Hong Kong Cinema: A Guide

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feihong
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:20 pm

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#226 Post by feihong » Tue May 26, 2020 1:42 am

I'll third that; the discs are great quality. I've ordered many of them. I still keep them around even after I buy the Eureka discs, because the HKR discs usually have better features.

The Peking Opera Blues and The Killer discs I'm really looking forward to. I especially appreciate that he's taking the time to color correct Peking Opera Blues using the laserdisc as a reference––the Fortune Star blu ray is unbelievably dark and desaturated. The updates posted about that color correction have been really exciting. He's added back the ending text explaining the fate of the whole conspiracy, too. I'm also really anxious to see The Killer, as he's attempting to correct lots of the motion problems on the Dragon Dynasty disc.

Of his other releases, Wheels on Meals was really awesome, though the Eureka release trumps him in terms of picture quality. The Drunken Master 2 disc looks pretty good. The Supercop disc is awesome.

My dream is that HKR will somehow get their hands on that 35mm transfer of Dreaming the Reality. Did anyone see that up on Youtube? Somebody got a 35mm print of the film and telecined it. It turned out to have several scenes that had never appeared on the VHS or Laserdisc versions of the film. But apparently the rights holder had a problem with that transfer being made public. But honestly, having the movie up on Youtube can only promote interest in the film at this point. It's not as if you can really see it any other way.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#227 Post by feihong » Tue May 26, 2020 1:48 am

Thanks Fanciful Norwegian and whaleallright for the Patrick Tam info. It's all pretty interesting. I'm looking forward to reading that catalog. It sounds like Tam's own perfectionism led him to a very bitter outlook on any future achievements in film. It's quite a shame. He was a very unique voice. But I can certainly understand feeling jaded about your creative prospects in a film industry.
Last edited by feihong on Wed May 27, 2020 12:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

isakorg2
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#228 Post by isakorg2 » Tue May 26, 2020 9:57 am

Good Lord, these guys (though apparently it's this guy) have been in existence since 2018 and this is the first mention I've ever seen of them? With a (hopefully) good enough blu-ray to do justice to Hard-Boiled at long last AND a scheduled restoration for The Killer. This is one of those too good to be true things, perhaps - since I instantly ordered Hard-Boiled I'll soon find out.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#229 Post by feihong » Tue May 26, 2020 2:39 pm

Hard Boiled looks great. I think it's mostly sourced from the Japanese blu ray, which is quite good.

A couple years ago at a screening event an acquaintance mentioned he thought Hong Kong film seemed really out of fashion (presumably he meant for film revival programs). The idea seemed off to me, since I'm still pretty steeped in these films; but later I realized it seemed mostly the case. A lot of the most exciting Hong Kong movies are mostly inaccessible today, or only available in ridiculously sub-par format. I suppose it's in part because current Hong Kong cinema is not very exciting, but I can't help but think it's an indicator of neglect that in order to see a lot of Hong Kong classics in hi-definition we have to rely upon fans using their own resources to make the films accessible. Thankfully, Eureka is starting to make a difference in that capacity, but I think the miserly policies of companies like Fortune Star are responsible for a lot of the downturn in interest. The movies in their catalog don't have to look like sh*t on blu ray or streaming sources. But they're so focused on their local market, which doesn't care about old movies. Hopefully the Mei Ah films coming out in higher quality will show companies like Fortune Star that there's some value in releasing their catalog films in higher quality.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#230 Post by feihong » Wed May 27, 2020 2:02 am

I just rewatched Once Upon a Time in China V for the first time in years. This time, though, rather than the miserable DVD I saw back then––hardly better than a VHS tape––the version I saw had been recorded from an HD television broadcast. As a result there was color separation and clarity, and even pretty sharp edges to be found throughout the film. The action sequences especially are remarkably clear. It was a great viewing, especially after watching through the Eureka trilogy box a couple of weeks ago, along with the somewhat interesting audio commentaries on those discs. It was great to see those films in high quality, but seeing V in high quality as well––not nearly so high–quality, but far higher quality than I had ever seen before––was exceptional. I like V as much as II, and almost as much as the first movie. Like Gunmen, it becomes an unsuspected period heroic bloodshed movie, with Wong Feihong's crew trading frenetic shots with a bunch of aggro pirates.

