Hong Kong Cinema

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FungShengWuChi
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:53 am

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#101 Post by FungShengWuChi » Wed Feb 05, 2014 5:41 pm

feihong wrote:I hated those subtitles on the Dragon Dynasty DVD. The subs on the IVL disc were way better, but I'm pretty sure I sold that disc long ago.
ARGHHHH! I KNOW. Still better than the IVL disc, because I didn't have to hear the godawful synth track. That crap RUINED the DVDs of The Assassin and The Delightful Forest for me - especially the latter. I remember at some point just turning the volume down and reading the subtitles only for each of those.

I preferred the way Fan's song was handled, subtitle-wise, in the Dragon Dynasty disc. In the IVL subs, it was a little too obvious that he was singing instructions on how to draw the character for "temple," surely not the way it seemed to a Chinese audience....
feihong wrote:But initially Celestial had every authoring problem known to humankind when they began transferring Shaw Bros films to dvd.
True silver lining/cloud stuff. Yes, we were getting to see these great things on disc, FINALLY, but they really messed some of 'em up. and only some of screwups were the fault of the Weinsteins.

Speaking of frame cuts...I get what they are, but can someone please explain what purpose they serve? Why are they done at all?

Orlac
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:29 am

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#102 Post by Orlac » Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:36 pm

The frame cuts were done to remove the splice marks, so I'm told. Which is weird, doesn't every movie have splice marks?

Zot!
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 12:09 am

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#103 Post by Zot! » Wed Feb 05, 2014 9:42 pm

Orlac wrote:The frame cuts were done to remove the splice marks, so I'm told. Which is weird, doesn't every movie have splice marks?
Sometimes prints will have tape splices. A negative is typically nicely cut together with special glue. So splices can be clean or sloppy. A nicely cut negative shouldn't be noticeable, as all the prints will be generated from that.

FungShengWuChi
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:53 am

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#104 Post by FungShengWuChi » Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:58 am

So...no reason in these cases? Just another one of Celestial's peculiar decisions during the restoration process, like taking the time/effort/expense to animate the opening credits for a lot of the Shaws, and completely removing scenes they couldn't make perfectly clean, I guess.

Speaking of, does anyone know of a widescreen version of that little (but mighty) 1:44s fight sequence removed from the final fight in The Avenging Eagle?

Orlac
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:29 am

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#105 Post by Orlac » Thu Feb 06, 2014 3:42 pm

FungShengWuChi wrote:So...no reason in these cases? Just another one of Celestial's peculiar decisions during the restoration process, like taking the time/effort/expense to animate the opening credits for a lot of the Shaws, and completely removing scenes they couldn't make perfectly clean, I guess.

Speaking of, does anyone know of a widescreen version of that little (but mighty) 1:44s fight sequence removed from the final fight in The Avenging Eagle?
I'm hoping Celestial telecined the films before the cutting....

...and also before the exessive noice reduction!

FungShengWuChi
Joined: Wed Jan 29, 2014 11:53 am

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#106 Post by FungShengWuChi » Fri Feb 07, 2014 4:58 pm

Oh, I'm sure they did right by those films...
](*,)

Of all the problems, I think the DNR bothered me the least (it drove me CRAZY for the DVD of Once Upon a Time in the West, though). The synth added to the soundtracks (in the case of The Delightful Forest, a piss-poor attempt to drown out the use of Morricone music by Shaw Bros) was the one that really made my head explode.

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

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#107 Post by feihong » Fri Feb 07, 2014 6:01 pm

I think they initially thought that they were "improving" the films; making them seem more modern. I believe they eventually abandoned that strategy, didn't they? There were later attempts to improve the picture quality of the DVDs at any rate.

Orlac
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:29 am

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#108 Post by Orlac » Mon Feb 10, 2014 8:11 am

Initially, the HK DVD were non-anamorphic, then they becaame "fake" anamorphic. By 2006, they were proper anamorphic and all original mono, BUT STILL (get it?) PAL-NTSC!

Orlac
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#109 Post by Orlac » Sun Apr 20, 2014 7:55 pm

I'm trying to rack my brains to think of a Hong Kong movie that could be suitable for the Criterion treatment. The Shaws and Golden Harvests seem stuck in corporate packages, but I wonder if there are good film materials for the likes of Dragon Inn? Or maybe Drunken Master? (Sony's HD master looked good on dvd, but the Cantonese track was heavily cut).

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#110 Post by feihong » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:35 pm

The King Hu films spring to mind first. There seem to be good sources for Raining in the Mountain, the Fate of Lee Khan and the Valiant Ones, at least.

