As many a Hong Kong film fan will no doubt agree, 2003 was a very memorable year; and not just because of the SARS epidemic that gave those residing in Hong Kong (including many of our favorite stars, most esteemed directors, valued producers, etc.) and other affected territories a serious scare for a time -- and whose specter has continued to linger and loom over significant swathes of the world -- either. Instead, it is difficult to think of this particular 365 day period without tearfully recalling that on April 1st, 2003, Leslie Cheung decided to take his own life, and that before the year was out, we lost Anita Mui (and Blackie Ko) too.
“Our Sister Hedy” (1957)
“Mambo Girl” (1957)
“The Greatest Civil War on Earth” (1961)
“Come Drink with Me” (1965)
“Till the End of Time” (1966)
“The Three Smiles” (1969)
“Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan” (1972)
“The Empress Dowager” (1975)
“The Magic Blade” (1976)
“The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” (1978)
Furthermore, I feel that it represents a tribute to Hong Kong cinema as a whole that it is an entity that I honestly do think will not be dying off any time soon and, indeed, is currently far healthier plus more enduring than those who are wont to underestimate it realize. Even while granting that it may be a product of my hopes and imagination, I really do harbor the impression that the cinemas I’ve gone to view Hong Kong movies in (both in Hong Kong as well as my native Malaysia) have played host to more people in the latter portion of 2003 than, say, during the summer of 2002 or 2001. And this despite there being no Stephen Chow release -- or Johnnie To-Sammi Cheng collaboration -- among the offerings for which I was in the audience.
My picks (as of mid February, 2004 and post viewing twenty-nine 2003 Hong Kong movies but without having viewed such as “The Floating Landscape”, “Golden Chicken 2”, “Naked Ambition”, “Shiver” and “The Source of Love” just yet):-
1) RUNNING ON KARMA
There’s no two ways about it. Pure and
simply, I love this Milkyway Image effort for: its multi-genre/genre-transcending
nature; director Johnnie To’s daring to -- and veritable genius at -- come
up with a single film that’s personal as well as commercial; and the large
amount of “heart” that was evident in the performances of its leading acting
duo of Andy Lau and Cecilia Cheung (neither of whom are real favorites
of mine but whose work in this movie I cannot find any fault with).
This Barbara Wong Chun Chun helmed youth-oriented
dramedy is one that has room for the wisdom and concerns of elders along
with the idealism and ambition of younger folks. By also being a
movie in which people come to terms with failure rather than just celebrate
success, the often quite audacious and amusing offering provided me with
ample proof of its representing a more mature, complex and binary opposition
transcending perspective than many an ostensibly more serious or sophisticated
This soulful drama that deals with death, loss,
life, love and responsibility -- and which contains top drawer performances
by Lau Ching Wan and Paul Chun Pui as well as Cecilia Cheung -- might be
dismissed by some as a somewhat slight production. However, it constitutes
further satisfying proof for me that director Derek Yee can weave movie
magic out of subject matter that may seem mundane on paper but come across
as meaningful plus substantial when dealt with by him.
On the surface, this star-, cameo- and parody-filled
comedy premise can seem terribly crass. However, by doing such as
creating and filling this U.F.O. co-production with female as well as male
characters who are amusing but also able and memorable (notably in the
form of those played by Teresa Mo, Maria Cordero, Tony Leung Kar Fai and
Eric Tsang), director cum co-scriptwriter Edward Pang has come up with
another perceptive as well as enjoyably humorous effort (and confirmed
that his “You Shoot, I Shoot!” was no fluky flash in the pan).
Because this concluding chapter of the ambitious
“Infernal Affairs” trilogy would be hard to appreciate on its own (not
least because it makes a multitude of references to events that took place
in the two earlier movies), the vote that I’m casting for it is essentially
one for the whole, thoroughly involving, saga. At the same time,
I’ll also point out that I’m actually going against the popular grain here
in stating my preference for Part III of this trio of character driven
crime dramas over the other 2003 Andrew Lau and Alan Mak helmed installment
that had a theatrical release in 2003.
In as much as I can appreciate a serious film,
there are times when all I really would like from a movie is fluffy fun
coupled with blockbuster entertainment. On such an occasion, this
Idol-powered (Go Twins! And Ekin and Edison too!!) supernatural fantasy-action-romantic
comedy-drama proved to be just the ticket. So roll on “The Twins
Effect 2”, and may it be just as delightful and chock-a-block with the
kind of charm cum cuteness that da Twins -- together with Hello Kitty and
its ilk... ;) -- have in spades!
With this film, Johnnie To showed skeptics
that he still has what it takes to make a quality crime drama. Like
“The Mission”, this police movie has atmospheric cinematography, evocative
music and great ensemble acting galore, feels largely quiet and understated...and
can be accused of having a misogynist streak. In this case though,
I’d suggest that the accusation is less valid; and not just because the
auteur’s sometime policewoman sister appears to have served as the inspiration
for Maggie Siu’s PTU sergeant character.
Good god. One more Johnnie To film on
this list. And none of them starring Sammi Cheng to boot! More
seriously, it is quite remarkable how different are the three efforts in
my 2003 HK Movies Top Ten that bear the Milkyway Image doyen’s imprint.
More specifically, what we have here is a beautifully lensed romance pic
that couldn’t help but feel good; especially in light of its possessing
such warm vibes-emitting as well as physically attractive, even while acting
lovelorn, leads in Takeshi Kaneshiro and Gigi Leung.
Coming in the wake of the box office tsunami
called “Infernal Affairs (I)” like it did, this Wong Jing and Marco Mak
co-helmed crime drama had to endure copycat accusations and superficial
comparisons that I consider rather unfair. Instead, IMHO, when viewed
on its own, this very watchable work comes across as having its share of
merits -- notably in such as its possessing an involving main story along
with the increasingly charismatic Anthony Wong’s three-dimensional portrayal
of a complex character.
For my money, a Chinese New Year comedy ought
to be funny, star-studded, convey auspicious wishes and/or messages, and
have elements that make the viewer think “only in Hong Kong...” By
my reckoning, this entertaining feng shui and other predictive devices-themed
offering that also can be characterized as a Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Miriam
Yeung-powered star vehicle fits the bill. Consequently, I have little
to complain, and found much to like, about this movie which I enjoyed much
more than any of the four other 2003 offerings I viewed that had “Madam”
Miriam in their cast.