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HK Film Archive's "Morning Matinee" to showcase charms of Cecilia Lee Fung-sing (with photos)
     Cecilia Lee Fung-sing is a film star who was active in the 1950s and 1960s. She played a range of diverse and contrasting characters, be they male or female, civil or military. To showcase the charms of Lee, the Hong Kong Film Archive of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will screen 10 of her contemporary, martial arts and opera films in the "Morning Matinee" series under the theme "A Blazing Butterfly in Gender-crossing" at 11am on Fridays during November and December. Lee will attend the post-screening talks on November 4 and December 30 to meet the audiences.
     Affectionately known as Sister Heung, Lee entered a film company in 1953 and started her film career under the professional name Lee Heung-ying. With her talents later recognised and cultivated by the noted director Fung Chi-kong, she founded the Liuliu Film Company with friends. Adopting the stage name Cecilia Lee Fung-sing in 1961, she shot to stardom with her screen persona as a wenwusheng (artist playing civil and military male roles). Lee moved overseas after marriage but made a big-screen comeback in 1996. The 83-year-old remains dedicated to her support of charitable causes.
     In "The Ambitious Prince" (1965), the Crown Prince Kam Lun (Lee in a cross-dressing role) falls in love with Princess Hundred Flowers (Ng Kwan-lai). A spell of madness is cast on the princess, and the prince is forced to trade his heart for her cure but then becomes a callous tyrant. The film also contains a dazzling array of stagecraft of the Northern School of martial arts, including "picking the helmet", "taking off the armour" and "snatching the flag".
     In "An Actress's Struggle" (1955), Yam Kim-fai plays a maid in a wealthy household and an aspiring opera fan who learns the art in male disguise from an opera teacher (Tang Kei-chen). What follows, plot-wise, is a score of misunderstandings and comedies of error arising from a rich heiress (Lee)'s frantic courtship and even forced marriage of Yam. The finale, a seven-minute excerpt of "Waiting for the Moon in the Western Chamber" performed in guqiang (an archaic, classical singing style) by Yam, is an operatic treat.
     "The Two Generations (Part I)" (1960) and "The Two Generations (Concluding Episode)" (1960) were the inaugural films of the Liuliu Film Company. Lee takes up the challenge of the dual roles of mother and daughter, respectively acting as Mei-shan (a virtuous young married woman) in Part I and Mei-lan (a wilful daughter) in Concluding Episode. Selected scenes of "The Beautiful Heaven" (1964) will be screened alongside "The Two Generations (Concluding Episode)". In "The Beautiful Heaven", Leung Sing-po runs Universal Services, and Lee plays one of his assistants charged with the task of finding the missing elder sister of Nancy Sit Kar-yin. The film is richly layered with comedic moments with memorable characters, each fleshed out with their own endearing quirks.
     Lee produced and starred in her first martial arts film, "Eight Errant Ladies" (1962), which was boosted by a stellar all-female cast including Tang Bik-wan, Yu So-chow, Yam Yin, Tam Lan-hing and Connie Chan Po-chu to perform as the Eight Female Knights of Tianshan. The sequel "Eight Errant Ladies, Part Two" (1962) continues the story on the search for a stolen sacred martial arts book. Besides featuring a myriad of flying daggers, booby traps and special effects, the films display the meticulous design and thoughtful construction that went into the various warriors' iconic weapons.
     In "A Funny Match" (1963), Lee played a dashingly handsome well-born young man and perfectly inhabited her only scholarly role in a period film to date. Lee's character and his younger sister (Cheng Bik-ying) have been betrothed to brother-and-sister twins (Tang Bik-wan in dual roles) since childhood, and their marriages are almost ruined due to a series of misunderstandings.
    "The Nine Ladies of Fragrant City" (1964) is a comedy co-starring nine actresses comprising Leung So-kam, Tam Sin-hung, Yam Bing-yee, Lee Hong-kum, Ying Lai-lei, Lai Kwan-lin, Hui Hing-hing, Chu Yat-hung and Kam Ying-lin. They become good friends in a tailoring class and then open a boutique. Lee, in a cross-dressing role, plays a bullying mobster who finds himself at the receiving end of the ladies' pranks.
    "Floating Life" (1996) is about a family separated in Australia, Germany and Hong Kong. An elderly woman (Lee) moves to Australia with her husband and their two youngest sons to stay with their second daughter Bing (Annie Liu). Differences in daily habits and thinking drive a deep rift between the mother and the daughter. Both earned nominations for Best Supporting Actress at the 33rd Golden Horse Awards for their gripping performances. Liu will attend the post-screening talk with Lee on December 30.
    "Floating Life" is in English, German and Cantonese with English subtitles. Other films are in Cantonese without subtitles. The programme is guest-curated by Yuen Tsz-ying.
     Tickets priced at $30 are now available at URBTIX (www.urbtix.hk). For credit card telephone bookings, please call 2111 5999. For programme details, please visit www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp/en_US/web/fpo/programmes/2011mm/film.html, or call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900.
Ends/Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:00
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A film still of "The Ambitious Prince" (1965).
A film still of "The Two Generations (Part I)" (1960).
A film still of "The Two Generations (Concluding Episode)" (1960).
A film still of "Eight Errant Ladies" (1962).
A film still of "Eight Errant Ladies, Part Two" (1962).
A film still of "A Funny Match" (1963).
A film still of "Floating Life" (1996).