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A Man Called Sanjuro

"Seven films to Save Hong Kong Cinema"*

     The Webmaster has been gracious enough to allow me have a small corner of to house my own peculiar musings on love, life, and Hong Kong cinema. Well, mainly it'll cover Hong Kong cinema, but I want to leave my options open.
     Keeping that in mind, I'd like to begin my first column by discussing the uncertain tomorrow of the Hong Kong film industry. Thanks to a dearth of new material, I haven't reviewed a movie in little over a week. So to pass the time until the next shipment of films arrives at my doorstep, I spent the last few days or so revisiting some of my favorite Hong Kong flicks, most notably Chungking Express and Once Upon a Time in China II. During both those films, I found myself wondering, "Why can't Hong Kong cinema be like this again?" As much as I enjoyed recent blockbusters like Infernal Affairs, the truly fantastic films have been few and far between lately. Back in those glory days of yore, there were so many great films released in such quick succession, that I can't help but hope that the same thing would happen once more—in essence, I want a Hong Kong Renaissance.
     So submitted for your approval, I've compiled a list of films that I believe would help revitalize Hong Kong cinema. However, despite my penchant for sophomoric humor (see's April Fool's Joke), I've tried to be somewhat serious about my movie choices. I've even gone so far as to exclude such heavy hitters as Chow Yun-Fat, Jet Li, John Woo, and Michelle Yeoh from the selection process since they seem to have invested their filmmaking interests outside of Hong Kong. I also ruled out including sequels (alas, no Storm Riders 2), though some of the concepts and characters I've included will be familiar to some movie fans. And yes, I'm dead serious about my choices.
     Well, not necessarily the last one.
Journey to the West
Director: Tsui Hark
Cast: Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Yuen Biao, Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia

"I am the Monkey King! I can do anything!"
  A big screen adaptation of Wu Cheng-En's classic novel would be a dream come true for Tsui Hark, who's been prepping his own Journey to the West film for some time now. After such duds as the Black Mask sequel and The Legend of Zu, this epic fantasy could definitely serve as a comeback vehicle for the slumping, yet still talented director. Though the likelihood of assembling this particular cast might prove difficult, the attraction of a long-overdue "Three Brothers" reunion is too great an opportunity to pass up. The characters seem tailor-made for each actor: the mischievous Monkey King (Jackie Chan), the gluttonous Bajie (Sammo Hung), and the underrated Wujing (Yuen Biao). The story would likely have to be turned into a trilogy or multi-part series, but as Lord of the Rings proved, people are willing to sit through long-running epics and their sequels. Boasting computer effects by the folks at Centro Digital, an all-star cast (Brigitte Lin as Guan-Yin is a must), and the swansong of three of the "Seven Little Fortunes," Journey to the West would have all the makings of a modern day classic.
What Now?
Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai
Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Sammi Cheng Sau-Man, Sonny Chiba, Cheng Pei-Pei, Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau, Lam Suet, Hui Siu-Hung, Bonnie Wong Man-Wai, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin

"I'm doing this for the money."
  Picture it: Andy Lau dashes after a distraught Sammi Cheng, catches up to her and finally declares his love and proposes marriage. She willingly accepts, and they kiss. Pretty clichéd, huh? Yeah, it sounds like the ending of every romantic comedy in the history of cinema, but get this: all that happens before the opening credits! That's the innovative premise behind this proposed Milky Way production: it doesn't focus on how its characters get together, but instead on how they stay together. Namely, how does Andy deal with Sammi's wacky behavior within the context of a real relationship? How does our groom-to-be react when he's given the third degree by his fiancée's dour parents (played by Sonny Chiba and Cheng Pei-Pei)? And what happens when her ne'er do well brother (Jacky Cheung) tries to hit Andy up for some cash? It's romantic hilarity all the way to the altar in this atypical Lunar New Year comedy!
The Black Sabre
Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Cast: Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Zhang Ziyi

"This will prove that I am the greatest actor in Hong Kong!"
  While this epic Gu Long novel has been adapted before as a film and television serial, its heartbreaking storyline is just begging for the Wong Kar-Wai treatment. Based on what the noted auteur did with Louis Cha's characters in Ashes of Time, Wong Kar-Wai would likely craft an award-winning, existential drama about the desire for parental acceptance, the futility of revenge, and the unending pain of lost love. Also, Ekin Cheng could finally garner some critical praise by taking the lead role of Fu Hung-Suet, a stoic, seemingly heartless killer who over the course of the film lets a little tenderness bubble to the surface. Add Christopher Doyle as cinematographer, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as the happy-go-lucky Yip Hoi, and Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi as each swordsman's love interest, and you've got the next contender for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards. Barring Miramax's involvement, of course.
Wong Fei-Hong in Love
Director: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Lee Lik-Chee
Action: Ching Siu-Tung
Cast: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Vicki Zhao Wei, Nick Cheung Ka-Fai, Ng Man-Tat, Wong Yat-Fei, Xiong Xin-Xin, Lee Kin-Yan,
Lam Chi-Chung, Chan Kwok-Kwan, Lam Chi-Sin, Tin Kai-Man

