Wednesday, December 21, 2011

100 Must-See Hong Kong Movies - How many have you seen?

One of the 100 "Must See" Hong Kong Movies
according to the Hong Kong Film Archive experts
(and, for what it's worth, me too! ;b)

A few months ago, the Hong Kong Film Archive announced a screening program of 100 Must See Hong Kong Movies (that will go on through 2014 according to an official spokeswoman). Upon looking at the list compiled by six people (Hong Kong cinema experts, for sure, but still just six of them!), this Hong Kong film fan could not help but be shocked to discover that certain movies she considers great are missing as well as raise her eyebrows upon noticing the inclusion of other movies she doesn't consider all that wonderful.

Granted that it turns out that this list actually specifically only covers the years 1916 to 1999 (hence the exclusion of such cinematic gems as Toe Yuen's My Life as McDull (2001), Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's Infernal Affairs (2002), and Ann Hui's The Way We Are (2008)). But two of my favorite films of all time -- in the form of Peking Opera Blues (1986) and Peter Chan's He's a Woman, She's a Man (1994) -- are missing as well as a number of other movies I would put in my Hong Kong cinema pantheon!

Rather than quibble and gripe some more about it all, however, I'm going to invite the (Hong Kong) film fans among this blog's readers to consider doing -- on their own blogs or in this entry's comments thread -- what I've done on this entry: i.e., bold the titles of the films that you've seen on the Hong Kong Film Archive's list. (And no, I'm not challenging for bragging rights. Rather, I just thought it'd be interesting to see what one has seen -- and not -- to date of the works that acknowledged experts consider "must see" films originating from my favorite cinematic territory!)

1916 A Trip Through China
1939 Orphan Island Paradise
1941 Scenes of Yan'an (aka On The Northwest Front Line)
1941 Roar of the People
1941 A Page of History
1948 Sorrows of the Forbidden City
1949 Blood Will Tell
1949 Wong Fei Hung's Whip That Smacks The Candle
1949 Wong Fei Hung Burns The Tyrants' Lair
1950 Dawn Must Come
1950 The Kid
1950 Awful Truth
1950 The Misarranged Love Trap
1951 Blood-stained Azaleas
1951 Should They Marry?
1951 Mysterious Murderer Part 1
1951 Mysterious Murderer Part 2
1952 The Prodigal Son
1953/1954 Family/Spring/Autumn
1953 Festival Moon
1953 In The Face of Demolition
1954 Story of Father and Son
1954 Mutual Understanding
1955 It Was A Cold Winter Night (aka Cold Night)
1955 Parents' Hearts
1955 Eternal Love
1955 Anna
1956 Blood In Snow
1956 The Wall
1956 The Seventh Heaven
1957 Golden Lotus
1957 Love Lingers On
1957 The Sorrowful Lute
1957 Our Sister Hedy
1959 Money
1959 Butterfly and Red Pear Blossom
1959 The Chair
1960 Laugh, Clown, Laugh
1960 Forever Yours
1960 Motherhood
1960 The Wild, Wild Rose
1960 The Eternal Love
1961 Father Is Back
1961 How To Get A Wife
1963 Empress Wu Tse Tien
1963 Father Takes A Bride
1965 Ungratefulness (aka Remorse)
1966 Come Drink With Me
1967 Story of a Discharged Prisoner
1967 Paragon of Sword & Knife Part 1
1968 Paragon of Sword & Knife Part 2
1968 The Golden Swallow
1968 The Pregnant Maiden

