Hong Kong Film Archive showcases nine rare gems
In just two years the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKAF) has established itself as a key player in the preservation of Hong Kong's film heritage by organising a range of thematic film programmes with hundreds of screenings, exhibitions, seminars and publications.
The HKAF will begin its third year with the 'Archival Treasures, Spring 2003' programme. Nine rare films will be screened, including Fei Mu's 'Spring in a Small Town' and King Hu's 'The Valiant Ones'. All the films have a remarkable story of acquisition and conservation.
Some of the prints were retrieved from overseas, others had their sound and picture quality restored, and one or two have just recently re-emerged.
The films will be shown from January 4 to 26 at the HKFA cinema.
Having been voted one of the best films in the History of Chinese Cinema, director Fei Mu's masterpiece, 'Spring in a Small Town' (1948), coalesces the complex but subtle emotional entanglement of five people into an essay of love and desire. With the perfect use of glances, mannerisms, body language and richly nuanced images, the film portrays a compelling psychological drama.
The film's sound was restored by the French Centre de Documentation sur le Cinema Chinois from a print from the China Film Archive. The betacam video of the restored version will be shown by courtesy of Elisabeth Cazer.
'Romance in the Boudoir' (1960) with superstar Hsia Moon, was directed by Fei Mu's brother, Fei Luyi. The film depicts a love triangle, with the neo-classical European architecture of Macau as the backdrop. It will be the first screening of this film since its acquisition by the HKFA.
One of the best pictures of film master King Hu, 'The Valiant Ones' (1975), integrates martial arts and the traditional value of loyalty. The great action scenes underscore the heroic nature of the film itself, bolstered by great ensemble acting and memorable martial arts choreography. The HKFA was able to create this digitally restored new print from the negatives donated by the director a month before his death in 1997.
Also on the programme are the wartime romance 'An All-Consuming Love' (1947) and the melodrama 'Orioles Banished from the Flowers' (1948). Both star Zhou Xuan, who was known for her singing. The original nitrates of the two films were left for years in a rooftop shed above a factory. The copies were sent to the British Film Institute for restoration and transferred to safety film. Part of the musical score in 'Orioles Banished from the Flowers' was missing and a more complete version was loaned by the Centre de Documentation as reference for restoring the film to its former glory.
'General Kwan Seduced by Due Sim under Moonlight' (1956) is a restored Eastman colour print of a Cantonese opera film from the negatives discovered in the Rank Laboratories in London. It stars martial arts master Kwan Tak-hing as General Kwan, the legendary 'God of War'. The central seduction scene is a fitting introduction to this important Hong Kong cinema genre.
The sole surviving copy of 'Our Husband' (1949) was repatriated from the World Theatre in San Francisco after many movies were destroyed when fire broke out in the Yung Hwa Studios. Set in Shanghai, 'Our Husband' features huge, meticulous sets and wonderful costumes that were stunning by local home-grown cinema standards.
Another Yung Hwa production, 'Soul of China' (1948), is a restored print from the British Film Institute. It is an epic spectacle with a budget of $1 million, 72 sets, a main cast of 20 and as many as 1,500 extras. The scale of the film, about the Song Dynasty loyalist Wen Tianxiang, wasconsidered unprecedented in the history of Chinese Cinema.
'A Baby for Everybody' (1949) was the first colour production from the Grandview Company following its re-opening after the war. It is one of the earliest locally acquired Hong Kong-made colour films of the HKFA's collection, and is an early example of the implications of the three-prime colours-negative cinematography of the local film industry.
All films to be shown are in Mandarin or Cantonese, while 'Spring in a Small Town', 'General Kwan Seduced by Due Sim under Moonlight' and 'The Valiant Ones' have English subtitles.
Tickets for the programme, priced at $30 each, are available at all URBTIX outlets. Further information can be obtained by browsing the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp.
End/Thursday, December 19, 2002