Hong Kong Cinema

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#126 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Dec 08, 2014 2:58 pm

Not cinema -- but some stills so evocative you wish you could see movies that such images:

http://www.boredpanda.com/hong-kong-str ... ir-fan-ho/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#127 Post by jindianajonz » Mon Dec 08, 2014 4:13 pm

YnEoS wrote:Great new Tony Zhou video essay on Jackie Chan and action comedy.
Are there any good Jackie Chan Hong Kong box sets out there? I try to buy box sets to save on money/space, but after browsing through Amazon, it looks like most are "5 films per DVD" type of deals.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#128 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Dec 09, 2014 6:53 am

YnEoS wrote:Great new Tony Zhou video essay on Jackie Chan and action comedy.
That is a great video that gets at a lot of what makes Jackie Chan's films interesting. I'd go a bit further as well and say that as well as incorporating objects into the fights he knows how to handle vehicle action scenes really well (say the bicycle scene in Project A, or the train/helicopter/motorbike climax of Police Story 3: Supercop, and so on), but also locations (the fight on the edge of a tilted glass roof of a skyscraper in Who Am I?, the playground set piece in Police Story 2, even sets like the banquet hall in The Armour of God) and even atmospheres such as the excellent wind tunnel fight in Operation Condor: Armour of God 2.

Also the other big problem with the US films, that was creeping into the Hong Kong films near to the end as well, was the use of CGI to augment physical stunts, which ended up removing the impressive nature of them. It works for silly joke sequences like the Chung Li one in the live action adaptation of a manga series City Hunter, but not when it is the whole show as in the terrible film The Tuxedo, in which all of our hero's impressive stunts are suggested to be entirely down to the title jacket! (It does allow Jackie to self-deprecatingly panic about what he is doing though, which is true to his filmic persona!)

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#129 Post by LaserBlast » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:31 pm

Are there any good Jackie Chan Hong Kong box sets out there? I try to buy box sets to save on money/space, but after browsing through Amazon, it looks like most are "5 films per DVD" type of deals.
The best Jackie releases are without a doubt the (sadly now out of print) HONG KONG LEGENDS DVD releases from the UK. I don't believe they ever did a big box set. The rest of Jackie Chan releases that have been released are either massacred from a resolution, aspect ratio, version standpoint or are only available with an English dub. Dragon Dynasty (the American counter part of HK LEGENEDS) did a few good releases, like SuperCop, but HK LEGENDS is the company that really did justice to the classics. You can still find a bunch of them on AMAZON.UK in the marketplace - sometimes for nothing more than pennies.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#130 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jan 05, 2015 4:26 pm

LaserBlast wrote:You can still find a bunch of them on AMAZON.UK in the marketplace - sometimes for nothing more than pennies.
As far as I can tell, one can't order Amazon UK marketplace items for delivery to the US....

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#131 Post by swo17 » Mon Jan 05, 2015 4:44 pm

You can, it just has to be from a seller that offers international shipping for that item.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#132 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jan 05, 2015 4:46 pm

Ah, I guess I've just had bad luck.... ;~}

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#133 Post by Orlac » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:09 pm

A lot of the HKL releases suffer from heavy cropping, distortion and awful remixes, but the Bey Logan commentaries are indispensable.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#134 Post by repeat » Wed Jun 24, 2015 10:31 am

Anyone have any nice words about Love in a Fallen City (Ann Hui, 1984)? Have a chance to pick up the R3 disc, but couldn't really find anything substantial on the film - is this one of her better works?

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#135 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jun 24, 2015 11:29 am

It's been quite a while since I watched Love in a Fallen City, but my memory is that I liked it (and that it had very good performances). I would definitely say it is worth seeing.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#136 Post by repeat » Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:51 pm

Thanks, I think I'll take a chance on it! Planning to finally attack my pile of unwatched HK stuff (mostly Johnnie To) in the next couple of weeks, starting appropriately enough with July Rhapsody :) This will probably fit in nicely.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#137 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jun 24, 2015 2:54 pm

Still no good version of Song of Exile (or Boat People), so far as I know -- and most of Hui's stuff seems to be out of print. July Rhapsody remains my favorite, but I haven't watched it for years. So maybe, seen side-by-side, some of her best newer stuff would catch up with it....

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#138 Post by repeat » Thu Jun 25, 2015 12:04 am

Yes, Fallen City seems to be OOP as well, that's why I thought best to snag it now when I have the chance. I liked A Simple Life well enough - desperate to see The Golden Era but it managed to skirt all the festivals in my area, and seems unlikely to be picked up for DVD release in the West as it doesn't really have the "general audience" appeal of the previous film. Boat People is actually up on YouTube with English subs and watchable picture quality (for me at least - due to an increased use of various streaming services in the last year or so I've grown perfectly accustomed to "better than nothing")...

