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Movies From the Golden Age of Hong Kong Cinema

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StChris

Thread notes:

 

In mainland China, you tend to get Mandarin dubbed versions, and these are what I have been watching. While I know not everybody is a fan of dubbing, this is how most Chinese people would have experienced these back then (and now, probably), it helps with my Mandarin listening skills, plus I think it actually sounds just fine anyway. I hear that some of the dubbing actors for these films became quite famous in their own right.

 

I'm sure there are Hong Kong cinema aficionados out there who have a much stricter idea about what constitutes the "golden age", but for the sake of this thread I'll play a bit lose with the rules, so don't feel you can't recommend or talk about early 00s films too. Maybe "Old Hong Kong Movies" would have been a better title for the thread, but probably not quite as catchy.

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Flickserve

Interesting. I happened to re-watch Stephen Chow‘s From Beijing With Love (1994) last night in Cantonese. My colleague said his films have a lot of really 地道 dialogue (for cantonese).
 

 

Maybe it won’t have quite the same effect when dubbed in mandarin. The mandarin might be more straightforward to better convey some of the humour. 


 

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StChris

First up:

 

胭脂扣 / Rouge (1987)

 

rouge.thumb.jpg.6be620ee170adad8a9629b39e0bd729e.jpg

 

This one tells a tragic love story between the top courtesan at a high class Hong Kong brothel (played by Anita Mui / 梅艳芳) and the son or a rich, business family (Leslie Cheung / 张国荣). As you can imagine, the parents of the rich young man aren't too pleased about their son's desire to marry a prostitute, and cut his allowance when he refuses to marry the woman of their choice. Without the family's income, and with the courtesan unable to do her usual work (where men paid hundreds just for the privilege of touching her hand), the young couple eventually fall into poverty, and decide on a suicide pact, agreeing to meet again in the underworld (阴间). However, after waiting there for 50 years without seeing her lover, the lady is allowed to return to modern day Hong Kong (well, 1980s Hong Kong) to find out what happened to him. There she meets a young journalist couple, who eventually agree to help her in her search.

 

1350041748_rougetrain.thumb.jpg.c43dad51c9191ddd2115cad356e3747e.jpg

 

I won't write any more of the plot for fear of giving away any spoilers (although I think its value lies in its atmosphere, rather than in any surprises or suspense, of which there are very few). It's definitely a slow burn kind of a movie, with very little action, so know that before jumping in. It mostly jumps between the gaudy, colourful brothel back in the 1920s/30s and dark, gritting 1980s Hong Kong (which itself feels like a long time ago, watching in it 2020). The atmosphere really got under my skin, but I think it's the performances of the two main leads that really sells it. I had already seen  张国荣 star in other films before watching this, but 梅艳芳 was totally unknown to me. Apparently she was a huge pop star back in the day, but from this performance her acting skills were top notch too.The fact that both main stars died young in the mid 2000s only adds to the tragic feeling of the film ( 张国荣 during the SARs epidemic, as it so happens).

 

The film appears to have acquired classic status in China, with a 8.4 rating on 豆瓣. I'd agree with that, and highly recommend it for anyone looking for a sad, atmospheric 80s film, starring two actors at the top of their game. Here's a nice video review in Chinese, for anyone too short of time to watch the whole film.

 

090e4385e0574e43c531fa803928ef01.thumb.gif.9116ed3309927600799a1b4b797c497e.gif

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StChris
19 minutes ago, Flickserve said:

Interesting. I happened to re-watch Stephen Chow‘s From Beijing With Love (1994) last night in Cantonese. My colleague said his films have a lot of really 地道 dialogue (for cantonese).
 

 

Maybe it won’t have quite the same effect when dubbed in mandarin. The mandarin might be more straightforward to better convey some of the humour. 

 

 

Was it good? 

 

I can't comment how the Mandarin compares to the Cantonese. It doesn't sound awkward to me, and the mainland Chinese people I've talked about it to all seem happy with it. I don't dare to even start learning Cantonese, Mandarin has already taken up enough of my life!

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zander1

While at summer school last year we watched 《甜蜜蜜》(dubbed into Mandarin) which I thought was excellent and is one of the ‘classics’ of the 90s romance genre. 

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StChris
2 hours ago, zander1 said:

While at summer school last year we watched 《甜蜜蜜》(dubbed into Mandarin) which I thought was excellent and is one of the ‘classics’ of the 90s romance genre.

 

I watched that one too, a few months back. I thought it was really good, at least the first two thirds of the film. I felt it trailed off a bit towards the end.

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Flickserve
6 hours ago, StChris said:

Was it good? 


well, it was funny if you like that style of slapstick comedy (which I do). 
 

Nice write up about Rouge.

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StChris
1 hour ago, Flickserve said:

well, it was funny if you like that style of slapstick comedy (which I do).

 

Sounds right up my alley (I'm partial to some slapstick on occasion as well). I'll see if it's on my TV service

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abcdefg

英雄本色 = A Better Tomorrow

Hope this fits the "golden age" criteria. After being released in 1986, it's a film I have watched over and over since it became commercially available. Stars 周润发 (Zhou Run Fat) who in my book is a conssumate action hero: intelligent and urbane, compassionate, brave, willing to risk it all when the scenario demanded. 

