A collection of reviews of films from off the beaten path; a travel guide for those who love the cinematic world and want more than the mainstream releases.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Old School Kung Fu Fest, featuring All-Female Leads in 7th Edition, at Metrograph from August 18-20
OLD SCHOOL KUNG FU FEST "Wonder Women of the Martial Arts" is Theme for 7th Edition Actress Angela Mao to Appear In-Person!
It’s the seventh edition of Subway Cinema’s Old School Kung Fu Fest, a perennially wild weekend of incredible classic martial arts and action movies, and for this lucky year the theme is something extra special: “Wonder Women of the Martial Arts,” featuring some of the fiercest female warriors to ever grace kung fu cinema, a wellspring of tough gals. Female empowerment has never been this thrillingly cathartic, so come cheer along stalwart chop-socky heroines such as Angela Mao, Cheng Pei Pei, and Kara Hui Ying Hung as they triumphantly trounce scenery-chewing baddies (mostly misguided macho men, no doubt) with vengeful gusto! Co-presented by Subway Cinema and Metrograph, the series runs August 18-20.
Hapkido (Huang Feng/1972/97 mins/35mm) A watershed in Angela Mao’s filmography, Hapkido is a thrilling paean to the Korean fighting style that the lifelong martial arts disciple and superstar studied in real life. Angela and compatriots Sammo Hung and Carter Wong star as Chinese students of the titular Korean martial art who find themselves forced by the scenery-chewing imperialist Japanese baddies into defending honor and righteousness with dazzling hand-to-hand combat. Don’t blink! Friday, August 18 - 7:00pm (Angela Mao In-Person)
The Fate of Lee Khan (Kung Hu/1973/105 mins/35mm) King Hu enlisted a bevy of female stars including Hong Kong cinema stalwart Li Li-hua and martial arts ingénue Mao to lead the action and intrigue in this classic wuxia adventure. Hu once again centers the plot at an inn, a veritable hot pot of simmering conflict, where girl-gang undercover resistance fighters are pitted against oppressive Mongols, trying to stop a traitor from passing vital information to warlord Lee Khan. The ensuing struggle is perfectly highlighted by wry comic moments, masterful mise-en-scene, and breakout fight scenes from choreographer Sammo Hung. Saturday, August 19 - 3:00pm
My Young Auntie (Lau Kar-Leung/1981/121 mins/35mm) Choreographer-turned-star director Lau Kar-leung proved not only a consummate martial artist but also a champion of women with this brilliant Cantonese comedy of manners/fight fest. An elderly landowner takes a new bride to keep his coveted land away from his unscrupulous brother after his death, but traditional and demure Kara Hui Ying Hung also happens to be a kung fu expert, a fact that the scheming brother learns amidst glorious melee and hi-jinks which make for a classic of rough-and-tumble empowerment. Saturday, August 19 - 5:30pm
Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (Chor Yuen/1972/90 mins/DCP) This luscious production by the premiere auteur of phantasmagorical wuxia films puts a surprising new spin on his usual motifs of gallantry and intrigue. Lilly Ho plays a seductive but innocent girl sold into a brothel where the lascivious madame (Betty Pei Ti), ensnared by the young nubile's charms, lets her in on the secrets of esoteric and deadly kung fu, unwittingly sowing the seeds of a devious revenge plot. A singularly provocative martial arts film, its feminist subtext coyly veiled by its elegant yet decidedly lurid veneer. Saturday, August 19 - 8:00pm
Come Drink with Me (King Hu/1966/95 mins/35mm) Pioneer Hu revolutionized wuxia films with cinematography reminiscent of Chinese painting, kinetic camera moves, innovative action choreography, and meticulous period production design, all melded into female-forward fist-and-sword tales. Breakthrough Come Drink with Me put vibrant 19-year-old dancer-cum-actress Cheng Pei Pei on the action film map as Golden Swallow, a general’s daughter tasked with rescuing her brother from the clutches of bandits, managing to take on all opponents with several breathtaking bounds, as one of cinema’s greatest personifications of the martial arts. Sunday, August 20 - 1:00pm, 9:00pm
A Touch of Zen (King Hu/1971/180 mins/35mm) Wuxia godfather Hu’s ultimate masterpiece of chivalry and intrigue follows an effete scholar who gets involved with an indomitable female fugitive in an ancient Chinese town, sweeping us into a fever-dream of mystical proportions, at once romantic and suspenseful. A three-hour martial arts film and the first fight doesn’t happen until the last act! But it’s so transcendentally beautiful, profound, and exhilarating in its artistry as to mesmerize audiences to this day—and when the action does come, you’ll see why the movie was awarded a technical grand prize at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival. Not to be missed! Sunday, August 20 - 3:15pm
Yes, Madam (Corey Yuen/1985/95 mins/DCP) Girls with guns (and kung fu bona fides, too) ruled Hong Kong screens in the '80s and '90s, and this is the movie that set the template. A flimsy plot about stolen microfilm serves as a pretext for non-stop fights and chases, with star-making turns by former dancer and beauty queen Michelle Yeoh and real-life martial arts champion Cynthia Rothrock as Dirty Harriet policewomen who team up to best all the bad guys with acrobatic aplomb and explosive force. The women did their own unbelievable stunts—and somehow lived to tell the tale! Sunday, August 20 - 7:00pm