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My Young Auntie
   |     review     |     notes     |     awards     |     availability     |   
     

(left) Lau Kar-Leung and (right) Kara Hui in My Young Auntie.
Chinese: 長輩  
Year: 1981
Director: Lau Kar-Leung
Producer: Run Run Shaw, Mona Fong Yat-Wah
Action: Lau Kar-Leung
Cast: Kara Hui Ying-Hung, Lau Kar-Leung, Hsiao Hou, Wang Lung-Wei, Gordon Liu Chia-Hui, Yuen Tak
The Skinny: Kara Hui Ying-Hung lights up the screen with a dazzling performance that won her Best Actress honors at the first annual Hong Kong Film Awards. My Young Auntie is enjoyable, wholly innocuous fluff with a heavy helping of martial arts courtesy of legendary director Lau Kar-Leung.
 
Review by
Calvin
McMillin:

Set sometime in the early twentieth century, My Young Auntie tells the story of Jing Dai-Nan (the luminous Kara Hui Ying-Hung), a loyal student who marries her elderly master as a favor to him. Why? Well, for plot purposes, it's important for Dai-Nan to take control of her master's assets when he croaks (and he does) and keep them away from the dastardly Yu Wing-Sang (consummate Shaw baddie Johnny Wang Lung-Wei). Now newly widowed, it's up to Dai-Nan to rightfully bestow her master's property upon his most deserving, yet slightly meek nephew, Yu Jing-Chuen (Lau Kar-Leung). Thanks to Chinese custom, the fact that she's the wife of a family elder—hasty as the marriage was—makes her a "senior" in the family hierarchy, a distinction she uses to her full advantage. Naturally, things get a little crazy when Jing-Chuen's son, Ah Tao, returns home from school. Although she and Ah Tao (who's rechristened himself "Charlie") are about the same age, custom dictates that Ah Tao and his father must defer to "their young auntie." Naturally, plenty of hijinks ensue.

One of the most memorable (and strangest) hijink-filled episodes of the film involves an elaborate masquerade ball/hoedown thrown by Ah Tao and his college buddies. Apparently, Ah Tao plans to use the ball as a chance to get back at Dai-Nan. How? Well, I'm not sure, but it involves Dai-Nan dressing up like Marie Antoinette, Ah Tao donning a Robin Hood costume, and Gordon Liu showing up to the party looking like a foppish French aristocrat. Oh, and some folks dress up as The Three Musketeers. And then suddenly three of the villains show up to the party dressed as Alexandre Dumas's creations as well. Not surprisingly, a fight breaks out, and almost a decade before Xiong Xin-Xin served as stunt director for The Musketeer, Lau Kar-Leung gives us a taste of how cool Chinese-styled musketeer fencing can truly be. Lau choreographs the sequence in that old school Shaws style of fighting that, when done correctly as is the case here, still holds up today.

After several amusing vignettes involving Dai-Nan and Ah Tao, the plot kicks in when the bad guys steal the deed to the family property. With Yu Jin-Chuen and most of the family seemingly too out of shape to take back what's theirs, Dai-Nan and "Charlie" decide to infiltrate Yu Wing-Sang's booby-trapped mansion alone. But when Dai-Nan is taken hostage, Ah Tao must seek reinforcements, resulting in a final battle between the old, but capable Jin-Chuen and the evil Wing-Sang.

Although the above synopsis glosses over Dai-Nan's importance to the plot, it must be said that My Young Auntie hinges on its star, Kara Hui Ying-Hung, and she doesn't disappoint. It's great to actually have a strong female protagonist in a kung fu film as old as this, rather than having to sit through yet another of the umpteen male-driven revenge sagas that are out there. At some points, she's eye-catchingly authoritative as the new family elder; in other sequences, she's just plain adorable playing the country bumpkin discovering the modern world. Hui is a fine comedic actress and fun to watch in all her martial arts sequences, which begs the question - what more could you ask for?

Well, seeing as how this is a critique, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the film's near fatal flaw. Namely, it would have been nice if the filmmakers would have realized Kara Hui Ying-Hung's magnetic presence and let her character "own" the finale. The film is named My Young Auntie after all, yet the movie is STILL constructed in such a way that the male characters have to save her, which was somewhat of a disappointment, considering the development the character had achieved throughout the picture. Sure, Hsiao Hou, dressed in full military regalia complete with army helmet, provides ample comic relief in the final reel, and yes, it probably makes sense for Lau Kar-Leung's character to take charge and face off with his villainous relative, but Kara Hui Ying-Hung's character is so central to the film that it's a shame the filmmakers didn't stick to its proto-girl power theme and let her take care of business.

Ah, well. Even with its problems, My Young Auntie amounts to solid, if inconsequential entertainment. There's plenty of top quality kung fu fighting for those interested in that sort of thing, and the "wacky" humor actually does qualify as humorous, so there's no harm in checking out this Shaw Brothers classic one afternoon. Isn't it about time to discover the magic of Kara Hui Ying-Hung? (Calvin McMillin 2004)

 
Notes: • Features the song "Rose, Rose, I Love You."
Awards:

1st Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Winner - Best Actress (Kara Hui Ying-Hung)

Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Intercontinental Video Limited (IVL)
Region 3 NTSC
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English, Chinese, and Bahasa Subtitles
Previews, Photo Gallery, and Various Extras

images courtesy of Intercontinental Video, Ltd.

   
   
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