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.
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
To Hong Kong w/ ❤️ (To Hong Kong with Love) A Series of Hong Kong New Wave Films Paired with Timely Documentaries About the Current Political Protest Movement at the Metrograph
Beginning Saturday, February 1 (and continuing throughout the month), Metrograph presents To Hong Kong w/ ️ (To Hong Kong with Love), a series of HK New Wave films, paired with timely documentaries about the current political events, still unfolding. The Hong Kong protests were in the news for the better part of 2019 and the subject of widespread debate, much of it by outside observers with a vested interest in imposing their own narratives. From its days as a British colony to its present status as a Special Administrative Region in China, small Hong Kong’s fate has been largely decided by great powers, without consultation of its citizens—including the 1997 return of Hong Kong to China. As a corrective, To Hong Kong w/ ️ is made up of films that show Hong Kongers speaking for themselves, pairing classic scripted films that explore the soul of the city with new documentaries that give voice to those who are out in the streets, fighting to keep their vision of that soul intact. Co-programmed by Katherine Cheng, Project Hong Kong.
All screenings will have introductions and/or Q&As with journalists, scholars, and front-line activists, to be announced soon.
Saturday, February 1
Comrades: Almost a Love Story (Peter Chan/1996/118 mins/35mm) The story of a touch-and- go romance between two Mainland expats, earnest Northerner Leon Lai and Guangzhou-born wheeler- dealer Maggie Cheung, Peter Chan’s profoundly touching drama follows its leads from youth to maturity, from upper-class security to the slums, and between Hong Kong and New York City, bidding bittersweet goodbye to the dreams of youth, the old HK that William Holden once visited, and the plaintive voice of Teresa Teng, which echoes through the film.
Hong Kong Trilogy (Christopher Doyle/2015/90 mins/DCP) For years, Hong Kong was the beating heart of Chinese pop cinema, but reunification with the Mainland in 1997 upset the delicate balance that had fostered the city’s genius. It has been a city in transition ever since. Who better to track that transition than Christopher Doyle, longtime resident, Wong Kar-wai’s frequent cinematographer, and a man with a sure-shot eye for the telling detail? In three docufiction segments, Doyle looks at three generations of Hong Kongers: School children, young “Umbrella Movement” activists, and the elderly. Overlaying recorded interviews onto loose narrative vignettes, Doyle creates sweet, richly textured, free-flowing portraits of a bevy of unforgettable characters.
Saturday, February 8
Nomad (Patrick Tam Kar-Ming & Terry Tong/1982/96 mins/DCP) Before he became the mentor to Wong Kar-wai, Tam was an iconoclastic filmmaker in his own right, one of the leading lights of the Hong Kong New Wave. His third film, Nomad, is a stylish, Pop Art-inflected knockout made with later Wong production designer William Chang Suk-ping. In an overcrowded city, a quartet of young Hong Kongers—including the great Leslie Cheung—tries to carve out some space for themselves to drift and dream, while the persistent presence of Japanese pop culture comments on Hong Kong’s susceptibility to outside influence, and sets up a shocking confrontation with the Japanese Red Army.
Lost in the Fumes (Nora Lam/2017/97 mins/DCP) Politician and activist Edward Leung is the subject of Lam’s intimate and disarming biographical documentary, which begins by following the young radical localist on his campaign to win a seat on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council—a contest which he’ll be barred from due to his advocacy for Hong Kong independence. Only 22 when the film was made, Lam is a near-contemporary to rising leader Leung, and their Lost in the Fumes shows the psychological toll—depression, disillusion, and anger—of passionate political engagement on a generation of young people tried in the fires of protest.
Saturday, February 15
Teddy Girls (Patrick Lung Kong/1969/107 mins/DCP) Champion of the Cantonese-language film in a Hong Kong industry then dominated by Mandarin productions and an ahead-of-his-time cinematic modernist who influenced John Woo and Tsui Hark, Patrick Lung Kong is a figure of incalculable importance in HK film history. Find out why in Teddy Girls, his slam-bang female juvenile delinquency melodrama that starts with a go-go club brawl, moves to the grounds of a lockdown reformatory, and ends on a note of pure pathos. Released in the aftermath of the 1967 Hong Kong Leftist Riots, it immediately became a flashpoint for controversy.
Yellowing (Chan Tze-Woon/2016/133 mins/DCP) Chan documents the 2014 Umbrella Movement from a boots-on-the-ground perspective, following protest participants from various backgrounds throughout 79 days of occupation, including the first police tear gassing of unarmed protestors. As the action proceeds, bonds form and strengthen between both the four main subjects and the filmmaker, very much a participant in events. Giving a human face to a mass movement, Chan creates a film every bit as grassroots and spontaneous as the protests he is documenting.
Saturday, February 22
Rouge (Stanley Kwan/1987/99 mins/DCP) Stanley Kwan, who became Hong Kong’s first openly gay director not long after Rouge’s release, crafts an elegant and enormously moving love story that comments on both changing cultural mores and the persistence of the past in the city’s present. Modern newspaperman Yuen (Alex Man) meets a seemingly disoriented woman, Fleur (Anita Mui), dressed in traditional cheongsam of the 1930s, placing a “Missed Encounters”-type ad. As it transpires, she’s the ghost of a woman who committed suicide in 1934, seeking the lover who failed to meet her in the afterlife, played in flashbacks by Leslie Cheung. A beautiful and beguiling paean to a city ever-changing and eternal.
Raise the Umbrellas (Evans Chan/2016 & 2019/119 mins/DCP) Praised and censored, Raise the Umbrellas brings together a chorus of voices to discuss and define the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Represented are not only recognizable activists like student leader Joshua Wong, Hong Kong Democratic party founder Martin Lee, and Occupy Central mastermind Benny Tai, but also students, Cantopop icons, politicians, and “Umbrella mothers.” The result is a comprehensive portrait in-the-round of the occupation, doing justice to a multifaceted mass action that is too often reduced to one-sided talking points.
Saturday, February 29
Ten Years (Jevons Au, Kiwi Chow, Zune Kwok, Ka-Leung Ng, Fei-Pang Wong/2015/104 mins/DCP) In this speculative fiction anthology, five young filmmakers—who faced harsh blowback for their participation in the project— imagine what Hong Kong will be like 10 years from the then- present day: that is, in 2025. The controversial “Self-Immolation” imagines an act of fearful, fatal sacrifice for home; “Dialect” sees a cabbie isolated by the elimination of Cantonese; and a tone of anxiety presides throughout. Running through each entry are the very concerns underlying the Umbrella and the current Anti-Extradition Movements—a fear of the erasure of Hong Kong identity by Mainland influence, and anticipation of a dystopian future under an authoritarian state
Umbrella Diaries: The First Umbrella (James Leong/2018/120 mins/DCP) From the June 4th candlelight vigil to the September 28th mass gathering outside of Government Headquarters, Leong’s Umbrella Diaries tells the story of the beginning of the Umbrella Movement in the voices of those who were in the thick of it, delineating the different camps vying for influence within the mass occupation, divided in their aims while united by a common cause of civil disobedience to the powers that be. Embracing the complexities and contradictions of a political action that’s as complex as Hong Kong itself, Umbrella Diaries is a study in how a broad-based popular protest can, with however much difficulty, actually work.