Sunday, April 1, 2012

He's a Woman, She's a Man's two main men

 Flowers for -- and tributes to -- Leslie Cheung
outside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel 
on the 9th anniversary of his tragic death

He's a Woman, She's a Man posters on display at the 
Hong Kong Cultural Centre as part of a tribute to

Director Peter Chan Ho Sun was on hand for a Q&A
session at the screening of He's a Woman, She's a Man
that I attended this afternoon -- and brought his daughter
and parents to watch the movie too! :)

Nine years ago today, Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing took his own life. This April 1st, his fans continue to remember him with great fondness and paid loving tributes to the charismatic singer-actor by doing such as going to, and placing flowers outside, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel -- from whose 24th floor he chose to jump to his death. Many of us also attended at least one of the two screenings of He's a Woman, She's a Man -- the Peter Chan Ho Sun-helmed romantic comedy in which Leslie Cheung played a man loved by two women -- on today as part of the 2012 Hong Kong International Film Festival.    

This afternoon's viewing of He's a Woman, She's a Man was the second time I got to see that which is among one of my five, not just ten, favorite Hong Kong movies of all time on a big screen in Hong Kong. The first time was three years ago courtesy of Red Mission -- and even though the film was screened without English subtitles on that occasion, I treasure that viewing experience, not least because it was really wonderful to watch it in the company of many other appreciative fans of the superstar we refer to as Leslie (no need for a surname).

This second viewing really was super special though -- and not only because the version of the film that was screened had English subtitles and the screen and theater at Hong Kong City Hall was larger than the screen and theater where the movie was screened three years ago.  Instead, it was because in the audience this afternoon was the director, Peter Chan Ho Sun, his young daughter and his parents -- and after the movie, Peter Chan answered questions from audience members at considerable length and in Cantonese, Putonghua and English.

A few years back, I had the privilege of interviewing Peter Chan (as part of the publicity push for his The Warlords). Due to such as his busy schedule, the interview ended up taking place over two separate days.  And, memorably, after I switched off the tape recorder and concluded the official part of our meeting, he and I continued talking for a further one and half hours -- on a variety of topics, including others of his movies such as He's a Woman, She's a Man (which I was really glad to be able to tell him that I dearly loved).

At this afternoon's Q&A, Peter Chan was as open and sharing as I remembered that he was when I talked with him one on one those years ago. Some 10 questions were asked and he gave paragraphs worth of answers, not just single line or word responses, so I can't report everything he said.  However, the following are some things he said that I found particularly memorable and interesting:-

- Up until today's screening of He's a Woman, She's a Man, his young daughter had never seen a movie from start to finish, only in 10 to 15 minute spells. She consented to go with him to watch this film of his after he told her that he thought she'd laugh a lot watching it, and also that she would be seeing a wonderful man (Leslie) in it.

- Peter Chan considers Leslie Cheung to have been the best ever actor he's worked with. Among other things, he was perfect in terms of such of remembering and delivering his lines, and remembering his cues. Leslie actually wasn't all that happy when Peter Chan complimented on this. He thought that there are far more important aspects of acting than those. Peter Chan's response was that, then, at least, you're the best actor for/to directors.  Because these are aspects that directors consider super important.

- Peter Chan also considers Leslie Cheung to have been a "larger than life" person as well as actor. In terms of acting, maybe this may make it so that his acting and persona may come across as too exaggerated, over dramatic, etc. But sometimes, you need that -- and it makes for something special in a movie. In terms of personality, Peter Chan said that Leslie Cheung was the kind of person and actor who was better playing non-ordinary characters and people -- and that this was what made Leslie really suitable to play someone like He's a Woman, She's a Man's Sam Koo (a successful music producer loved by two woman, including the superstar singer he made famous (essayed by Carina Lau)).

- A fan from Japan told Peter Chan that she remembered reading an interview around the time that He's a Woman, She's a Man had become a big hit in her country in which he had talked about being disappointed that the movie's predominantly female fans were so attracted to the character Sam Koo. He replied that there might have been something lost in translation as he had actually said that he was "bewildered" by the female fans having been so attracted to the character of Sam Koo -- because he had modeled Sam Koo on himself along with Leslie!

- Rewatching He's a Woman, She's a Man today (after not having done so for some years now), he was shocked at how much of himself he actually had put into the character of Sam Koo. "Back then, I was younger and more naive", Peter Chan said. Among other things: he gave Sam Koo the same birthdate as his own. Also, he really had wanted to have separate residences from his girlfriend -- and actually did so in real life!  Only, whereas in the movie, Sam Koo and Rose (Carina Lau's character) had apartments on different floors connected by a door in one's floor and another's ceiling, he and his real life girlfriend -- now wife -- Sandra Ng had had apartments on the same floor that were connected by a balcony -- with each side of the gate that  connected their apartments having locks so that each could lock the other out if he or she so wanted!!

