A Chinese Ghost Story

Discussion in 'Movies' started by ThomasC, Feb 17, 2004.

  1. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2001
    Messages:
    6,526
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I'm taking a Chinese film class this semester to help fulfill my Chinese minor, and today our class watched "A Chinese Ghost Story," or "Sinnui yauman." From the very beginning, I had a bad feeling about the movie, and boy, was I right. Never before have I seen such a pointless movie; bad visual and sound effects, headache-inducing editing, a repetitive soundtrack, and to top it off, it was all seen on a shaky VHS copy (but widescreen). I just don't get why my professor made us watch this. We aren't going to discuss it at all, it was just something that we would watch to fill up the film screening time, because we have an exam on Thursday. Anyways, so I went to IMDB afterwards to see the user comments and their ratings, and the average rating is 7.4/10?!?!?!?!?!?! I could see this maybe being a "so bad it's good" movie, but then I read the user comments. I couldn't believe the praise that was being showered onto this movie. Everyone that I talked to after the movie ended agreed that it was one of the worst movies they had ever seen. Has anyone else seen this movie and would like to comment? Perhaps the bad VHS transfer and sometimes shaky image ruined my perception of the film.

    Here's the IMDB link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093978/
     
  2. ChrisBEA

    ChrisBEA Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,657
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I watched this a few months ago, I'd have to rewatch to give any specific comments, But I can say that I really enjoyed it. It wasn't what I expected, but that's what I've come to expect from Asian cinema. It was a weird blend of action fantasy and comedy. Not the best in the genre, but far from the worst. I would recommend Bride with White Hair, Hero, Once Upon a Time in China 1-3, or Wing Chun.
     
  3. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2001
    Messages:
    6,526
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I think Hero is a much different film than this. Perhaps the quality of the presentation really ruined any chance of the class enjoying it.
     
  4. Tin-Lun Lau

    Tin-Lun Lau Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2003
    Messages:
    72
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    you said something bad about my all-time favorite movie of my childhood?! how dare you!!! A Chinese Ghost Story is really really great to watch. you have to consider the fact that this movie was made in the height of the 1980's and the special effects are gonna be cheesy by today's standards.

    but i liked it for its romance factor and the gore.
     
  5. Nick C.

    Nick C. Second Unit

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2001
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I'm guessing ACGS was selected as representative of the Hong Kong New Wave? Happen to have a link to the syllabus or list of movies viewed? I looked around the muohio.edu departments, but didn't find much. Always looking for interesting Chinese titles to check out [​IMG]
     
  6. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2001
    Messages:
    6,526
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    It actually isn't going to be talked about at all. The prof is one of those who has to fill up every class time with something. Usually, every week we have a screening and two classes to talk about the film and related articles, but this week is a four day week, so we only have a screening day and one class, and that class is going to be used up for an exam. Anyways, here are the films we've seen and are going to be seen:

    Shadow Magic
    Yellow Earth
    Red Sorghum
    To Live
    Farewell My Concubine
    The Wedding Banquet
    Eat Drink Man Woman
    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    Hero
    Yi Yi (A One and a Two)
    Spring Subway
    Ermo
    Chungking Express
     
  7. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    Messages:
    12,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I think that this is a very fine list for an introduction to contemporary Chinese films. A Chinese Ghost Story may not be a great, or even a very good movie, but it is very representative of a type and style—and viewed in a certain way, a whole lot of fun.

    One of the problems that many Westerners have with genre Chinese movies is a lack of background, which often results in a movie seeming to begin in the middle (think for example, how much background we have when we watch a Western).

    I’ve not seen Shadow Magic, but it is on my list—my understanding is the it is a fine film by a first-time director who has slightly overreached herself—so it should be very interesting.

    Yellow Earth is interesting (although not a great film) just for the subject matter—the Cultural Revolution viewed after the fact by a master Chinese filmmaker. When you get to Farewell My Concubine by the same director, you will understand just how good he is.

    Red Sorghum is a very fine early film by Zhang Yimou another contemporary master, who also directed The Road Home and a true masterpiece, Raise the Red Lantern. He also made another on your list, Hero, which I have not yet seen—it does star Jet Li, so one can expect a lot of action.

    The Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman are early works by Lee Ang—and by now everyone is familiar with his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. You will have an opportunity to see Lee’s progress and what money can do for a film.

    Yi Yi, is for me one of the two best in your list and I think deserves to be ranked with some of the best films ever made. It is certainly not an easy film, but well worth the effort. You just feel a part of each member of a family, from the little boy with his shy, hidden depths, his older sister, their parents, their friends and neighbors, as they confront very ordinary, but very real and meaningful problems. Simply brilliant.

