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what are the "essential" Chinese movies (e.g. To Live, Raise the Red Lantern, etc.)

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#1 of 47 OFFLINE   VincentY


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Posted February 05 2003 - 02:50 AM

i'm in the process of buying/collecting some of the greatest chinese movies, so far, i've selected: To Live (also known as Lifetimes), and Farewell My Concubine.

I would like to see what other films are "essential".

many thanks.

my direct email is: eieio@nyc.rr.com

#2 of 47 OFFLINE   Thang_N.


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Posted February 05 2003 - 02:58 AM

Not sure if these are your cup of tea kind of movies, but some Hong Kong Films I particularlly enjoy have Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Jet Li, Andy Lau. mainly action flicks, but these movies have great replay value in my opionion, there's plenty of enjoyable HK movies out there. If you'd like I can PM you a list of what I enjoyed.

#3 of 47 OFFLINE   VincentY


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Posted February 05 2003 - 03:19 AM

Thang: thanks! please do email me directly (eieio@nyc.rr.com) a list of your "top picks"! i appreciate that very much. there are just so many that i have not yet seen that i'm a bit lost. my primary interest are films from the more serious filmmakers like Zhang yimou.

#4 of 47 OFFLINE   Brook K

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Posted February 05 2003 - 08:41 AM

It depends if you consider Taiwan and Hong Kong to be Chinese Cinema. Other Yimou films worth seeing would be: Raise The Red Lantern, Ju-Dou, Red Sorghum, The Story of Qiu Ju, and Not One Less Essential Chen Kaige: Yellow Earth also The Emperor and The Assassin is a pretty good epic. I have not seen The Blue Kite, but it appears on every list of great Chinese film. Taiwan: Edward Yang: Yi Yi, A Brighter Summer Day Hou Hsia-Hsien: Goodbye South Goodbye, Flowers of Shanghai, Good Men Good Women, The Puppetmaster, City of Sadness Tsai Ming-Liang: What Time Is It There?, The Hole, Vive L'Amour Hong Kong: Wong Kar Wai: In The Mood For Love, Happy Together, Chungking Express, Fallen Angels John Woo: A Better Tomorrow I&II, The Killer, Hard-Boiled, Bullet In The Head
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#5 of 47 OFFLINE   Tim RH

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Posted February 05 2003 - 08:44 AM

I highly recommend THE BLUE KITE and YI YI. Definately two must-sees!

#6 of 47 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted February 05 2003 - 08:58 AM

I second Brook’s list with the addition of Wong’s Ashes of Time. The Hong Kong film factories also churned out a large number of ‘B’ films that you might find entertaining. Most of the strictly action-oriented ones, appear to Westerner’s to begin in the middle of the story. This is because we don’t have the necessary background to understand ‘what came before’ and to know all of the conventions. Still many are entertaining.
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#7 of 47 OFFLINE   Kenneth-G



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Posted February 05 2003 - 08:59 AM

If you enjoy the work of Zhang Yimou, you should definitely check out his other films. In particular: Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern. Though it has a smaller, less "epic" story-line, I also enjoyed The Road Home, with a great performance from Zhang Ziyi. Chen Kaige's The Emperor and the Assassin is also a personal favorite. If you are looking for Taiwanese and Hong Kong films as well, I would recommend Ang Lee's early movies (Eat Drink Man Woman and The Wedding Banquet), and Edward Yang's Yi Yi. I'm also a big fan of Wong Kar-Wai -- Chung King Express and In The Mood For Love (a great Criterion Collection DVD, btw) are ones you should consider.

#8 of 47 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted February 05 2003 - 09:08 AM

A couple more for your consideration: Eat Drink Man Woman, by Ang Lee The Road Home by Zhang Yimou
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#9 of 47 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted February 05 2003 - 11:15 AM

If you're interested at all in the more wacky wu xia-type flicks, The Bride With White Hair is amazing. Dragon Inn is another title definitely worth watching. If we're counting Ang Lee's US films, then the Wedding Banquet, which is actually about Chinese in the US, is hilarious. Shower is a good Taiwanese film.
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#10 of 47 OFFLINE   Wan



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Posted February 05 2003 - 02:30 PM

C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri - I haven't heard a lot of people mentioned this movie but this was one of the best HK movies ever. I'm usually very wary and cynical of HK movies since I got burned so often but I can't find a fault with this one after watching it over and over again.

Some of the more recent ones that are more entertaining than great:
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#11 of 47 OFFLINE   YANG


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Posted February 05 2003 - 03:50 PM

How "essential" the chinese movies maybe depends highly on your interest of which genre the movie belongs to. For chinese movies in its original version,do avoid HOLLYWOOD STUDIO's release from CTHV or MIRAMAX as they are mostly edited versions. Original HK releases maybe lacking in visual presentation quality as well as audio presentation quality... If you like action stuff... Look for movies directed by JOHN WOO, GORDON CHAN, RINGO LAM and TSUI HARK. If you like action dramas... Look for movies directed by ANDREW LAU or JOHNNY TO. If you like comedies... Look for films that stars STEPHEN CHOW, SAMMY CHENG.

