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HK Film Archive showcases writer and director Yueh Feng's unique directorial style (with photos)

     A new "Writer/Director in Focus" series at the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) this month and next is focusing on director Griffin Yueh Feng to showcase his unique directorial style. As one of the most important figures in Chinese cinema from the 1930s to the 1970s, Yueh was acclaimed for his directing skills and intricately designed frames. Among his best-known films are "A Forgotten Woman" (1949), with Bai Guang playing a prostitute; "The Flower Street" (1950), featuring Zhou Xuan's sweet singing; "The Deformed" (1960), with Betty Loh Ti as a pretty and elegant nurse; "Nyonyah" (1952), starring Hsia Moon; "The Last Woman of Shang" (1964), presenting Linda Lin Dai's beauty; and "The West Chamber" (1965), with Ivy Ling Bo playing the male lead.

     In his 40-year career, Yueh made films for many studios including Great Wall, Cathay during its Motion Picture & General Investment Company (MP&GI) phase and Shaw Brothers, covering a wide range of genres. Known as "Master Yueh" to his peers, he was able to jump effortlessly between genres and bring out fresh ideas. He was also one of the very few filmmakers who could film action scenes in a dramatic style and direct drama with the kinetic energy of an action film.

     Presented by the HKFA of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and guest-curated by film researcher Lau Yam, the new series entitled "The Writer/Director in Focus II: Griffin Yueh Feng" is being held from now to September 21, screening more than 20 films by Yueh and other reference films. The films being shown include "A Forgotten Woman", "Blood Will Tell" (1949), "The Flower Street", "Golden Lotus" (1957), "The Battle of Love" (1957), "The Deformed", "Madam White Snake" (1962), "Bitter Sweet" (1963), "The Last Woman of Shang", "Lady General Hua Mulan" (1964), "The Lotus Lamp" (1965), "The West Chamber", "The Three Smiles" (1969) and "Village of Tigers" (1974).

     To complement the screenings, the HKFA will hold two seminars entitled "The Art of Griffin Yueh Feng's Directing & Screenwriting" to be held at 4pm on August 30, with film researchers Law Kar and Lau Yam sharing their views on the director's achievements, and "Good Old Days with Master Yueh" to be held at 4.30pm on September 13 with stars Cheng Pei-pei and Elliot Yueh Hua discussing their working experiences with the director. The seminars will be conducted in Cantonese with free admission. There will also be post-screening talks for some of the screenings.

     Yueh found fame in the Shanghai film industry in the early 1930s with his early anti-war films. In addition to directing films in various genres, he also worked as a scriptwriter. After the war, he moved to Hong Kong and joined Great Wall Pictures Corporation, producing a number of films encompassing humanity and ideology.

     Starring Li Lihua, "Three Females" (1947) tells of the fates and destinies of women in marriage and work after the war. "A Forgotten Woman", a classic with Yueh's direction and a script by Doe Ching and starring screen diva Bai Guang, is a cross between a melodrama and a crime film, revealing the tragedy of a rural Chinese woman. In "Blood Will Tell", Yueh created for the Chinese audience an intense tale of love and hate reminiscent of American film noir, and Bai Guang's portrayal of a thoroughly bad woman, a rarity in Chinese cinema, has become a persona that lives forever. "Nyonyah", which starred Hsia Moon, focuses on the breaking up of archaic marriage arrangements that are still in practice in southern China. "Home, Sweet Home" (1950) is another reputable work by Yueh and stars Yan Jun and Chen Chuanchuan as it gives a rich and realistic depiction of the lives of refugees. "The Stormy Night" (1952) also features these two actors, and it tells a story of a landlord family's exploitation of their farmers. The film's fierce visual style reflects the brutality and ill fate of an outdated world.

     Among his Hong Kong-produced works, Yueh made a series of "family films" that explored family values and depicted the family as continuing to be a powerful force in modern society. His great work "The Flower Street", which starred Zhou Xuan, portrays people's daily lives. "A Love Story" (1954) is an unconventional tale of love unfolding in adjourning rooms. "The Dividing Wall" (1952), director Zhu Shilin's love triangle melodrama set in similar surrounds, will also be shown as a reference film. Yueh's later romance and comedy "Spring Blossoms" (1968) carries a similar storyline to that of "A Love Story" and has his visual aesthetics realised in a recreated cityscape. Yueh's last MP&GI work "For Better ... For Worse" (1959) is a realist depiction of human relations with meticulous settings of a tenement house. Another masterpiece directed and written by Yueh, "Bitter Sweet", with Chen Yanyan playing a touching old widow and telling of her enduring love for children, won the Best Screenplay Award of the Golden Horse Awards. The humanist drama "The Younger Generation" (1970) is a gem in Yueh's later career, featuring family values but with an emphasis on the independence of the new generation.