    Chungking Express is one of Wong Kar-Wai’s best films—meaning that is one of the best films made in the last ten years anywhere. Another difficult movie, as characters are brought in prominence and then not seen for a while and suddenly show back up, perhaps in different combinations and in a different context. This film merits several viewings.

    I have not seen Spring Subway or Ermo and don’t know anything about them. But based on the rest of the list, I’d have to think that they are well worth seeing.

    I think that your professor has chosen very well (though if it were me, I’d not have so much Lee Ang.
     
  8. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2001
    Messages:
    6,526
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Well, it *is* a film studies class, so I would expect the professor to pick worthwhile films. Why not so much Lee Ang? The title of the course is "Chinese Cinema and Culture," and from what I've gathered, Lee Ang's "The Wedding Banquet" and "Eat Drink Man Woman" would be good for the cultural side.

    Any thoughts on To Live?
     
  9. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    Messages:
    12,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Feel free—and there are other HTF members who feel the same way about this film and can comment with some depth on it (Brook, are you listening?).
     
  10. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1999
    Messages:
    38,777
    Likes Received:
    492
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    "To Live" is a tragi-comedy in spots. Some of it is really funny, some of it is really sad.

    "Eat Drink Man Woman" was light viewing, but fun, plus the daughters are cute.

    Here's a thread I started on Yi-Yi a while back.
     
  11. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2003
    Messages:
    992
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I'm probably missing something here, never having taken a University Chinese studies course and having had to better understand the Chinese culture I see in their films by augmenting the viewing experience with trips online and to the library (all of which have been very helpful, especially in the early days, in putting cultural touchstones in context), but why only two Hong Kong films?

    I'm not nitpicking, particularly as Chung King Express and ACGS are fine representatives of Hong Kong cinema and culture, but perhaps the too-westernized Crouching Tiger could have been supplanted (or can be next semester) with a contemporary action, comedy or drama movie from the former colony. Perhaps the discussion could actually revolve around the capitalist mindset fueling not only so many HK films but the colony itself or some such. Hong Kong is probably one of the most fascinating, vibrant, contradictory and sometimes tragic elements of Chinese culture, and its cinema reflects that beautifully, often in the subtext. I'd just think one more film might balance out the stuff from the Mainland and Taiwan.

    But the list as it is is quite good. Taken in the proper context (HK film culture and production quality of the time) and seen in the proper format (DVD), CHINESE GHOST STORY a remarkable achievement. SHADOW MAGIC was fascinating. The scene where the projectionist's first paying audience watches its first motion picture was captivating and pretty much sold me on the rest of the picture. Not sure if I found the first-time director Anne Hui to be overreaching. I think she nailed on a small scale the emotional conflict of a very painful transitional period in China's staunchly traditionalist society. Or maybe it was just me...

    On a related note, any chance we can have an Asian Film & DVD thread launched here someday? I really think it's warranted in light of the amazing things coming from Korea, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Thailand and other countries these days, and how surprisingly much (though hardly enough) of it actually reaches our shores.
     
  12. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2000
    Messages:
    3,185
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0


    "A Chinese Ghost Story" was made by Cinema City in the late 80s. However, what's generally acknowledged as the "Hong Kong New Wave" of cinema started back in the late 70s and early 80s. Cinema City, which went on to produce the "Aces Go Places" series and the "A Better Tomorrow" series, was started to foster filmmakers of that era. Because of its success, the decline of the Shaw Bros. studios accelerated, which led to an entire new generation of filmmakers running the HK movie making machinery.

    Cinema City no longer exist, but despite its relatively brief existence, it has left a tremendous impact on HK filmmaking.

    To see where Cinema City came from, you have to go back to and check out the comedies of the Hui Brothers. "The Private Eyes", on which John Woo was assistant director, is a classic example. This film by Michael Hui, you may recognize him being Jackie Chan's racing partner in the original "Cannonball Run" and "The Chinese Box" with Jeremy Irons, stormed Japan when it was released back in 1976 and according to a recent survey, it's still the biggest grossing film in HK movie history when adjusted for inflation. During the recent Chinese New Year holidays, the top movie in HK was one that featured Hui Brothers characters, which quickly prompted rumors of a reunion of the three brothers.

    And definitely check out the Shaw Bros. studio movies being reissued now on VCD and DVD.
     