#12 of 47 OFFLINE   Brook K

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Posted February 05 2003 - 05:06 PM

I haven't seen most of Stephen Chow's stuff, but God Of Cookery left me sore from laughing so much.

My favorite HK kung fu: Swordsman II, Fist Of Legend, Drunken Master II, Once Upon A Time In China I&II, Police Story I-III, Warriors of Zu Mountain

I didn't include Ashes of Time because I haven't seen it due to it having the worst DVD I've ever laid eyes upon. About 35% of the picture is cut off by the subtitle bar. I turned it off after a few minutes.

Didn't include The Road Home or Shanghai Triad because I don't think they're as good as Yimou's other films, but if you're a fan, they're certainly worth a look.

Good call on Eat Drink Man Woman, slipped my mind.

Here's one more worth checking out: Xiu Xiu, The Sent Down Girl
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#13 of 47 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted February 05 2003 - 10:57 PM

Temptress Moon - okay, but still worth watching once.
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#14 of 47 OFFLINE   Angelo.M



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Posted February 06 2003 - 01:42 AM

Raise the Red Lantern and Ju Dou are my two all-time faves from Zhang Yimou, but all of his stuff is worth checking out. These two, however, are simply mesmerizing

#15 of 47 OFFLINE   StevenA


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Posted February 06 2003 - 08:18 AM

Another Zhang Yimou film worth seeing is Not One Less: very simple, very moving.

And an absolute must is Yellow Earth, because it's the film that started it all for the 5th Generation of Chinese filmmakers (which is what it seems you're most interested in judging by your initial post). I think it's an extraordinary film and probably the best film Chen Kaige has ever made, and it's beautifully shot by Zhang Yimou. There's an OK Fox Lorber VHS out there, but no DVD.

#16 of 47 OFFLINE   Tim Ke

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Posted February 06 2003 - 08:43 AM

One of the funniest movies I've ever seen is Winners And Sinners, starring Sammo Hong and Jackie Chan (in a supporting role). I also suggest The Wedding Banquet, which was a delight to watch.

#17 of 47 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR



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Posted February 06 2003 - 09:07 AM

Definately go for Raise the Red Lantern! A great film.
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#18 of 47 OFFLINE   Joel C

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Posted February 06 2003 - 10:24 AM

And WHERE is the RtRL DVD, MGM?
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#19 of 47 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool



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Posted February 06 2003 - 10:53 AM

If you're looking for more serious fare, then also add Ann Hui to your list of filmmakers to consider. Unfortunately, not too many of her movies are released on DVD yet, and not all of the ones released are complete theatrical (or uncut) versions in proper OAR. If you do LDs, that might help some. There are probably other important filmmakers I'm neglecting beyond those already mentioned.

FYI, you might want to check out the Asian Cinema Discussion forum for discussions on this stuff:


Also, if you love Zhang Yimou's output and could use a little change of pace, ie. mix of drama and action more like Croutching Tiger Hidden Dragon, you should pray that Miramax doesn't butcher their upcoming State-side theatrical release of the controversial Hero. Oddly enough, this time around, the controversy swings in the opposite direction where his movie actually garners a favorable view from the PRC government and criticism from many of his former supporters.

When considering "essentials" for Hong Kong cinema, one cannot avoid the large body of "B-films" as Lew mentioned. Most of the action/comedy and action/melodrama flix are such, and there are tons of them including those from already mentioned filmmakers and/or actors like Stephen Chow, Jackie Chan, ..., John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat, etc, etc.

If you want action, but more serious/cinematic/classic fare, consider what you can find nowadays from King Hu, including the newly released A Touch of Zen and Come Drink With Me. He is generally considered the Father of the classic wuxia (heroic fantasy/melodrama) genre that inspired the likes of Croutching Tiger Hidden Dragon (and others like Dragon Inn as mentioned). Indeed, he made the original Dragon Inn, which is another reference classic.

In many ways, the classic wuxia genre is the HK/Taiwanese version of the Kurosawa samurai movies or the Spaghetti Westerns or the American gangster operatic (melo)dramas like The Godfather or even operatic sci-fantasy epics like the original Star Wars Trilogy(!). You'll notice that all of them come from a similar era in cinema history, and probably had lots of influence on each other. And George Lucas himself has been quoted regarding the heavy influences of the wuxia genre on his making of Star Wars. The Force ain't so different from what you see in all the gravity defying stuff from Croutching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Posted Image

In more recent times, you can see some of these themes and elements reflected in movies made by John Woo and his imitators. FWIW, even John Woo has a wuxia film to his directorial credit: The Last Hurrah for Chivalry.

I could go on and on... Posted Image


PS: A couple other sites you might checkout for info, reviews, etc. on Hong Kong and/or Taiwanese cinema are:



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#20 of 47 OFFLINE   Walt Williams

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Posted February 06 2003 - 11:51 AM

Chungking Express. It's one of my favorite movies ever and you'll totally fall in love with Faye Wong - well I did.

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