1970 The Arch
1970 Yesterday Today Tomorrow
1971 A Touch of Zen
1972 Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan
1972 The Way of the Dragon
1973 The Blood Brothers
1974 China Behind
1976 The Magic Blade
1976 The Private Eyes
1978 Drunken Master
1979 Dirty Ho
1979 Raining In The Mountain
1979 The Butterfly Murders
1979 The Secret
1980 The Spooky Bunch
1980 Dangerous Encounter - First Kind
1981 Man On The Brink
1981 Martial Club
1981 The Prodigal Son
1982 Boat People
1982 Nomad
1983 Reign Behind a Curtain
1983 Ah Ying
1984 Long Arm of the Law
1984 Homecoming
1984 Shanghai Blues
1985 Mr. Vampire
1985 Police Story
1986 A Better Tomorrow
1986 Just Like Weather
1987 City on Fire
1987 An Autumn's Tale
1987 A Chinese Ghost Story
1987 Wonder Women
1987 The Romance of Book and Sword
1988 Rouge
1989 The Killer
1989 God of Gamblers
1990 Days of Being Wild
1991 Once Upon A Time In China
1992 Swordsman II
1992 The Legendary La Rose Noire
1992 Autumn Moon
1993 Fong Sai Yuk
1993 Fong Sai Yuk II
1993 C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri
1994 Ashes Of Time
1995 A Chinese Odyssey - Part 1: Pandora's Box
1995 A Chinese Odyssey - Part 2: Cinderella
1996 Comrades, Almost a Love Story
1997 Made in Hong Kong
1999 The Mission

And if anyone's counting, the total's a rather respectable -- I reckon -- 60 1/3 (since Family is counted as merely one third on account of it being one part of a film trilogy) for me! ;b


alejna said...

No Peking Opera Blues? I'm shocked!

I think I've only seen 3 of the movies from the list. (Once Upon A Time In China, Fong Sai Yuk, Drunken Master.) I have a copy of Swordsman II, but I think I only saw the first one.

I'd love to see your version of this list, YTSL! And maybe without the constraint that the movies were made before 2000. Even more, I'd love to see a list of your top 10 or top 20. That way I could aspire to see them. (Because when would I find time to watch 100 movies?)

ewaffle said...

I have seen 33 of the movies on the list and while I will see a few more not that many will make it to the top of the stack.

Like alejna I would like to see YTSL's list of however many she thinks is appropriate. Even on an unwieldy list of 100 there is always that 101st film that has to be excluded.

Since part of my real introduction to Hong Kong movies came from YTSL's reviews on "Hong Kong Cinema: View from Brooklyn Bridge" I would value a list by her more than the six experts at HKFA.

YTSL said...

Hi Alejna --

In certain Hong Kong film critics' circles, "Shanghai Blues" is considered superior to "Peking Opera Blues" -- but to me, there's no reason why both can't be on a list of 100 Must-See Hong Kong movies. (And yes, I love both of those movies -- though it's true enough that I love "Peking Opera Blues" more.)

Interesting that all 3 of the movies on the list that you've seen are action films. Re "Swordsman II": hope you have the one in which the main character's name is translated as "Asia the Invincible" in the English subtitles (rather than "Invincible Dawn")!

As for a top 10 list: I wrote the following one years ago and it needs updating but it's a good start:-


Hi ewaffle --

33's not bad at all -- especially since I get the feeling that you're restricted to seeing works that are available on home video with English subtitles!

And *blush* re your high valuation of my recommendations... so much so that you are indeed tempting me to come up with a 100 "Must See" Hong Kong movies list of my own at some point. :)

A hero never dies said...

30 for me YTSL, I'd like to be able to see more, particularly of the older films. Of the more recent ones I haven't seen, they're ones I'm not that interested in seeing. I too would love to see an updated list of your picks.

sarah bailey knight said...

Hi ytsl,

I think I've seen about 35 of the films on the list.

Here, Here! Like alejna and ewaffle I too would like to see a list of your top 100 films. They would have more meaning for me as part/most of my introduction to Hong Kong movies was your reviews on "Hong Kong Cinema: View from Brooklyn Bridge". And I'll bet ewaffle and my viewing numbers will be higher on your list.

Anonymous said...

Hi YTSL! You and I are just about even. The big gap for me are the pre-60s films, although I have been fortunate to catch a few of them at HKFA screenings.

I was surprised to learn that you haven't seen Boat People (although I've only seen an unsubbed VCD) and especially An Autumn's Tale (how can that be!). And there is also an old favorite of mine that you haven't seen: Autumn Moon.

But otherwise our viewing overlaps quite a bit, with a little more emphasis on my end towards films from the 60s.

These kind of committee-generated lists are always a little lackluster because they lack the odd favorites that make a personal list so interesting.

Like your other friends, I'd love to see a list of your personal favorites.

