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HK Film Archive's "Morning Matinee" to feature director Chan Pei's Cantonese sing-song films (with photos)

     A film director for 30 years, Chan Pei was acclaimed for his Cantonese sing-song films and comedies and was a pioneer in  Hong Kong's cinema, opera and vinyl record industries. Helped by his proficiency in music, Chan's Cantonese sing-song films were also very popular. At 11am on Friday mornings in March and April the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Morning Matinee" will present a selection of his films to exhibit his multiple talents, especially in the Cantonese sing-song and opera film genres.

     Titled "Canton Flavour: Director Chan Pei", the retrospective will screen "Miss Chan's Boat Chase" (1955), "Lady with a Silver and Bitter Tongue" (1956), "The Strange Fox" (1957) and "Witness for the Prosecution" (1961) on March 7, 14, 21 and 28 respectively. The films to be screened on April 4, 11, 18 and 25 will be "Little Detective" (1962), "Tonight and Every Night" (1956), "The Spendthrift Son Reduced to be a Spirit Medium" (1959) and "Love with No Result" (1947). A screening of the "Musical Third Master Sha" (1951) will be held on March 22 (Saturday) at 2.30pm.

     To complement the screenings, a seminar titled "Miraculous Snap Sho(o)t: Chan Pei's Directing Skills" will be held on March 22 at 4.30pm at the Cinema of the HKFA. The guest-curator of the programme, Miss Stephanie Ng, will talk about Chan's directing skills, his ability to combine film language with performances and his aptitude for selecting appropriate plots and actors for his works. The seminar will be conducted in Cantonese with free admission.

     Chan Pei's original name was Chan Siu-lam, and his father was the renowned Cantonese opera performer Leng Chuen. Before entering the film industry, Chan Pei was active in Cantonese opera, theatre and vinyl recording, both as performer and organiser. Based mainly in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, he acquired extensive experience in scheduling and catering to the needs of the audience and individual performers. His network and interactions with artists also paved the way for his collaboration in different professions.

     Chan started producing silent films in the 1920s, though his debut, "Romances Are Not for Me" (1925), failed to be released due to a Canton-Hong Kong strike. His first film to reach the screen was "The Pain of Separation" (1936), starring the well-known opera singer Pak Kui-wing. Chan worked closely with librettist Ng Yat-siu to produce "all-singing" films, honing his already proficient skills in film production. Chan made over 150 films and was especially talented at combining improvisation and traditional performances. He was widely acclaimed for his vast production and high speed in making films.

     "Miss Chan's Boat Chase" is adapted from the literary work of famous novelist Zhang Henshui. Chan was apt at choosing performers, here with Yam Kim-fai playing a charming lover, Pak Suet-sin as a sweet girl and Leung Sing-po as a lovable character. Chan selected Tang Bik-wan for the well-received "Lady with a Silver and Bitter Tongue". Using his knowledge of Cantonese opera Chan introduced comedy elements, thus showcasing Tang's outstanding acting and singing abilities.

     "The Strange Fox" is a story of forbidden love between a thousand-year-old fox-fairy (Mui Yee) and an earnest scholar (Cheung Wood-yau), in which the fairy is captured by a Taoist priest. In this production Chan managed to break away from the usual rather mundane studio set and into the beautiful outdoors. The finale, which features the fox-fairy taking on soldiers from the heavens, shows Chan's ability to set up action scenes with exquisite shot composition.

     The "Musical Third Master Sha" marks Sun Ma Si-tsang's debut in sing-song films. He plays a spoiled rich slacker who turns to murder after failing to woo a married woman he has fallen for. Much of the film's success must go to the songwriter Ng Yat-siu, who turned the dialogue into song lyrics, making the film a pioneer of the "all-singing" style, which was to become a special musical genre in Hong Kong cinema.

     Starring Yam Kim-fai, Fung Wong Nui and Mak Bing-wing, "Witness for the Prosecution" was adapted from a Rediffusion radio play. The drama follows the plight of a spoiled young woman who is falsely accused of murdering her sister-in-law by her husband. The film is unique for infusing elements from modern detective procedurals into a period film. Not to be missed are two riveting court scenes. The "Little Detective" is Chan's final film set in the contemporary world. Here he tackles the detective genre by tracing the thrilling story of Fung Bo-bo, a young girl who aspires to follow in her father's footsteps and become a brilliant detective. She is kidnapped by robbers, leading to a thrilling action-packed finale.

     Based on the Cantonese opera show of the same title, "Tonight and Every Night" features two pregnant women who go to a temple with their husbands to pray for sons. It is a classic comedy about mistaken identities, superstitions and traditional, outdated gender beliefs. Playing on the Cantonese opera traditions of cross-dressing and gender reversal, actors Leung Mo-sheung and Tang Bik-wan give lively performances. With flawless performances by Sun Ma Si-tsang and Tang Bik-wan, the comedy "The Spendthrift Son Reduced to Be a Spirit Medium" features a deadbeat son who is an expert at all the vices and his gracious wife, who tries to steer him towards a normal life.

     The melodrama "Love with No Result" is co-directed by Chan and Dan Duyu, and is one of the earliest of Chan's works still in existence today. Chan plays a memorable appearance as a patriarch who forces his son to marry for money. "Love with No Result" represents one of the earliest works including Hung Sin Nui, following the opera diva's venture into film in 1947.

     All films are in Cantonese with no subtitles.

     Tickets priced at $20 are available at URBTIX. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities and their minders, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made at 2111 5999 or on the Internet at For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900 or browse the website at

Ends/Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:00


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