"I possess the magic finger!"
  Kwan Tak-Hing, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li have all famously played the part of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-Hong, but now it's Hong Kong funnyman Stephen Chow's turn to spark some life into this well-worn character. Chow's take on the Wong Fei-Hong mythology would definitely pique the public's interest. One can only imagine how he'd portray Fei-Hong's hilariously chaste relationship with Aunt Yee (Vicki Zhao), as well as the venerable sifu's interactions with bumbling disciples Foon (Nick Cheung), Porky (Ng Man-Tat), and Bucktoothed So (Wong Yat-Fei). Throw in a spectacular wire-fu fight with consummate HK heavy Xiong Xin-Xin at the climax, and you've got a genre-bending comedy classic on your hands.
The Trouble with Twins
Director: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Alan Mak Siu-Fai
Cast: Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung, Twins, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Ng Chi-Hung, Roy Cheung Yiu-Yeung, Jerry Lamb Hiu-Fung

"These smiles were surgically applied."
  For good or for ill, the Twins are a certifiable pop phenomenon. Consequently, it would be insane for HK filmmakers not to capitalize on their popularity. Casting the duo in a teenybopper film is a given, but what would happen if these beloved idols were cast in more serious, hard-boiled fare? That's the basis of my next proposal, a crime drama starring Nicholas Tse, Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, and Ng Chi-Hung as cold-blooded kidnappers who snatch billionaire Eric Tsang's precocious daughters (Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung), holding them for a hefty ransom. But the two ingénues may not be as helpless as they seem, both using their feminine wiles to turn kidnapper against kidnapper in a crafty bid for freedom. And once the pretty pair get greenhorn Nicholas Tse on their side, well, let's just say, IT ALL GOES TO HELL! Yeah, I know the mixing of pop stars with a serious film noir plot might seem like a recipe for disaster, but if handled well, it might just be crazy enough to work. It all depends on whether the Twins wouldn't mind tweaking their saccharine sweet images.
The East Runs Red
Director: The Pang Brothers
Cast: Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah, Lau Ching-Wan, Yuen Wah

"Teach me everything, sifu!"
  To capitalize on the recent trend towards horror in Asian cinema, Troublesome Night veteran Louis Koo should return to his roots, but this time join forces with Danny and Oxide Pang, the directing duo responsible for the highly successful fright-fest, The Eye. The hopping vampire genre is in dire need of a contemporary update, and the Pang brothers seem to be just the guys for the job. An A-list cast is essential, but including vampire film veteran Yuen Wah as a modern variation on the One Eyebrow Priest (made famous by the late Lam Ching-Ying) would be a fitting tip of the hat to the scary films of yesteryear. As evidenced by their work in The Eye, the Pang Brothers could no doubt craft a film chock full of chilling atmosphere, unrelenting terror, and genuine scares that might very well set a new standard for Hong Kong horror. - The Movie
Director: Wong Jing
Action: Yuen Woo-Ping
Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Leon Lai Ming, Owen Wilson [voice only], Tadanobu Asano, Julianne Moore, Aaron Kwok Fu-Sing, Maggie Q, Hideo Kojima, Anya, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Sophie Ngan Chin-Man, Sisqo, Danny Lee Sau-Yin, Goro Kishitani, and Stefanie Sun Yan-Zi as Sammi Cheng

"Being a webmaster is lonely."
  Wong Jing blackmails Takeshi Kaneshiro into taking the lead role of Kozo in this action-packed tale of love, betrayal, and film criticism. Watch in awe as Kozo tries to juggle work, a movie website, harassing e-mails, and his burgeoning relationship with two rocket scientists (Maggie Q and Anya)! Gasp in shock as schoolteacher Sanjuro (Leon Lai, dubbed by Owen Wilson) violates school policy by showing some backwater hicks the joy of Stephen Chow movies! Applaud boisterously as forum moderator RainDog (Tadanobu Asano) goes door-to-door gunning down forum trolls for their internet insolence! And cringe in fear as Magicvoice quits her job to open a char siu bao stand with her seemingly innocent new pal from Hong Kong, Wong Chi-Hang (Anthony Wong). And that's not all, kiddies! After a long sabbatical due to his involvement in Para Para Sakura, Aaron Kwok finally returns to acting, here portraying well-coiffed, happy-go-lucky pop idol Egg Shen Chang who—thanks to an overzealous fan base—finds himself unwillingly drawn into deadly war of words with our hero, Kozo! You won't believe your eyes when you see the Yuen Woo-Ping-coordinated, capoeira-infused dance-off between Kozo and Egg Shen at the film's climax! LoveHKFilm? You better believe it!
Hmm, on second thought, maybe I should just stick to reviewing movies. - Sanjuro 07/04/03
*DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed within this column are nothing more than random words cobbled together by this particular writer. Those who would take issue with his opinions may contact him here, though he would much rather you send him words of praise, extravagant gifts, cash donations, or best of all, Sun Yanzi's home phone number. Thank you, and good night.
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