- Peter Chan also said that Leslie Cheung gave a lot of input when making the movie -- including for the character of Sam Koo.  He specifically credited Leslie with coming up with the movie's touching final lines of "whether you're a boy or girl, it doesn't matter. I only know that I love you".

- A Mainland Chinese fan asked if Peter Chan had any plans to make a film that was a tribute to Leslie Cheung the way that Comrades, Almost a Love Story was a tribute to Teresa Teng. He said that he's thought about this but there are issues of such as copyright that will have to be dealt with in order to do so.

On a personal note, I'd love to see Peter Chan make such a movie.  Still, regardless of whether he does, I have to say that I'm already grateful for his having directed and produced so many good and great movies as he already has done -- and yes, he is indeed one of the people who made me fall in love with Hong Kong cinema... and Hong Kong itself too. 


sarah bailey knight said...

hi ytsl,

What a fabulous fabulous post!!!!!

A hero never dies said...


Wonderful post, I would have loved to have been there, thanks for your report.

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

I am not very into movies, but I remember leslie's death. I was in Singapore then, and listened to the news.

My 16 years in Singapore as a faculty wife, was a fruitful time of charity. We lived on campus and did a lot of charity. Deaf in Kenya was our recipient. We were an international group, living together on campus. This made it possible.

What were you doing in Tanzania? I have a ex refugee student from there. I must have a photo with her before she leaves for secondary school next year.

You are a very interesting person.

ewaffle said...

Lovely post.

Interesting that Peter Chan complemented Leslie Cheung on the basics of being a film actor: hit your mark and deliver your lines and that Leslie thought they were the least important parts of creating a performance. It shows a lot of professionalism on Leslie's part, that he considered the "showing up" as so natural as not to be worth commenting on when many stars have to be coaxed onto the set.

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

I'm glad you like the post. Wish you were here. I know you'd have loved being at the screening too.

Hi "A hero never dies" --

Thanks for reading and appreciating my report. :)

Hi Ann --

I was living in Philadelphia when Leslie died. Even then, I got the news pretty quickly -- and I have to say I cried upon learning of it.

I was doing anthropological field research on museums in Tanzania, believe it or not.

And thanks for thinking I'm an interesting person -- will take that as a compliment. :)

Hi ewaffle --

Yeah, it sounded like Leslie was a real pro -- in a good way. And yes, it was lovely to hear Peter Chan speak so well of Leslie yesterday.

baroness radon said...

Mahalo, YTSL, for this sensitive and interesting post. And now guess what movie is on my "to find" list!

YTSL said...

Hi baroness radon --

You're welcome re the post. You haven't seen "He's a Woman, She's a Man" yet? Wow... and you're in for a treat -- if you can find a copy of the film to watch. The DVD's out of print, I'm afraid... but maybe you'll have luck finding it online.

Horsoon said...

Love his songs!

baroness radon said...

Now I have a quest...there are some DVDs available but REALLY pricey. But I'm sure my moment will come!

YTSL said...

Hi Horsoon --

I have 3 Leslie Cheung CDs -- and especially like the one with songs from such as "The Bride with White Hair" as well as "He's a Woman, She's a Man". Wish there were a "He's a Woman, She's a Man" OST available with ALL the songs from that movie...

(BTW, does anyone know the title of the song that is sung as the end credits roll that starts with the lyrics "Listen to my love, I know you understand..." Also, is the singer Carina Lau?)

Hi again baroness radon --

I've heard from a good source that Warner Brothers owns the rights to "He's a Woman, She's a Man" and, alas, does not have any plans soon to make more for DVDs of the film available. So... maybe time to resort to such as Youtube? ;S

Stefan S said...

Hi YTSL, thanks for sharing this! A friend of mine had the good fortune of interviewing Peter Chan some years back, and he too turned off the recorder and chat like friends :-)

Plenty of good info esp on Leslie in this post too. Hope that one day the DVD of He's a Woman, She's a Man will get another release, remastered too with plenty of extras :P

YTSL said...

Hi Stefan --

You're welcome -- and I'm glad to see (via the new blogger stats, etc.) that people do seem keen to read what I wrote about Peter Chan, etc.

I'd love to see "He's a Woman, She's a Man" back on DVD. Have heard that its rights are now owned by Warner Brothers. Really hope that they didn't buy it just to make an American remake of the movie... :S

Stefan S said...

Hi again YTSL, I came across a copy of the DVD! But the packaging looks dodgy, and I think it might be a bootleg edition from China... didn't get it though I was tempted to get my hands on any version of it just to rewatch!

YTSL said...

Hi again Stefan --

If you can wait, I'd do so... BTW, I have a sneaky feeling that "He's a Woman, She's a Man" might get screened again next year in Hong Kong on account of 2013 being the 10th anniversary of its male lead's death...