middle age / generation / Shanghai
Ann HUI's bittersweet melodrama, the awardwinning modern classic captures the social changes in modern China over two decades through the eyes of one woman. Headlined by SIQIN Gaowa, the high-powered cast includes CHOW Yun-fat and ZHAO Wei.
A child pays a visit to his aunt living in Shanghai. This plot seems familiar to that of Ann HUI's early film, My American Grandson (1991) in which a boy raised in America spends a vacation with his grandfather in Shanghai. The nephew's visit in this film, however, functions to show what kind of mindset or lifestyle his aunt has. Living in an outdated apartment, she sets her moral standard to that of Politeness Month Campaign (文明礼貌月) as in the days of Cultural Revolution, and is still proud of being awarded for being a Model Worker several times during that period. Her post-retirement life is, however, not so peaceful. Her British accent English is seemingly old-fashioned, her financial situation becomes troubling, and her romance yields misfortune. In addition, her goodwill is betrayed, her little lie leads to someone's death, and her daughter blames her for abandonment. As the film starts, what we can see is the gradual but ceaseless downward movement of the aunt and people around her. Yet there is no consolation provided until the end of the film. Ann HUI knows better. Some modifications do not bring permanent happiness. The misfortunes burdened on the film's characters are melancholic and even naturalistic. Also impressive are Nelson YU's cinematography and HISAISHI Joe's film score. [LEE Yumi]
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Ann HUI was born in 1947 in Anju City, Liaoning Province, China, to a Nationalist Party clerk and a Japanese mother. Her family moved to Macau and then settled in Hong Kong. She found out her mother was Japanese when she was a teenager, as she assumed her mother spoke clumsy Cantonese because she was from another part of China. After receiving a Masters in English Literature and Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong, she studied filmmaking at the London Film School in UK in 1972. HUI returned from UK in 1974 and worked at the film department of Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) in Hong Kong. The TV films and dramas she produced at this time form the pre-history of Hong Kong's New Wave along with TV films from directors TSUI Hark, FONG Allen and YIM Ho. In particular, HUI dealt with social issues afflicting the lives of the middle and lower classes in Hong Kong in the series Below the Lion Rock, which was broadcast by Hong Kong's public broadcaster for decades, making her Hong Kong's leading socially-conscious film director. In 1979, she directed her first feature The Secret, a thriller that examined female oppression in traditional Chinese communities. Together with the directors who debuted around the same time, she led the New Wave era in Hong Kong. The story of Vietnamese refugees that began in From Vietnam (1978) in Below the Lion Rock was then linked to The Story of Woo Viet (1981) and Boat People (1982), completing the 'Vietnamese trilogy'. Since then, she has continued to capture the ever-evolving city of Hong Kong from her own perspective. Her filmography includes Song of the Exile (1990), which reflects on East Asian history by focusing on a mother-daughter relationship; the 'Vietnamese trilogy' which captures Hong Kong, a city of refugees and separated families; Summer Snow (1995), The Postmodern Life of My Aunt (2006), A Simple Life (2011) which reflect on the lives of middle-aged and older women in the city; The Way We are (2008), and Night and Fog (2009) which portray the ordinary lives of people in a city near the Chinese border after Hong Kong's return to China. Ann HUI has received Golden Lion award for Lifetime Achievement at Venice International Film Festival 2020.
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