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#139 Post by feihong » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:40 am

Has anyone seen the 4-disc Kam & Ronson blu-ray set of the Jet Li Once Upon a Time in China films? This set adds Once Upon a Time in China & America to the 1st three films.

Old versions of OUATIC from Kam & Ronson have ridiculous noise reduction, and are upconverts, to boot, I believe. But I came across a review of Once Upon A Time in China & America that said it was a true HD blu ray. It got me wondering whether the original 3 films had been given some improved treatment, to go along with the 6th film's supposedly classier handling.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#140 Post by feihong » Tue Sep 08, 2015 1:36 am

I was finally able to determine that the Kam & Ronson OUATIC 4-pack is simply a decent master of OUATIC&America and the same old horrendous versions of films 1-3.

...But what about the French HK Video Once Upon a Time in China 1-3? Is there anyone who has seen this? HK Video didn't used to use Fortune Star inferior source material for their discs––though I guess their Jackie Chan blu rays are upscales, like the Fortune Star discs of the same. But I can't find a review of these discs that is coherent after Google translate gets to it.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#141 Post by tenia » Tue Sep 08, 2015 4:25 am

The French set uses upscaled masters just like for their Jackie Chan BDs. It is extremely disappointing.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#142 Post by feihong » Tue Sep 08, 2015 5:01 am

Thanks for the heads-up, tenia. That is extremely disappointing, just as you say.

I feel like Hong Kong cinema––especially Hong Kong New Wave movies––has really gotten burned––nearly across the board––in the blu-ray era. Japanese film is coming out in some quantity, at least in Japan. South Korean film is sort of better represented, or at least, getting there. Hong Kong cinema actually has a lot of blu rays out there, but almost all of them are these depressing upscales. Even labels one could sort of depend upon in the DVD era are hideously inconsistent during the blu-ray era. Here's HK Video, which used to be pretty damn dependable, with the same gruesome upconverts Fortune Star has been disseminating throughout the world.

It's kind of alarming to think that at this point we don't have a passable blu-ray of The Killer, or The Bride with White Hair. Or City on Fire, or Swordsman II, or A Chinese Ghost Story, or...ehhh. It's very frustrating.



Incidentally, Michael, in response to the Ann Hui posts, there is still an English-subtitled DVD of Boat People out in Hong Kong, released by Edko. Anamorphic widescreen. Yesasia is still selling it, for about $11. I used to have the disc, and I remember it being of decent picture quality––at least as good as other Hong Kong releases of archival stuff from that time, like the Patrick Tam films, Mei Ah discs of Green Snake and Victim, etc. It wasn't terrible.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#143 Post by Raymond Marble » Tue Sep 08, 2015 10:39 am

Semi-relatedly, can any of you speak to the quality (or lack thereof) of the Hong Kong blu-ray of Centre Stage? I was just about to import it, but as of this writing have not seen much one way or the other related to how the transfer is.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#144 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:30 am

Now that you mention it, I think I have that Boat People DVD -- certainly vastly better than the various horrifyingly bad versions of Story of Woo Viet that were released -- but a properly restored release would be nice... of this and all the earlier Ann Hui films.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#145 Post by feihong » Tue Sep 08, 2015 3:39 pm

Agreed! I would love to see The Spooky Bunch with acceptable picture quality. To see it restored would be fantastic. Boat People as well.



This may just be wishful thinking, but I wonder why someone hasn't tried to reassemble the original cut of Ashes of Time into a quality blu-ray edition. The redux is kind of a terrible, watered-down film. But the original cut of the movie, with the Frankie Chan score, is dyno-mite. I guess there's the issue of the damaged source elements, and that was allegedly the reason the redux was mounted in the first place. But clearly the redux has this other agenda--this revisionist history for Wong of his own career--and that really reduces the effectiveness of the film. I'd like to see a blu ray of the original Hong Kong cut of the movie--but I bet that is only a pipe dream at this point. Wong Kar-Wai fans I meet these days have never seen nor heard of this movie, and if they have, it's only the redux.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#146 Post by masterofoneinchpunch » Tue Sep 08, 2015 7:19 pm