     Yueh made many films which became representative works of his leading actresses. Whether depicting witty, playful, outrageous, charming or bad characters, actresses could often showcase their talents to the fullest under Yueh's skilful directorship. Linda Lin Dai won the Best Actress prize in the 4th Asian Film Festival for playing the dual role of a singer and a rich heir in "Golden Lotus". The film was one of Yueh's personal favourites. In "The Battle of Love", an urban comedy written by Eileen Chang for MP&GI, Yueh conjures up a paradise for the idle rich, highlighting Linda Lin Dai's playfulness and the fickleness of a woman's heart.

     "The Deformed" is the earliest drama surviving from Yueh's Shaw Brothers years. The contrast of the deformed character played by King Hu and the elegant Betty Loh Ti touched audiences with sincerity and love, making the film a classic melodrama that won the Best Screenplay and Best Black & White Photography awards at the 8th Asian Film Festival. Another masterpiece by Yueh, the historical palatial epic "The Last Woman of Shang", demonstrates a brilliant concept and outstanding execution. The setting with city walls built on a plain in Korea and a wine pool made it a grand production of a type rarely seen in Hong Kong and Taiwan films at the time. Starring Fang Ying and Jimmy Wang Yu, "Auntie Lan" (1967) is Yueh's attempt at directing a film on the heavy subject of pre-marital pregnancy with romance and light-heartedness.

     Yueh's huangmei diao films were adapted from well-known folk tales. Most of those films' scripts were written by him and he directed them with masterful skills in glamorous and refined sets and with strong visuals. Linda Lin Dai's "Madam White Snake" was Yueh's debut in Cinemascope, and it featured special effects done in Japan and became a box office hit. The extraordinary huangmei diao epic "The Lotus Lamp" was one of Linda Lin Dai's posthumous releases. Yueh made use of hard-fought combat scenes in the film to create unusual tension and solemnity in a romantic adventure between the mortal and the immortal.

     Yueh and Ivy Ling Bo were a popular team in Shaw's huangmei diao movies. In "Lady General Hua Mulan", Ivy Ling Bo merges gentleness with masculine charm. Though it is a war film, Yueh renders the drama with tension and relaxation and combines sobriety and humour. In the popular love stories "The West Chamber" and "The Three Smiles", both starring Ivy Ling Po and Li Ching, Yueh employs a modest but elegant style that lends the films a light, gentle tone. Director Li Pingqian's "Three Charming Smiles" (1964) will also be shown for reference.

     The surge of a new wave in martial arts cinema would serve as a daunting challenge for any veteran director who had specialised in dramas throughout his career, but director Yueh bravely took the challenge head-on. In "The Swallow Thief" (1961), Yueh filmed dramatic scenes in the style of an action film, infusing the action genre with a rare sense of reality. "The Dragon Creek" (1967) shows Yueh's efforts to follow the trends of neo-martial arts films. It features a girl (Cheng Pei-pei) urging her brother (Chin Han) to be brave again in order to avenge the murder of their parents. Starring Chin Ping and Chang Yi, "The Bells of Death" (1968) is a trend-setting film by Yueh, scriptwriter Chiu Kang-chien and cinematographer Pao Hsuehli that creates a vivid kaleidoscope fusing the style of spaghetti westerns and samurai movies in the 1960s. Starring Elliot Yueh Hua and Shu Peipei, "Village of Tigers", with a surprising amount of emotional elements, was director Yueh's final film. Yueh received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hong Kong Film Directors' Guild in 1991 and passed away in 1999.

     "The Dividing Wall" is dubbed into Cantonese and all the other films are in Mandarin. Some of the films have Chinese subtitles or both Chinese and English subtitles.

     Tickets priced at $40 are now 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. Detailed programme information can be found in "ProFolio 73", distributed at all performing venues of the LCSD, or by browsing the website

Ends/Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Issued at HKT 16:50


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