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive and the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum.
     Critic Thomas Shin describes Stanley Kubrick's distinguished work "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968) as "a most inventive sci-fi film that explores the eternal struggle between man and technology, from the Big Bang to the distant future." The story follows a group of astronauts who are on their way to Jupiter. While en route they discover that the central computer HAL is plotting something sinister, leading to the exploration of issues such as technology, artificial intelligence, existentialism and occultism. On a technical level, the film features groundbreaking filmmaking techniques such as forward projection, special effects and mock zero-gravity photography. The film ranked sixth in Sight & Sound magazine's Greatest Films of All Time Poll in 2012.
     According to critic Lam Kee-to, "Naked Lunch" (1991) is "a cognitive revolution from half a century back, exposing the truth of cogito, ergo sum: I think, therefore aliens exist, and they're in my body!". This work of David Cronenberg is full of occultist messages, suggesting an apocalyptic warning that we humans, with our archaic culture, will be trapped in an out-of-control state like a drug addict who needs his daily dose and has lost the ability to survive autonomously. The film further suggests that the language used by humans will become superfluous and discarded - like old clothes or a shred of skin. Humans will eventually become living corpses.
     "Life of Brian" (1979), critic Cheng Chuen-wai says, is "a full bag of hilarious bits poking fun at the Bible, political conspiracies, extraterrestrials and positivity". The film is the creation of British comedy group Monty Python. In the film, Brian is born on the same day as Jesus Christ - just one manger away - and so close that the Three Magi confuse Brian with the real Saviour. When Brian grows up he is thought to be the Messiah, and has many followers who refuse to leave him alone.

     Talking about "Cure" (1997), critic Stephanie Ng said, "Hypnotism as therapy or cult? Sober treatment and a rich film language deliver a very special film about hypnotism." The film tells of a chain of murders in which all victims have an X sign on the back of their necks. Detective Takabe is assigned to investigate the case, in which his psychologist buddy discovers that the X sign is related to a secret behind the homicides. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa highlights the stress of city life by way of hypnosis, contributing to the film's mysterious and chilly tone.
     Critic Lau Yam describes Danish film master Benjamin Christensen's silent film classic "Häxan" (1922) as, "an exotic lens through witches' torturous history and the occult; the master's questioning on human misery." The film is a hybrid form of drama-documentary, and uses a sense of composure, rich narratives and grotesque visuals to interpret stories of medieval witchcraft and witches. Regarded as a pioneer of surrealist cinema, the film is still as subversive and unique as it was when released almost a century ago. The version to be screened was restored by the Swedish Film Institute in 2017.
     Commenting on "Yeelen" (1987), critic Bryan Chang said, "This great work from West Africa isn't just a tribal movie, but a film of the world, the Earth or the solar system. It shows the interaction of mankind, earth and heaven." In the film, Soma, a wizard with a lust for power, vows to kill Nianankoro - his son who he has never met. Nianankoro leaves his mother and seeks help from his uncle in order to escape. Though encountering many dangerous moments, Nianankoro can still overcome his assailants with his tenacity and the protection of the water spirit. This work of Souleymane Cissé is a mesmerising example of the non-linearity of African cinema. The film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival 1987.
     All films have Chinese and English subtitles. "Life of Brian" is classified as Category III, only persons aged 18 and above will be admitted.
     Post-screening seminars (in Cantonese) will be arranged for all the screenings, at which the six critics and guests, namely veteran journalist Leung Kam-cheung; musician MC Yan; missionary Ngan Chi-leung; registered social worker Wan Yuen-ping; film critic Fung Ka-ming, and veteran art director in film Robert Loh will share their thoughts about the films.
     In addition, a series of five workshops themed on "Cinema is a part in Occultism" will be hosted by the speakers Lam Kee-to, Bryan Chang, Leung Kam-cheung and MC Yan, who will explore cinema of occultism from different angles. The workshops are entitled "A Traveller's Guidebook to Cinema of Occultism" (November 12); "Conspiracy Theories in Western Popular Cinema" (December 2); "Into Fascinating Spaces" (December 30); "Non-Western Mysticism" (January 14, 2018); and "Information Science in Cinema" (January 28, 2018). All the workshops will be conducted at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Space Museum from 2.30pm to 4.30pm in Cantonese.
     Tickets for all screenings and workshops, priced at $55 and $90 respectively, are now available at URBTIX (www.urbtix.hk). For credit card telephone bookings, please call 2111 5999. For programme enquiries, please call 2734 2900 or visit www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp/en_US/web/fpo/programmes/coo/index.html.

Ends/Friday, September 15, 2017
Issued at HKT 15:35