And I really like Zhao Wenzhuo as Wong Feihong. The commentators on the Eureka discs effuse on every film about Jet Li's acting; but I have always found Zhao a much better actor than Jet. I'm not sure why Zhao Wenzhuo never got more support and fans. His roles for Tsui Hark are all good. His performance in The Blade is really well–drawn. I remember being very impressed at first with the scene in Mahjong Dragon where he and Josephine Siao lay their cards on the table with one another. He is slowly buttoning a tuxedo shirt, and he raises his eyes to Siao without raising his head. The look he gives her is smoldering and ambiguous in equal measure. As Wong Feihong he has a subtlety Jet just doesn't deliver. He looks at the other actors with a sort of generosity which I think is a little beyond Jet. And when he arrives on the scene to rescue his crew, he's commanding without any stridency. Also, he's able to do those long tracking shots full of unbroken acrobatic movement, which makes his entrances really exciting. He just seems so much more like Wong Feihong to me than Jet Li ever does. He has some excellent roles to his name, but he never seemed to get to anything like a similar position in the industry. His starring roles outside of Tsui Hark's films, around the time of the Hong Kong handover and afterwards, are wretched movies. I think maybe Fist Power is the best of these? He did admirably well in True Legend. But by the time of Seven Swords he's a TV actor more than a film performer. Those post–handover films looked terribly cheap. I guess his draw was mostly in period martial arts, and there wasn't much funding available for period martial arts films after the handover––though they still did those kind of projects on TV. So maybe that was where the work was for him. I don't know. I just think he's a very underrated performer and a generous supporter to other actors, who helped make a run of 90s Tsui Hark films into classics. His support in Green Snake and The Chinese Feast is as polished and graceful as his leading roles. Anyway, I think he and this film both deserve some rediscovery.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#231 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed May 27, 2020 10:21 am

I keep waiting for decent releases of Ann Hui's back catalog.... (suspect it's never going to happen). :-(

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YnEoS
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#232 Post by YnEoS » Wed May 27, 2020 10:31 am

The Spooky Bunch is probably the film I most want to see a decent release of.

Orlac
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#233 Post by Orlac » Wed May 27, 2020 11:25 am

My main experience of Chiu Man-Chuk (Zhao Wen-Zhuo) was the tedious potboiler THE BLACKSHEEP AFFAIR, which looked really great from the UK trailer, but was very middle-of-the-road.

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The Pachyderminator
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#234 Post by The Pachyderminator » Fri May 29, 2020 12:29 am

Whoa, that Hong Kong Rescue outfit looks fantastic, but can someone clarify what's going on there exactly? I'm aware of the incredible levels of care and effort that can go into fan-made bootleg releases, but I don't usually see them sold openly online. Do they somehow just fly under the radar, legally speaking?

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#235 Post by feihong » Fri May 29, 2020 2:09 am

I had read from the guy running HKR that people from Eureka (or Criterion? I can't remember precisely) who were fans of his projects had actually consulted with him about their own release, asking where to find particular materials, etc. I wonder if it doesn't fall under the same quality of product as, for instance, custom–made action figures? Companies like Hasbro basically let those happen and get sold by the customizers, often for quite a bit of money, because they feel like it promotes their commercial releases rather than detracts from them. If any of these companies does a really good job producing their disc, it's going to be way better quality than what HKR can produce. So all they have to do is make good with their holdings, and people will buy those discs also. I have HKR releases for Project A I & II, Wheels on Meals, and the Police Story movies, but I also bought the Eureka releases of all those films. They didn't lose my business. So I wonder if that factors into these companies' thinking in terms of letting HKR be?

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Lowry_Sam
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#236 Post by Lowry_Sam » Fri May 29, 2020 1:45 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 10:21 am
I keep waiting for decent releases of Ann Hui's back catalog.... (suspect it's never going to happen). :-(
Me Three. I met her a few years back while she was attending a festival for her latest (and visiting her sister who lives in Monterey) but didn't get a chance to ask about what was going on with her back catalog. I would have thought that Boat People would at least have been restored by now as part of the World Cinema Project, as I remember that Scorsese was somehow involved in its initial distribution in the US in the 80s.

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J Wilson
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#237 Post by J Wilson » Fri May 29, 2020 3:14 pm

Had never heard of this HK Rescue guy, but I've ordered the films I didn't already have on other blus, so I'm looking forward to seeing them. Extras look great.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#238 Post by feihong » Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:49 am

I found a couple of great surprises, two Hong Kong new wave movies on blue ray in true, beautiful HD. One was the Japanese blu ray of Skinny Tiger & Fatty Dragon, which is fully of nice grain, bright colors, and a gritty, sharp picture. The other was the MLife blu ray of the Tsui Hark/Raymond Lee Dragon Gate inn remake––holy cats, but that movie looks great. It hardly looks nearly 30 years old. The blu ray really makes Dragon Gate Inn look extraordinary. I had alway thought it had a thin–looking picture on VHS and DVD, but now I see that there were actually a lot of striking lighting effects that hardly registered on those lower-quality mediums. Funny, because I just watched a pretty low-quality HD broadcast of Once Upon a Time in China IV, the one directed by Yuen Bun, and I realized from watching that what a difference it made to have Tsui Hark directing, based just upon the kinds of camera shots Hark selected vs. what Bun did. The epic scope of the series came through when Hark was deciding what we see, but when Bun was directing the movie had a much more clammy and diminished sense of scale. But watching Dragon Gate Inn, it dawns on me how well Raymond Lee brings across the that same Tsui Hark idea of scale and spectacle. What a grand film, and what a great disc. If only we could see all Hong Kong movies in such quality.