  13. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    Messages:
    12,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Good background info, Danny. [​IMG] Thanks
     
  14. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2000
    Messages:
    3,185
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Not a problem, Lew. [​IMG]

    To be honest, I am no movie buff. But with the recent interest in HK cinema, I often see that only HK movies of recent years are discussed. HK movies are more than just martial arts films, Wong Kar-wai films, Bruce Lee movies, etc.... For example, Bruce Lee was a child actor who was quite good in straight dramas (Reminded me of a quote by James Wong, the theme song composer to "A Chinese Ghost Story"...."I beat Bruce Lee in a fight....when he was a kid.") And Chow Yun-fat was quite the accomplished comedic actor before "A Better Tomorrow".

    The box-office success of "A Chinese Ghost Story" led to other costume period films, like "Swordsman" series, which also had a TV serial version in the mid 80s starring Chow Yun-fat as the title character. Sam Hui, who announced his retirement from movies and music after "Swordsman", was one of the Hui Brothers. Jet Li, then a relatively unproven box-office draw, took over the title character in the second "The Swordsman" movie.
     
  15. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2001
    Messages:
    6,526
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    The professor came from a Mandarin-speaking part of China, so perhaps he's biased towards the movies in Mandarin.
     
  16. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1999
    Messages:
    38,777
    Likes Received:
    492
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    I'm not one of the bigger fans of "In The Mood For Love". Perhaps another viewing might help, but I'm skeptical.
     
  17. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2000
    Messages:
    3,185
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Patrick,

    Not surprisingly, your view of "In The Mood For Love" was shared here as well. Had to watch it a couple of times myself.
     
  18. Brian Thibodeau

    Brian Thibodeau Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2003
    Messages:
    992
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0


    I couldn't agree more. I think there's a comparitively limited catalogue of films that people will invariably visit as their introduction to Hong Kong cinema (or simply to say they've seen Hong Kong cinema), largely due to factors like availability on US video and in the local Blockbuster, or praise (rightly) given them in the review books (like Sex & Zen or Videohound Dragon's sidebars). I'm thinking, of course of Wong Kar-wai's arthouse dramas, the John Woo/Tsui Hark/Ringo Lam actioners, the Jackie Chan/Jet Li catalougues, and the horrid full-screen English dubs of old martial arts movies (from companies like Ground Zero).

    Not to deny these films and filmmakers their place and importance within the Hong Kong canon, but indeed there are so many different avenues of Hong Kong cinema to explore beyond them that the 14 years I've spent exploring still have the sum total effect of just barely scratching the surface, particularly each time some new (or old) title appears before my eyes and opens up a whole new can of cultural curiosity.

    Danny mentions Cinema City, which was largely responsible for some wildly diverse films in the 80's. To that I'd add the films of United Filmmakers Organization (I believe both of these groups were co-founded by actor Eric Tsang, among others, if I recall correctly), which produced some fantastic Hong Kong cinema in the 90's, or the Best of Best (BoB) outfit, which churned out the exhilarating Young & Dangerous films in a record short period of time and later backed some of HK's big blockbusters like Storm Riders. And of course, the films released under the aegis of Johnnie To's Milkyway Creative have ably represented sociological undercurrents flowing through the former colony at the end of the 20th century to the present.

    Obviously, though, if the teacher is Mandarin Chinese, then I guess he may not be familiar enough with HK cinema himself to properly teach about its cultural ramifications.

    As a side note, one interesing area for study in ThomasC's class might be mainland China's misguided dabbling in high-concept territory with pitiful thrillers like the so-bad-it's-almost-good CRASH LANDING (2001?), a slick but dreary rehash of the American AIRPORT movies that lacks the one thing such movies need and which the chinese government probably wouldn't allow them to show on screen: a villain! Instead, the whole movie is about brave pilots trying to loosen stuck landing gear with the help of a ground controller flipping sweatily through instruction manuals, while watered-down disaster-movie sterotypes go about their toothless, suspenseless "business" in coach. It's fascinatingly sad the lengths to which even commercial Chinese cinema like this must instill and/or reinforce Chinese "values" to the viewer.
     
  19. Kim Donald

    Kim Donald Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 9, 2001
    Messages:
    184
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Real Name:
    Kim Donald Houde-Martens
    Of the three Chiniese Ghost story films I like the seconed film the best. I Also like Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation which sort of takes the best of the three live action stories and combines them into one.

    and speaking of Tsui Hark one of my favorite films ever is his Peking Opera Blues
    kd
     
  20. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    Messages:
    12,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Hong Kong films used to be shown (and may still be) in Singapore with Chinese (and sometimes English) subtitles. This because Cantonese is a minority dialect there.
     

Share This Page