feihong wrote:... This may just be wishful thinking, but I wonder why someone hasn't tried to reassemble the original cut of Ashes of Time into a quality blu-ray edition. The redux is kind of a terrible, watered-down film. But the original cut of the movie, with the Frankie Chan score, is dyno-mite. I guess there's the issue of the damaged source elements, and that was allegedly the reason the redux was mounted in the first place. But clearly the redux has this other agenda--this revisionist history for Wong of his own career--and that really reduces the effectiveness of the film. I'd like to see a blu ray of the original Hong Kong cut of the movie--but I bet that is only a pipe dream at this point. Wong Kar-Wai fans I meet these days have never seen nor heard of this movie, and if they have, it's only the redux.
Like you said, Wong has stated that the reason on the Q&A with Wong Kar Wai (41min English with removable English subs) on the R1 Redux release was (these are from my notes) "Had to do it for AOT; 1998 financial crisis hit; had to pick up negative because lab where stored went bankrupt; materials not good. Got materials from oversea distributors, Taiwan, Chinese cinemas in U.S. Had to recut, remaster the film and resound."

Given his love of tinkering you can take that statement with a grain of salt.

Though being a HK fan I do wonder how could a person be a fan of Wong Kar-wai and not know of this film?

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#147 Post by feihong » Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:29 pm

I think younger people, who know of Wong from the films post–Happy Together, might know a very different Wong altogether. I've had younger friends, foreign film fans in their 20s, who only know Wong from ITMFL, 2046 and Grandmaster (none of them have seen My Blueberry Nights, either). They go back and like Fallen Angels, especially. They don't necessarily connect with the earlier work. And for people into Wong but not into HK cinema in general, the wuxia element of AOT is kind of a hurdle to climb over. I have to say the film made far more sense for me once I'd seen some more straightforward adaptations of The Eagle-Shooting Heroes, as well. But there is definitely a growing number of these fans, who didn't necessarily see any of the breathless movies exploding out of Hong Kong in the 80s and 90s, but who like Wong as a maker of classy, handsome international festival films.

As far as Wong's tinkering, I think we went into this in some detail a few years ago in one of these threads, but basically, my feeling is that the redux is a pretty serious attempt to "class it up;" Wong is grafting elements of his more elegant later style onto one of his earlier, rougher-hewn productions. The feedback of the Frankie Chan score gets given an ostensibly more "respectable" facelift, with a string orchestra and no less than Yo-yo Ma, providing his typical brand of cello-playing to what used to be wailing electric guitar parts, distorted keyboard sounds, and overwrought ululation. Then there's the cutback on the fight scenes, the placement of a lot of "meditative" shots of the moon. To me it always seemed like character assassination, like Wong implicitly rejecting the very unique tone and feel he had established in the original cut of the film, and the new tone of the redux did not, I feel, really complement the material Wong had shot--nor did it recall for me the film Wong originally made.

I still have the wretched Mei Ah DVD of the HK theatrical cut, because there really isn't anything quite like it out there in some other, better form. HK Video released a better-quality DVD of the film, but it's yet another cut of the film, some sort of international cut from back during the film's initial release. It has a lot of disappointing cuts as well.

But I don't think there will be a re-examination of the theatrical cut, because this is one of those movies that seems to be fading in importance in Wong's filmography, like My Blueberry Nights and As Tears Go By.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#148 Post by John Edmond » Wed Sep 09, 2015 12:18 am

Agreed. I'll also add that Redux suffers from heavy-handed DNR, and cheap glossy blood spray (which clashes with the film's original matte look).

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#149 Post by masterofoneinchpunch » Wed Sep 09, 2015 1:31 pm

I'm a John Woo fan, though for me his films can be hit and miss. I just finished this review/essay last week on his first directed full-length film.

The Young Dragons (1974: John Woo: Hong Kong)

“…we live for an ideal, whatever we do it is all the same…” – Fan Ming

This is not a bad film by any definition though it is probably of more importance for what it means for the future career of the participants than for the actual quality of the film. This is the first directed full-length film from John Woo (credited as Wu Yu-sheng on the English titles). Originally Woo was co-director of this production, under the title of Farewell Buddy, with Peter Wong Hoi Yi* who had just created an independent movie company with Liu Chi-ho’s money. This was originally done in 1973 but had run afoul by the censors because of violence. It actually had to do mainly with some gloves that had needles in them worn by Fung Hak-on’s character in which you can still see in the film and some of the results of those gloves on Lau Kong (though in the last scene you may wonder where those marks went to on his face and you will notice he never shows that side as well) and Ng Ming-choi. You may wonder why they got such marks when you watch this. The reason was that they had to be cut or the film would not have been allowed to shown. The censorship board was worried that impressionable youths would be influenced to use these type of weapons. This hurts the continuity of that particular fight scene. Fortuitously the film was sold to Golden Harvest, Leonard Ho liked it and gave Woo a three year contract.