A Touch of Zen desperately needs restoration--the night scenes are severely degraded and almost unseeable (except on the Optimum DVD, which is contrast-boosted beyond all reason).


But you know, Criterion has a lot of pop stuff, and there are certainly some interesting Hong Kong films that sit uneasily between the boundaries of art and entertainment. I'm thinking of the films of directors like Stanley Kwan and Patrick Tam, especially. I'd like to see a Patrick Tam blu-ray box, including Love Massacre, Nomad, Final Victory, My Heart is That Eternal Rose and After This Our Exile, maybe. Stanley Kwan's Actress is a film that would really benefit from close analysis and lots of special features.


There's a picture I think deserves the Criterion treatment, but which no one will likely recommend, and that's It's Now or Never. This is an unorthodox black comedy, totally out of step with what was happening in Hong Kong cinema in the 90s. It's gorgeous, stylish, and very unexpected, and it says quite a bit about class in Hong Kong society. It features some remarkably good performances from performers not generally known for their sensitivity or insight (Ng Man Tat, Sharla Cheung-Man, Cynthia Khan)--inspired comedy jostles next to excoriating critique of HK money society. The film is surprisingly rough and mean, but it plays enormously funny, in a way that is very accessible, even if you are nonplussed by standard Hong Kong comedy. Add to this the fact that the film has been entirely unavailable in the DVD era, and you certainly have something interesting going on.

Orlac
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#111 Post by Orlac » Sun Apr 20, 2014 9:47 pm

King Hu is definitely top of my list.

I regret my knowledge of HK cinema beyond old school kung fu is rather shoddy!

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#112 Post by feihong » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:37 am

That's why you're wracking your brains! There's lot's of stuff from Hong Kong worthy of the Criterion treatment.

The Patrick Tam movies are really interesting for me. This is a director who concentrated on themes which were not common within the heavily genre-ized Hong Kong movie scene. And the movies are rendered with sensitivity and really interesting aesthetics. The films do place less emphasis on stylized visual than the films of Tam's collaborator, Wong Kar-Wai, do, but Tam has a sense of cinema that seems to blend verite influences with melodrama, full-blooded romance, humor, criminal mischief...Maybe a comparison with the films of Nicholas Ray is most appropriate. Tam seems to deal often with slightly sensational topics of popular interest, but he does so with an energetic and decisive visual vitality, and real sympathy with his players that often produces exceptional performances. Nothing in Eric Tsang's filmography is as moving as his petty hood in Final Victory. The great audience identification Tony Leung Chiu-Wai makes nowadays was signaled early by his supporting role in My Heart is That Eternal Rose--a supporting role that threatens to take over the later part of the picture. The performances by Charlie Yoeh and Aaron Kwok in After This Our Exile are far more raw and passionate than either actor has delivered in the past. I think Tam is, at this point, the hidden figure of the Hong Kong new wave, waiting to be rediscovered. It would be great for Criterion to tap into that and elucidate it with a great set.

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Lowry_Sam
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#113 Post by Lowry_Sam » Mon Apr 21, 2014 1:31 am

feihong wrote:That's why you're wracking your brains! There's lot's of stuff from Hong Kong worthy of the Criterion treatment.
Criterion has sorely neglected Hong Kong cinema (actually Asian film in general, outside of Japan) and it could also do a better job in picking up films by female directors. Nothing would please me more than to see Criterion kill 2 birds w/ one stone by picking up some of Ann Hui's films. They missed the boat on A Simple Life, but they could make up for that by giving either Boat People or Eighteen Springs a proper release.

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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#114 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 7:57 am

I certainly agree with feihong on Stanley Kwan, and would especially love to see the ghostly romance across two eras Rouge get a Criterion treatment some time.

Though it is a China co-production, the amazing Farewell, My Concubine (also starring Leslie Cheung) really needs to get released in a version worthy of it, maybe with Kwan's Yang + Ying: Gender In Chinese Cinema as an extra contextualising feature.

Has Tsui Hark's Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain been mentioned yet? That, and his Peking Opera Blues would be wonderful additions to the collection and also show more of the wonderful Brigitte Lin beyond just her Chungking Express role!

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#115 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:35 am

I agree that there ares lots of HK films that could benefit from Criterionization -- but wonder if these would sell well enough. For instance, I can see some of Ann Hui's best stuff getting great reviews -- and then still selling really poorly -- sort of like Naruse (whose wonderful When the Woman Ascends the Stairs didn't encourage any further main-line releases). In a perfect work, some Hui and Kwan and Johnnie To would be a nice start, however.

