Whenever I say “Chinese”, I have that knee-jerk moment of “wait, is that right?” Because of course you don’t know if a person is Taiwanese, or Taiwanese who prefer to be called Chinese, or ethnically Chinese but from Cambodia, or just straight up American/British/Norwegian/Indian, whatever other country they were born and raised in, despite a Chinese appearace. And then with languages, there’s the whole Mandarin versus Cantonese thing, and with films there’s the whole Chinese versus Taiwanese versus Hong Kong, and so on and so on. But in this case, YES! Chinese! I am talking about attractive men who were born and raised within either Hong Kong or the People’s Republic of China, and who openly identify as Chinese and nothing else. Because it’s Tubelight week, and Salman Khan is teaching us all about peace and openness. And also I had about an 18 month period of being really really into Hong Kong cinema.
My first straight up Hong Kong film was Infernal Affairs. Also known as “the movie Scorcese ripped off for The Departed but much smarter and prettier and all around gooder”. And also with two stars who were soooooooooooooooo much more attractive than Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon: Andy Lau and Tony Leung.
Oh Andy Lau! You just make my heart go pit-a-pat.
But then there’s Tony Leung! Damaged, sensitive, confused. Slightly bearded.
Along with seeing and loving Infernal Affairs, I also made it a tradition in college to attend the annual Hong Kong week at my local theater. Which is where I was introduced to young Jet Li. Not old Jet Li, after he got super famous and came to America, but Jet Li back when he was just such a beautiful and sensitive young man. Back in the Swordsman II days, when he was still playing a bit of second fiddle to Brigette Lin.
Or when he got his very own epic trilogy, at only 28, the Once Upon a Time in China films.
Speaking of Brigitte Lin, I feel like I should throw at least one photo of her in here, because she is SO AWESOME!
(In The Bride with White Hair, before her hair turned white)
My favorite movie of this era in my film watching was Peking Opera Blues. I’m not even sure why, I just loved something about the combination of rousing revolution and crazy fight scenes and misunderstandings and backstage drama and cross-dressing and everything else. And it had Brigitte Lin being awesome again.
And then of course there is John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat. Which is just, Oh My. The coolest man in the world, doing gunfights choreographed by the best action director in the world. There is a reason Farah Khan and Shahrukh wanted to do an homage to him in Main Hoon Na. Hard-Boiled, The Killer, and A Better Tomorrow (1 and 2) have a permanent place on my film shelf.
The Woo-Yun-Fat magic works with one big gun:
Two regular guns:
Or no guns, and a rose instead:
Okay, the Peking Opera/wuxia/action style films are good. But for me, Hong Kong cinema really started to make sense once I discovered the light romances. I watched dozens of them over a few months, but the two that really stood out were Needing You with Andy Lau (oh my heart!) and Sammi Cheng. Directed by Johnnie To, who is one of those directors that I would just die and fangirl over if I ever met in person, that is how good he is.
And then there is Love on a Diet. Same cast, only this time they are in fat suits. It’s a super cute movie, way way better than it looks from the images.
And just now while researching this post, I found out that they had a new movie out in 2013, directed by my mind-crush Johnnie To!!!! With the title Blind Detective, which sounds considerably less rom-com-y, but it’s Johnnie To, so I know it will still be good.
(Okay, maybe it is still a little rom-com-y)