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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#239 Post by hanshotfirst1138 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 7:18 pm

whaleallright wrote:I have bought them all and the guy (it's just one guy, albeit relying on a lot of advice and help) does an incredible job. He really goes all out, and goes to hurculean lengths to get things right within the limits of his resources. The menu/navigation screens can be kind of chintzy but aside from that, they are usual great packages for the price point; they rival many or most "legitimate" releases, including Criterions. I was actually planning to get his version of Peking Opera Blues when it's ready (supposedly in a few weeks).
I can’t help but be depressed when fans work harder to restore movies than legitimate companies do. It’s amazing work-my Despecialized Edition is one of my prized possessions-but it’s depressing all the same.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#240 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Tue Jun 02, 2020 7:52 pm

feihong wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:49 am
The other was the MLife blu ray of the Tsui Hark/Raymond Lee Dragon Gate inn remake––holy cats, but that movie looks great. It hardly looks nearly 30 years old.
Have a link to where I can purchase this release?

I saw a fan subtitled rip of that Japanese Fatty Tiger release and can echo on how good it looks. It seems a lot of HK films get very nice transfers in Japan, but usually are alternate cuts made for Japan with very different soundtracks, including this release.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#241 Post by feihong » Tue Jun 02, 2020 11:51 pm

I wish the Japanese companies did more high–quality blu–rays...of Hong Kong films and Japanese films both. They have done good on some very popular Hong Kong movies, but you can never be sure what will end up looking like what. The Jackie Chan special editions they did have full–HD versions of the films...as an extra feature. The Fortune Star upscales are the main feature on those discs and most others. I got Island of Fire, hoping it was one of the special editions, and it ended up being a Fortune–Star–style upscale. There's no consistency as far as I can see. I think the Japanese market seems like the only place we'll see blu rays of movies like The Blade, or Shanghai Blues––movies for which the rights didn't end up with Fortune Star or Mei Ah. But I'm not too confident releases like that will ever happen. These movies don't seem to get more popular; just more obscure.

I also managed to see an HD broadcast of High Risk, which was really fun. I forgot how fun that movie was. The cast really rises above the miserable Wong Jing aesthetics––Chingmy Yau has a real hoyden-ish charm in this one. Somehow in the last two or three days I've managed to watch something like 12 films with Billy Chow as a heavy. It was hilarious; each movie I popped in, all of a sudden, there's Billy Chow, again. I don't quite get it. These HK new wave movies are all such breezy fun. They are made with chutzpah and they're charming; even when they're as trashy as High Risk, they're so much more fun than all these modern comic book movies, with their lockstep aesthetics and throat–tighteningly cgi–ed action stuff. None of these modern films have this energy or excitement, really. When Jet Li crashed a helicopter into the side of the building and used that to jump into the ballroom and take on the bad guys, I was having a really good time. When I watch comic book movies today, I feel so tense, and I'm just trying to get through it. I don't want one more sentimental scene, one more joke, one more unbelievable action scene. I like the feel of these Hong Kong movies––that they're making things up as they go along, that they're actually doing all the physical stuff in the films. The actors may not be playing memorable characters, but they have a kind of presence and charm that makes them seem special all the same. Sure, time runs on, and tastes change, but why can't we have these movies, along with all that Hollywood garbage? It's so rare to find one of these movies in any kind of quality. Now it's hard to find a lot of these movies at all. It's kind of a bummer.

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whaleallright
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#242 Post by whaleallright » Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:55 am

Lowry_Sam wrote:
Fri May 29, 2020 1:45 pm
I would have thought that Boat People would at least have been restored by now as part of the World Cinema Project, as I remember that Scorsese was somehow involved in its initial distribution in the US in the 80s.
Boat People and The Story of Woo Viet were both "restored"—and released on a Blu-ray set in France. See https://www.amazon.fr/The-Story-of-Woo- ... FK5RDHNB96


And yeah, in re. feihong's experience, I would guess that probably 90% of the folks who buy stuff from Hong Kong Rescue are going to go on to buy the "legit" releases when (if) they come out, so I would imagine they aren't really taking market share from Criterion, Eureka, etc. It's probably also the case that the HK / Malaysian / Singaporean rights owners to these films aren't particularly assiduous about going after rights violators in the U.S.

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tenia
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#243 Post by tenia » Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:11 am

I have this French BD and both movies' PQ borders on SD upscale, especially Boat People. They clearly haven't been restored, at least not within the past 20 years.

