The CRIME: Hong Kong Style season of films arrived at my local arts cinema Eden Court this month. While we didn’t get any of the Q&As or introductory talks that appear to have graced its visit to larger metropolises and we certainly got fewer films – in its original incarnation in Manchester there appear to be at least 20 films showing, while only six of them made it this far north – but the selection that we did get were certainly worth watching. A good mix of classics, more obscure choices and recent releases. (Also they did a nifty wee discount ticket if you bought four films at once. I love it when that happens.)
First up, from 1974 was The Teahouse/Sing Gei Cha Low (turns out there have been a lot of Hong Kong films released with an English language title that is a variation of The Teahouse.) It’s a film about found families, communities, crime, corruption and honour. One of the theme’s I found fascinating about this season is that the good guys are regularly stalwart, honourable and brave, and they often don’t win. There’s always a price for standing up to the bad guys. (Is it worth paying they ask? Well, at least in this film, the answer is yes. Our hero loses one family – to protect them – but he finds another.)
My second ‘classic’ film of the season was Police Story (1985). Starring a young Jackie Chan, proving just why he’s an absolute martial arts legend. It adds a certain frisson to the action sequences when you know that yes, that’s actually Jackie Chan swinging from that double decker bus. Yes he did in fact injure himself on that fall. (Yes, I too would re-run that slide down the lights if I’d injured myself that badly shooting it!) The action sequences are brilliant, thrilling and hilarious by turns. The plot doesn’t entirely make sense, but who cares, we’re not there for that, we’re here to watch Jackie Chan kick ass and lose the plot!
As Tears Go By was the film I was most excited to see so naturally that was the one showing the night I got stuck at work and didn’t get to go. Of all the films I could have missed it’s probably the best one though because as a Wong Kar Wei film it’s at least going to be relatively easy for me to track down myself. On the other hand, well, I’m sure Wong Kar Wei has made a bad film at some point, but if so I’ve never seen it, so I’m still a bit gutted to have missed this one.
Last up is the newly released Wild City (2015) the first film in over a decade from Hong Kong crime cinema legend Ringo Lam. Two brothers find their fates entwined with that of a young mainland girl, Yun, whose boyfriend has caught her up in a corruption scandal involving a large suitcase of money and a group of increasingly psychotic Taiwanese gangsters. It’s a proper power corrupts story, as Yun isn’t quite the ingénue she at first appears – she’s been seduced by the same corruption that caused her boyfriend to sacrifice her the way he did – but when the boys mother gets kidnapped, she steps up refuses to stay safe and hidden, playing bait to help them get Mona back. To help put all the players away, not just the ones that have hurt her directly. (Interestingly, almost all of the violence that the brothers perpetrate that isn’t in direct self-defence of themselves and Yun, is done on behalf of their mother. The truly brutal stuff is all for Mona, the gentlest soul in the film.) I liked the whole stand-off between T-Man and his former boss his whole, arrest me tomorrow, let me finish the job shtick was great – and it worked!
All in all a great season of cinema, free of pat Hollywood endings. Hooray for Hong Kong Crime Cinema!