I think that even largely sophisticated American movie fans (the ones who do watch foreighn films) must have some sort of zero sum analysis when it comes to Asian cinema. HK -- we've already got WKW. Japan -- give me a break, Kurosawa and a little Ozu and Mizo = alread overloaded. And trying to work in China andf Korea, much less Thailand or the Philippines. Just not going to happen. Probably there is a similar resistence to European cinema, beyond a handful (or tow) of big names -- but I don't pay as much attention...

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SpiderBaby
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#116 Post by SpiderBaby » Mon Apr 21, 2014 6:56 pm

feihong wrote: A Touch of Zen desperately needs restoration--the night scenes are severely degraded and almost unseeable (except on the Optimum DVD, which is contrast-boosted beyond all reason).
I don't think there is anything I want to see more (except an English subtitled boxset of Shuji Terayama films) than a restored Criterion blu-ray of A Touch of Zen. That film, like you have mentioned, needs it.

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Lowry_Sam
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#117 Post by Lowry_Sam » Tue Apr 22, 2014 12:18 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:I agree that there ares lots of HK films that could benefit from Criterionization -- but wonder if these would sell well enough.
Because many HK titles haven't been released on blu-ray anwhere, including in HK, & many of the DVD releases were little more than bootleg quality even if they were legit, I think Criterion could anticipate some sales outside of just the US. One problem with Criterion's sales of lesser known titles is that people don't even know they exist & it's only the die-hard Criterion fans that follow what it is putting out......If Criterion put out more releases & perhaps established better branding, perhaps it could sustain better sales in more niche markets (ie. dedicated sub-labels for HK, experimental, Eastern European, silents... ) that would appeal to an established market, as opposed to the occassional suprise release with lackluster sales.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#118 Post by feihong » Tue Apr 22, 2014 3:58 am

I really have no idea what sells for Criterion, outside of Wes Anderson and Michael Bay movies. I guess maybe some of the Hitchcocks? Repo Man? Probably some of the Kurosawa titles.

It's a good question as to how Criterion mounts some of these projects. They did just release Touki Bouki, so I guess I feel as if anything's possible. But "anything" sometimes proves itself to be the end of the adventure.


If they did Johnnie To movies, I'd like a good disc of Vengeance, where someone on an audio commentary talked about the film being a quasi-sequel to Le Samourai. Everyone I ever spoke with about the film seems to have missed this aspect of the picture--the aspect that makes it most interesting, perhaps. The Mission could really benefit from the Criterion treatment, as could Sparrow or the Election movies--all of which have somewhat low-standard blu-ray releases. It would be interesting to see some of To's earlier work on blu-ray--The Heroic Trio, perhaps, or some of the populist comedies, like The Fun, the Luck and the Tycoon. The Enigmatic Case, To's debut, is actually a picture I wouldn't really care to see rehabilitated--it did close to nothing for me, and it doesn't really interest the way other such debuts do, like Tsui Hark's Butterfly Murders or Patrick Tam's The Sword.

I like Ringo Lam's Victim a whole lot, but I doubt anyone else feels that it deserves criterion treatment.

Pedicab Driver would be a cool one for Criterion to release. Seeing as no one has been able to track it down since the laserdisc days, and seeing that it is Sammo's best film, and that it has a really well-organized collection of themes, there might be both reason for Criterion to take notice and a market for the film if Criterion were to release it. Tsui Hark's The Blade might have some decent interest attached to it, and could certainly prompt a great cover design.


The King Hu films are deserving but likely it won't happen, I think. The rights to the films are in some cases unknown, or contested, and good elements are hard to find. The King Hu Foundation restored The Valiant Ones about 15 years ago, but it could very well be in bad shape again, and the Foundation, last I had heard, had no resources to promote the film or release it in any home video format. I thought I once heard that the rights owner for Dragon Inn and A Touch of Zen was bankrupt. With the resurgence of wuxia movies, there has been plenty of opportunities to promote these movies, but they have never managed to really get seriously released anywhere (minus the old Japanese DVDs and the various dismal tries at A Touch of Zen). It would be interesting to do a pairing of Dragon Inn and Anger, along with the Raymond Lee Dragon Inn. I've heard but have been unable to confirm that the feisty female innkeeper Maggie Cheung plays in the Raymond Lee film is based on a character from Anger--and Anger is an essentially unseeable film. So it would be cool to see the two King Hu films, and then connect the influences to the 90s remake. Kind of like a Killers box set! But I doubt that will happen, either.