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whaleallright
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#244 Post by whaleallright » Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:17 pm

That's why I put the word in scare quotes; IIRC some websites claimed they were "restored" versions. They don't look too bad to me TBH.

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tenia
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#245 Post by tenia » Thu Jun 04, 2020 12:28 pm

Woo Viet is slightly better but Boat People is very dated looking.
I doubt I'd scored any of those PQs higher than 3.0 out of 5.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#246 Post by feihong » Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:38 pm

Neither one looks very lush, but they both look better than I've ever seen them presented in the past.

I saw HKR's screenshots of the improved picture quality for Peking Opera Blues (sharper, brighter, better image than the previous OOP blu ray offered). It got me thinking. Has anyone ever seen a cut of the film where Sally Yeh's fight with the Ticketing Officers was part of the story structure in–film? I've seen it play over the credits at the end of the movie, but I've never seen it used as part of the story (which is a shame to me; it looks really fun). I wondered if it was like the Zhao Wenzhuo/Hung Yanyan fight in A Chinese Feast, that recently got added back into the film on the blu ray release. If I remember right, that fight appeared in some previous releases of the movie but not all of them. I have a VHS tape and a VCD of It's Now or Never which have very different cuts of the film, presenting scenes in different orders, with different scenes in each version having longer sections at the beginning or the end of scenes. But I haven't ever seen a cut of Peking Opera Blues where this fight scene was included within the plot of the movie.

cowboydan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#247 Post by cowboydan » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:00 pm

.
Last edited by cowboydan on Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#248 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Thu Jun 04, 2020 4:11 pm

feihong wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 11:51 pm
These HK new wave movies are all such breezy fun. They are made with chutzpah and they're charming; even when they're as trashy as High Risk, they're so much more fun than all these modern comic book movies, with their lockstep aesthetics and throat–tighteningly cgi–ed action stuff. None of these modern films have this energy or excitement, really. When Jet Li crashed a helicopter into the side of the building and used that to jump into the ballroom and take on the bad guys, I was having a really good time. When I watch comic book movies today, I feel so tense, and I'm just trying to get through it. I don't want one more sentimental scene, one more joke, one more unbelievable action scene. I like the feel of these Hong Kong movies––that they're making things up as they go along, that they're actually doing all the physical stuff in the films. The actors may not be playing memorable characters, but they have a kind of presence and charm that makes them seem special all the same. Sure, time runs on, and tastes change, but why can't we have these movies, along with all that Hollywood garbage? It's so rare to find one of these movies in any kind of quality. Now it's hard to find a lot of these movies at all. It's kind of a bummer.
This is exactly what I feel is the greatness of HK cinema. There's those style of Nikkatsu films that are called "borderless action", but these films take it to the next level as every single possibility is not only possible, but unfolds beautifully in front of our eyes. I always feel like the perfect example of this type of cinema is Lau Kar Leung's Tiger on Beat where the physics of weaponry are thrown out the window to feature so many possible uses for a single shotgun. I've had the pleasure of seeing this in the cinema and the audience was hooting, yelling and emoting the whole time. I rarely see American action films do that to an audience. Compare this to a film that was semi-contemporaneous at the time like Hard to Kill for a perfect example of the creakiness of American action cinema. This doesn't just apply to the action films, but consider how the works of Wong Kar Wai feel borderless in expression and story.

Not to derail too much, but looking at the cancelled Cannes list, there's a film called Septet by Milkyway Image with segments directed by Johnnie To, Ann Hui, Tsui Hark, Patrick Tam, Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo-Ping. Does anyone know anything about this production? I can only find a snippet that says it's a film about Hong Kong history, which to me is begging for trouble in China's current climate. It was only a few years ago that Milkyway Image's Trivisa was banned in China.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#249 Post by feihong » Thu Jun 04, 2020 9:35 pm

I think this is the movie that they've been planning for years, which used to be called Eight & a Half on the IMDB. Ringo Lam was also attached, but he died, presumably before his section was shot. I heard different things about it over the years, including that each director was handling a different decade of Hong Kong in the 20th century, pre–handover. It will certainly be exciting to see all those filmmakers doing something new.

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whaleallright
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#250 Post by whaleallright » Sat Jun 06, 2020 2:40 am

Ringo Lam is still credited on the poster, so I guess he finished shooting his segment? John Woo had been part of the original group and dropped out, though I don't know the circumstances. one has to imagine this is going to be a real grab bag, given contributors as different as e.g. Yuen Woo-ping and Ann Hui.

where all these directors have stood in relation to the last five+ years of HK protest movements I don't know (Johnnie To, for one, has made his displeasure with the PRC fairly clear, and has approached coproductions with considerable trepidation), but whatever the substance of their segments, it'll be hard not to interpret this in light of the very-recent tragedy of Hong Kong being placed under the CCP's heel.

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