Traditional Chinese Simplified Chinese Email this article
HK Film Archive's "Early Cinematic Treasures Rediscovered" to present long-lost cinematic gems (with photos)

     After being scattered abroad for many years, a number of precious Hong Kong films from the 1930s and '40s were discovered and retrieved from San Francisco in 2012. After meticulous efforts in scanning, test screening and other repair work, the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) will present a new programme, "Early Cinematic Treasures Rediscovered", to screen eight long-lost early Hong Kong productions. They are "The Light of Women" (1937), "White Dragon, Part Two" (1937), "Incident in the Pacific" (1938), "Fortress of Flesh and Blood" (1938), "Follow Your Dream" (1941), "The Rich House" (1942), "Bitter Phoenix, Sorrowful Oriole" (1947) and "Love Song of the South Island" (1947). Apart from "The Light of Women" and "Incident in the Pacific", the remaining films had been unseen for decades.

     As a grand opening, the HKFA will hold free outdoor screenings on March 27 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza, with "Follow Your Dream" to be shown at 7.15pm and "The Rich House" to be screened at 9pm. The eight films will also be screened from March 28 to May 30 at the HKFA Cinema. Seminars in Cantonese will be held at the HKFA on March 28 and 29 and April 4, 11, 18, 23 and 30, with speakers including Sam Ho, Wong Ain-ling, Yau Ching, Lau Yam, May Ng, Winnie Fu, Law Kar and Mary Wong. Eight reference films have been selected by speakers for comparison and discussion in order to help the audience gain a better understanding of these early works.

     The 1930s were among the earliest prime periods in Hong Kong cinematic history, with a wide variety of film genres, yet few films remain from that time. The selected titles are immensely precious nitrate films that were preserved by the Palace Theatre in San Francisco after it closed in the 1970s and were later donated by its owner, Jack Lee Fong. These films have filled many of the voids in Hong Kong cinematic history. Whether in directorial know-how, aesthetic achievement, humanistic value or significance in terms of genre and screenplay, these works show clear traces of the legacy passed down by their predecessors. The nitrate films are being transferred into the Digital Cinema Package format for preservation and screening purposes, and among them "Follow Your Dream" was sent to the Netherlands for 2K digital restoration.

     Ko Lei-hen's "The Light of Women" features pre-war Hong Kong cinema's top actress, Lee Yi-nin, who plays a woman running away twice from weddings under her brother's duress and deception by men. She raises a foster daughter on her own and vows to never get married. The film boldly depicts the struggles of working class women against class and gender oppression to gain independence, while reflecting on female resistance to the concept of marriage by those who vow to follow a single life.

     "White Dragon, Part Two", the sequel to the 1933 film "White Dragon", is a romantic comedy revolving around three pretty women (Tong Suet-hing, Lam Mui-mui and Wong Man-lei) competing for the attention of a well-off gentlemen (Sit Kok-sin). The film's Western social occasions give an incisive glimpse into the dog-eat-dog business world. The film has preciously preserved for posterity the art of Sit, one of the towering figures of Cantonese opera, in his prime.

     Hou Yao, who had been a renowned Shanghai silent filmmaker in the 1920s, made national defence films that were distinctly different from the realistic works of his Mainland counterparts. Hou's sound film "Incident in the Pacific" centres on two lovers in northeastern China defending their country fearlessly against the Japanese invasion and sees Lo Ban-chiu fight at the warfront and Lee Yi-nin infiltrate deep into the enemy camp as a spy. Another national defence film scripted and directed by Hou, "Fortress of Flesh and Blood", sees a patriotic old scholar forgoing the pen for a pistol and leading his students to the war front. Hou even plays the old scholar himself, killing his own son for betraying the country.

     Lo Duen's realist tragicomedy "Follow Your Dream" presents a microcosm of wartime Hong Kong in which life is full of absurdities. It also mirrors the close interactions between Hong Kong and Guangzhou in the 1930s and '40s. In the film, a twist of fate brings some working-class folks under the same roof, including a down-and-out writer (Cheung Ying) with a sick mother and a sister to feed, a money-grubbing landlady (Lee Yuet-ching), a courtesan (Lam Mui-mui) earning a living for her family and an itinerant songstress (Wu Mei-lun). They are later inspired by a virtuous and educated lady (Mei Fung) to provide mutual care for each other in times of hardship.

     Hung Suk-wan's "The Rich House" was adapted from Lui Lun's novel "Clara". Starring Cheung Wood-yau and Lo Ming, the film depicts the rough romance between a poor writer and a waitress. The melodrama film retains the exotic touch of its original story and includes the addition of a comedic, freewheeling painter couple to impart a light-hearted tone.

     Cantonese opera master Ma Si-tsang plays a skilled detective in "Bitter Phoenix, Sorrowful Oriole" and performs with Cheung Yuet-yee in a lovingly playful couple. Disguising himself as a beggar during an investigation, Ma shows his talents by singing a cherished tune from Cantonese opera. The film is a delightful genre-blender in the Western style, mixing touches of comedy, a crime story and Cantonese opera, and promotes social morals in a modern way.

     "Love Song of the South Island" follows the love affair between a rich Chinese young man (Wang Hao) and a Chinese songstress (Kiwako) in Southeast Asia. The affair is thwarted, however, by the young man's domineering father (Lo Duen). This studio-shot piece exudes the exoticism of Southeast Asia in its sets, props and music, which remain interesting nowadays.

     Reference films will also be shown for comparison purposes alongside the selected films during the programme period. They are "The Grand Duchess and the Waiter" (1926), a comedy about a millionaire pretending to be a waiter to win the heart of a duchess; "The Thin Man" (1934), a classic Hollywood screwball comedy featuring a detective couple; Jean Renoir's "The Crime of Monsieur Lange" (1936), projecting hope for a righteous and fair society; "Camille" (1936), an adaptation of the novel the same title by Alexandre Dumas fils and starring Greta Garbo; "March of Youth" (1937), a national defence film classic directed by Shi Dongshan and scripted by Tian Han; "Sworn Sisters" (1954), featuring a group of women who work as domestic helpers and vow to remain single; and "Malaya Love Affair" (1954), an exotic tale with a vivid portrayal of the lives of Southeast Asian Chinese people.

     "Love Song of the South Island" and "March of Youth" are in Mandarin, "The Crime of Monsieur Lange" is in French, "The Thin Man" and "Camille" are in English and all the other films are in Cantonese. "Follow Your Dream" and "The Rich House" are with Chinese and English subtitles, "The Crime of Monsieur Lange" is with English subtitles, "The Grand Duchess and the Waiter" is silent with English intertitles and live music accompaniment and the other films are without 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 one accompanying minder), 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 76", distributed at all performing venues of the LCSD, or by browsing the website

Ends/Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Issued at HKT 17:00


Photo Photo Photo
Print this page