The story takes place during the Chinese Republican era with Henry Yu Yung (The Bloody Fists) as an opportunist but lovable rogue Kin, hard not to think of David Chiang in this role, who is the leader of small gang of efficient criminals, but is a small cog compared to the smuggling operation of Boss Lung (Chiang Nan) and his hired number-one thug Wang Fai (Funk Hak-on.) Kin steals a load of Japanese firearms from Lung and uses them as bait to get even more money (still do not agree why he gets rid of all but one.) As he is trying to make money off of this racket in the meantime a government agent Fan Ming (Lau Kong) is trying to stop these smuggler/racketeers as he has a personal vengeance against Boss Lung.

The fight scenes are decent-to-good though the scenery and photography tends to outshine the actual action. It was nice to see some throws in the choreography. The use of the horse and dragging was quite unexpected though probably a reference to one of the many westerns John Woo had seen. This is one of Jackie Chan’s earliest action director roles (a few of the films he did in 1973 including The Cub Tiger from Kwantung would be reedited and released in a later year.) I was surprised by how agile Ng Ming-choi was (he is the rascal sidekick of Kin) given his corpulent nature. He is almost like a mini-Sammo Hung. I probably should not have been surprised since he is also known as Yuen Ting as he was one of the Seven Little Fortunes and he is not the only “Yuen” in the movie.

One good reason to watch this if you are a Woo fan is the early trademarks and influences you can already see taking shape here from interesting ways of lighting cigarettes to birdcages. The slow-motion reminds me of Chang Cheh in which Woo apprenticed under as well as Sam Peckinpah which is a fan of. He also has a nice habit of experimenting with interesting angles, composition and movement of the camera. However, he completely overuses the zoom to the point of extreme annoyance. You can see the friendship and Doppelganger motif between the two main characters reminiscent of Hard Boiled with one good-hearted “bad guy” character and one character on the side of the law and the importance of personal code. Also included is the completely ruthless henchman character Wang Fai and corrupt Boss Lung which parallels both Mad Dog and Johnny Wong in Hard Boiled. While the male relationships seem to work well, the love quadrangle seems somewhat haphazard. Chang Cheh would have ignored it completely. But the ending definitely feels Woo-like and a precursor of things to come. I would recommend this for fans of Hong Kong cinema and/or John Woo though expect a very basic plot.

I had a “hey that’s Dean Shek” moment in the film.** The scene seemed compositionally somewhat out-of-place with Shek’s comic shtick and urine. That was one nasty streak. Wouldn’t you worry about slipping on that? Would you want customers to see that? In case you did not get enough of him here, Shek would work with John Woo in later films such as Laughing Times (ugh) and A Better Tomorrow II with one being much better than the other.

The print from the Shout! Factory R1 set Martial Arts Movie Marathon 2 is good with some noticeable combing (interlaced?). There are nice bright yellow removable English subtitles. The movie is in Mandarin and there is no English soundtrack. If you watch the trailer, the only extra, you will notice a nude scene that is not in the main film. I have no idea why that particular scene was cut out though it is in a French HK Video DVD release of this movie. It is not uncommon for trailers to have cut scenes by the director, but given the history of this movie I am curious on when it was cut out (director, distribution, other?)

* Golden Harvest took Peter Wong’s name off of the screen because it was determined he did not direct any of the movie. They also changed the title, added and took away scenes as well. Try to figure out which scenes were filmed years later.

** Now those who do not know who Dean Shek is might wonder why I am bringing him up. He is a very broad comedic actor that would turn up in many Hong Kong martial art films. He is an acquired taste like Ethel Merman or Pauly Shore.

Sources:
Book: John Woo Interviews (2005) Edited by Robert K. Elder
Book: John Woo: The Films (1999) by Kenneth E. Hall
The Young Dragons: Joy Sales vs. HK Video (thank you HungFist)

Notes/Questions: Some or most of the action takes place in Longshan town (I noticed there are several of these named towns in China) and Beishun River (I really do not think these spellings are correct.) The dam/bridge/reservoir you see in the film is the Shing Mun in Hong Kong.
Anyone know where the music comes from? They reuse one particular segment over and over again.
Does Jackie Chan do any doubling in this?

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#150 Post by Orlac » Sun Oct 18, 2015 6:32 pm

The German BD of Chang Cheh's THE SHAOLIN AVENGERS comes highly recommended. Very nice HD transfer, Mandarin and English audio options with English subtitles. The film is so homoerotic it makes Joel Schumacher look subtle.

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