Orlac
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#119 Post by Orlac » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:41 am

I think I read somewhere that Pedicab Driver was one of a package of films acquired by Warners in the 90s, for reasons that escape me.

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feihong
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#120 Post by feihong » Tue May 27, 2014 3:52 am

Resurrecting this from obscurity...

...Pedicab Driver is, I believe, still sitting around at Warner Bros. A group I worked with did a screening of the film in the early 2000s and we got prints from both Tai Seng and Warner Bros--the projectionist used the Warners print, and while it wasn't pristine, it still looked fabulous, with rich color, great sharpness. The Tai Seng print was a mess by comparison, with a lot of its color faded and also with a raspy soundtrack. Warners has kept that film in this ridiculous limbo, refusing to release it, and not letting anyone else get to it. Why? It's a great question.


Speaking of Sammo films--every time I see another of his pictures, I'm impressed by...usually by everything about the film. As a director, Sammo had a sense of movie craft I find more and more pleasing as I get older. I seldom re-watch Jackie Chan films, but Sammo's movies have a lot of repeat entertainment value.

That's an introduction to me saying that I just watched Slickers Vs. Killers for the first time. Everywhere I've seen, the picture was damned with very faint praise, and so I'd been reluctant to spend any time on it. But earlier today I watched Jeff Lau's The Eagle-Shooting Heroes, so I guess I figured, what the hell. It couldn't really be worse.

Actually, it's really very fun! I found myself laughing through most of the picture, and Sammo makes a much more relatable clown than Jackie Chan. There's this very sublime way Sammo doesn't appear to see whatever's happening in the picture that makes Sammo into quite a sympathetic figure. Joyce Godenzi is his match in that regard. It's a shame her career was so curtailed. Also there's Jacky Cheung, completely believable as a psychopath, Lam Ching-Ying basically taking it easy, and, it turns out, some really impressive cinematography. The action is really snappy--especially towards the end--and the comedy surrounding the CID witness protection program was wonderful. I had no idea this picture was, in fact, kind of a gem. I guess this means I have to give Don't Give a Damn a try, as well.

roujin
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#121 Post by roujin » Tue May 27, 2014 1:08 pm

Sammo is hugely underrated as a director. His Wheels on Meals, Pedicab and others are peak action/comedy hybrids done with style and wit at all levels.

Don't Give a Damn aka Burger Cop is lots of fun minus some really unfortunate blackface stuff near the end. I'm pretty sure Takeshi Kaneshiro and Sammo spend the entire last action sequence (great though it is) all in blackface.

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whaleallright
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#122 Post by whaleallright » Tue May 27, 2014 1:56 pm

agree that Sammo is great and underrated by many, but it's profoundly unlikely that Criterion would take on his films. I think the films are too populist for Criterion, to be frank. the recent Sight & Sound poll results suggest that aside from a few specialists, the worlds of upmarket cinephilia and film criticism have still not embraced the Hong Kong genre cinema. Wong and to some extent King Hu are exceptions because their work is pretty clearly poised between popular and "art" cinematic models. but people like Hung and Tsui and Chang and Liu, etc. made an embarrassingly poor showing.

re. King Hu, there are recently restored prints of Dragon Gate Inn and Touch of Zen--they screened at the Wisconsin Film Festival last year--but I don't think they circulate commercially and of course the existence of 35mm prints is a very different thing than the availability of the films on home video.

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YnEoS
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#123 Post by YnEoS » Tue May 27, 2014 10:22 pm

Agreed, my enjoyment of Sammo Hung's films only grows with time. I wonder if his skill behind the camera was learned in part while he did action choreography for a number of excellent directors in the 70s, like Huang Feng, Michael Hui, and King Hu.

I think the nature of Cantonese comedy is always going to be a pretty big barrier between him getting any kind of a following among Criterion's customers.

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whaleallright
Joined: Sun Sep 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#124 Post by whaleallright » Wed May 28, 2014 3:53 pm

yup. it's a barrier for many audiences--among guailo anyway. I know that one of my very favorite films, Tsui's Shanghai Blues, has left some friends totally cold because of the manic (not simply antic) comedy. it took me a while to get used to, but now I find it joyful and inventive.

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YnEoS
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Re: Hong Kong Cinema

#125 Post by YnEoS » Sun Dec 07, 2014 4:19 pm

Great new Tony Zhou video essay on Jackie Chan and action comedy.

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