 

Film was made witht a low budget and got almost no pre-release promotion, but soon went on to break all Hong Kong box offices reccords and become a major hit throughout Asia. 

 

If you afren't familiar with it, here's a starting place: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Better_Tomorrow

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Balthazar

Interesting thread, I look forward to following it.

 

On 8/21/2020 at 8:15 AM, StChris said:

Being in China and studying Chinese, my thoughts naturally turned to thinking about what kind of movies Chinese people were watching 30/40 years ago, and if you're talking about the best Chinese films of the 80s and 90s, then you're pretty much talking about Hong Kong cinema.

 

... however, here I have to disagree. While HK clearly produced the most commercially successful films and their movie and music industries dominated the pop-culture of "greater China" and much of Southeast Asia in these decades, I'd say both Taiwan and the mainland made more quality cinema that has stood the test of time (and had a larger arthouse/festival presence). The "New Taiwanese Cinema" and the first half of the "Second New Wave" (link) in particular stand out, imo.

 

Now of course "quality cinema" is just as subjective as "best", so it's not surprising to see disagreement here. I find much of what was produced in HK through the 80s and 90s uniquely charming and very entertaining, so this is not to take anything away from that cinema.

 

I haven't seen Rouge. Will have to do something about that!

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Balthazar
18 hours ago, abcdefg said:

英雄本色 = A Better Tomorrow

Hope this fits the "golden age" criteria. After being released in 1986, it's a film I have watched over and over since it became commercially available. Stars 周润发 (Zhou Run Fat). in my book a conssumate action hero: intelligent and urbane, compassionate, brave, willing to risk it all when the scenario demanded. 

 

Agreed, this one really lives up to its reputation.

 

Have you seen "The Mission"/鎗火? 1999, so probably just outside the strict "golden age"-perioid definition. A somewhat overlooked but really brilliant film from the same genre. Really well executed stylistically too, e.g. this clip:

 

https://youtu.be/vMjRZJeTL0I

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abcdefg

Thanks! I look forward to watching it. 

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StChris

英雄本色 / A Better Tomorrow (1986)

 

zv1y6ccu.thumb.jpg.99f153c5eb4c83d648f6260f54f1e4c2.jpg

 

I had seen this one pop up in the TV service menu a few times, but it was @abcdefg's glowing recommendation that finally convinced me to give it a try. I'm glad to say that it lived up to expectations and I had a lot of fun watching it. As one of the most popular movies of the era, it probably doesn't need much of an introduction in terms of plot, so I'll just say that it's a tale betrayal, loyalty, revenge, friendship and pride in the 1980s Hong Kong criminal underworld.

 

20200204213624_32.thumb.jpg.34cb056ffeaae290a024732a5066ca7b.jpg

 

While 狄龙's character is pretty interesting (the former gangsta trying to go straight, while at the same time trying to do right by both his police officer younger brother and his best friend who still wants to do at least one last big hit), it's 周韵发's Mark (or 小马) who really steals the show. From the cocky, swaggering gangster at the beginning of the movie, to the weak and pitiful down-and-out in the middle, all the way to the determined and loyal fighter at the end, he's always nothing short of captivating. The character has many facets, cocky but kind, jovial but intense, sometimes brave and sometimes weak - it looks like 周润发 had a great time playing him.

 

EPq0cQHU8AEo_3f.thumb.jpg.52bcc4bb148ebae197fb6581a51fe007.jpg 

 

I think the fighting scenes all hold up really well. There's a charm to watching action scenes from the time before CGI, which meant that everything had to be performed in real life and not just on the computer. I especially liked the hotel/restaurant revenge scene. Here's a 20 minute re-cap/review of the movie from Youtube, and here is an interesting 知乎 thread I found giving some background on the movie itself plus the people behind it.

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StChris

I should have time to watch another two films next week. I can't find a Mandarin version of 枪火, so I might give 《英雄本色2》 a go instead (there is a 2018 remake of the original, but I can't help but think that it'll be anything other than hugely disappointing compared to the original - the 4.7 豆瓣 rating doesn't fill me with confidence  either). Before watching another gangster/action movie though, I would like to watch a palate cleanser, maybe a comedy or another slow moving drama. Any recommendations would be most welcome.

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StChris
22 hours ago, Balthazar said:

I haven't seen Rouge. Will have to do something about that!

 

Just pick an evening/night when you're in the mood to watch something slow and somewhat melancholy and I'm sure you'll like it.

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Flickserve

Another suggestion for the slow night developing drama is ....

 

Days of Being Wild - 阿飛正傳. 

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Balthazar
1 hour ago, StChris said:

Before watching another gangster/action movie though, I would like to watch a palate cleanser, maybe a comedy or another slow moving drama. Any recommendations would be most welcome.

 

Have you seen A Chinese Ghost Story/倩女幽魂 (1987)? If not, that's a safe suggestion.

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StChris
4 hours ago, Balthazar said:

Have you seen A Chinese Ghost Story/倩女幽魂 (1987)? If not, that's a safe suggestion.

 

I don't believe I have. It's on my TV service and looks good, so I'll give it a try. Thanks

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