Film Screenings

From Dream Factory to Golden Plaza-Two Hong Kong Marriages on Film

Is marriage the grave of love or the goal of a romantic relationship? People from different times hold different views, and indeed men and women often understand marriage differently. The Doctor and the Prima Donna (1960) and My Prince Edward (2019) both look at marriage, or more generally gender relationships, from a feminist perspective and prompt the audience to reflect on their own lives and values. The challenge for women might vary decades ago – at least nowadays a married woman is rarely expected to sacrifice her career – but the tension brought by marriage might be equally disturbing for our female protagonists.

Interpretations of Hitchcock's Work in the Changing Era

Hong Kong cinema is known for action and gunfight scenes in the international arena – hardboiled, thrilling and spectacular – that Hollywood sometimes likes to learn from. But some fifty years ago, Hong Kong crime fiction movies often borrowed from Western films their storylines and styles, mixing action, suspense, romance and comedy elements. For example, Black Cat, the Cat Burglar (1956) can be considered the Hong Kong remake of Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955), keeping the original's tempo and humour but adding a local flavor to the protagonists' romance. Johnnie To's Yesterday Once More (2004) might have referenced the classic The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) in terms of style, yet encompasses much more about marriage and relationships, elevating the genre to a new level.

Evolution of Detectives' Persona

The portrayal of detectives has always been fascinating in Hong Kong movies. In the early days, the detective image in Hong Kong cinema often copied that from the West – trench coats, fedora hats and tobacco pipes. The Shadow (1961) is a good example of how a detective in Western attire is investigating crime in a Hong Kong setting, showing a perfect manifestation of Hong Kong's hybrid culture. Mad Detective (2007) pushes the detective image to another extreme. Instead of a well-attired suave professional, the detective looks more like a mad man. What he uncovers is not only the truth but also people's inner selves. Both films share a concern over humanity and go beyond intriguing suspense and captivating narratives.

Female Characters in Crime Films

Detective films are often male-led, but there are exceptions to this masculine genre in which a female detective role ably unveils the truth in crime. An Unusual Crime at Night (1956) follows a female factory worker who is determined to investigate a homicide case, when the real culprit sets her boyfriend up to be the scapegoat. In Eye in the Sky (2007), a newbie female cop is assigned to surveillance suspects, and she is equally resolute to track down the robber who has once escaped her eyes. The urban Hong Kong milieu shares the stage with our female protagonists in both films, making them telling of Hong Kong's urban landscape and social ethos in their respective eras.

To Catch a Stoolie-The Definitive Subgenre of Hong Kong Crime Cinema

Undercovers and informants are typical roles in crime fiction, and are often spotlighted in films, so much so that films about these characters have formed a sub-genre. These people find themselves in difficult positions in crime syndicates, and the dilemma they face is often what creates dramatic tensions in movies. The Murder Case at Club 99 (1956) meticulously unfolds the police's investigative process and delves into undercovers' psyche. The Stool Pigeon (2010), likewise, looks into the inner world of crime informants in great detail, and extends the exploration to the moral awakening of officers managing these stool pigeons sandwiched between law enforcers and mobsters.

Symbolicial System in Ghost Films

The vampire (jiangshi) genre reached its peak in the 1980s with a wave beginning with Mr Vampire (1985), which is one of the '100 Must-See Hong Kong Movies' named by the Hong Kong Film Archive. Yet vampire films have a much longer history in Hong Kong, and are still loved by moviegoers and filmmakers alike nowadays. Stealing the Beauty's Corpse at Night (1955) features the coffin home and transformation of corpses that are commonly seen in the vampire wave in the 1980s, and Vampire Cleanup Department (2017) carries on some of the traditions from that wave while attributing a human twist to one of such supernatural creatures.

Psychic Expression of Maternal Love

Ghost film as a genre has always been popular in Hong Kong cinema. Sometimes the genre crosses-over with action and comedy, and at other times they are purely scary and spooky. Ghosts might even be absent in some 'ghost films', but human beings in them might be even more spectral. In A Vampire Pays Offerings to the Moon (1958) and Home Sweet Home (2005), the female leads have become horrible 'ghosts' because of love for their children. Though the two films come from different eras and demonstrate different cinematic treatments, they are both exploring human natures that are timeless and universal.

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