And I must also confess that I too used your reviews at View from the Brooklyn Bridge as a kind of check list when I was first exploring HK cinema.

Happy holidays and best wishes for 2012! :D

Horsoon said...

Whoa you sure know lots about movies! I can't even recall if I have watched any of those listed :)

YTSL said...

Hi "A Hero Never Dies" --

"Of the more recent ones I haven't seen, they're ones I'm not that interested in seeing."

Can you name a few of those? In any case, what puts you off them -- the genre, a particular director, actor or actress?

Hi sbk --

"I'll bet ewaffle and my viewing numbers will be higher on your list".

Hehe -- that's an interesting thought! And okay, I will think of my list... just give me some time, okay? ;b

Hi duriandave --

Have to say that I'm surprised that there are so many films from the 1950s on the list -- more than any other decade, actually. Someone at the Hong Kong Film Archive seems to be quite the major fan of Union Films...

Re "Boat People": I guess it's one of those films I somehow have never got to seeing.

"An Autumn's Tale", OTOH, I've sort of avoided because I'm not a big fan of romantic dramas and I also have found that I generally don't like Hong Kong films with an overseas -- especially Western -- component.

Re "Autumn Moon": I feel like kicking myself over that. It was one of the few Hong Kong dramas that was available at my regular -- as opposed to Chinatown -- Philadelphia video rental store. I guess I just never got to it and now I don't find it all that easily available. Ah well, will just have to catch a screening of it at the Hong Kong Film Archive some time! ;b

Hi Horsoon --

No way you haven't seen ANY of these movies so guess it's just that you can't recall! ;b

A hero never dies said...


The two I was thinking of in particular were Autumn tale and C'est La Vie, Mon Cherie, this is purely based on genre. I'd like to see Made in Hong Kong but can't seem to find it anywhere.

YTSL said...

Hi again "A hero never dies" --

As you know, I've thus far steered clear of "An Autumn's Tale" too. But if you love Hong Kong, you simply have to watch "C'est la Vie, Mon Cherie" -- it's one of those movies I often have in my mind (and feel like I'm in) when I walk around Hong Kong, particularly the Yau Ma Tei area.

And yeah, "Made in Hong Kong" is another film I'd recommend -- and, in fact, would make MY 100 Must-See Hong Kong Movies list. :)

ewaffle said...

While most of the HK movies I have seen have been on home video with subtitles (including almost all of the 434 I have reviewed on the HKMDB) there are a few watched without either subtitles or dubbing, generally to an error in an order (mine) on discs purchased from HK vendors.

And of course there were the chop sockies that played almost constantly at some of the formerly grand movie palaces in Chicago's Loop: Hong Kong action looking like it was edited with a meat clever and dubbed by people who didn't know either Cantonese or English on one corner, Blaxsploitation on another, soft core porn across the street.

YTSL said...

Hi again ewaffle --

Sigh re the chop sockies. It used to upset me quite a bit when I was living in the US and whenever I told someone I loved Hong Kong movies, find that those movies -- and my movie passion -- often were dismissed as (a love of) chop sockies.

At the same time, it does seem that those works -- however badly edited, dubbed, etc. -- did turn on quite a few people to Hong Kong cinema... including people who then were able to make the jump to enjoying "real" Hong Kong films. And that can't be all that bad, I guess.

eliza bennet said...

Wait, haven't you seen An Autumn's Tale? I'm suprised.

One thing that puzzled me in the list is that A Touch of Zen is considered a Hong Kong film. I wonder why that is.. It is just that it never felt like a Hong Kong film to me (and it is not only one of my all time fave films, it is actually one I consider a masterpiece of cinema)

YTSL said...

Hi "eliza bennet" --

No, I haven't seen "An Autumn's Tale". I guess I should some time, huh? ;)

Re "A Touch of Zen": well, its director is King Hu -- who's considered a doyen of Hong Kong cinema -- and Roy Chiao is in the cast... I know what you mean though about it feeling less of a Hong Kong film than something else.

(BTW, thanks for making me re-consider leaving out "A Touch of Zen" from my own 100 must-see Hong Kong movies list. I had initially thought of having "Come Drink with Me" there instead of it but, after further thought, changed my mind!)