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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Aug 15, 2012

Old Movie, Old Actress, Old Viewer

Come Drink with Me (大醉俠, literally Big Drunken Hero) is a 1966 martial arts-action film directed by King Hu.

After dinner on 14 August, 2012 at home, I was surprised that Video 3 on the TV was screening "Come Drink with Me".  I wasn't hungry any more since my eyes were glued to the "goggle-box" (British slang for "television") throughout the full-length movie.

This is my all-time favorite martial-art action Chinese movie when I first watched in the 1966 school holidays after my Cambridge school certificate examinations.

I could still remember that the movie was a second or third-run movie at Atlantic Theatre in the Great World Park.  The matinee show in the day which I used to watch at movie ticket  of 50 cents for two shows at 1.00 pm and end at 5 pm, a wonderful bargain.

This blog topic title is deliberately posted as "Old Movie: Come Drink with Me"; Old Actress: Cheng Pei Pei; Old Viewer: Thimbuktu" and not intended to be rude or "ageist".

I could replace aged, senior, elderly or "youngonce" as euphemism. My apologies to my contemporaries who are captious or touchy when this word "old" used as the description of  a person's age.

Among my Teochew friends, to be addressed as "lao chek" (old uncle) or "lao sim" (old auntie) is intimately with respect and those in an age group who "eat more salt than rice, cross more bridges than roads".

In any case, the term "old' is referred on this blog to be used appropriately for myself and my feelings when watching this old movie "Come Drink with Me" and travelling in a "time-machine" to go backwards in time for over 50 years.

The movie, the director, the actress and the viewer at a time of that same era in the 1960s.  Cast:

Cheng Pei-Pei as Golden Swallow; Elliot Ngok (岳华) as Fan 'Drunken Cat' Ta-Pei; Chan Hung Lit as Jade-Faced Tiger; Yeung Chi-Hing as Abbot Liao Kung; Lee Wan-Chung as 'Smiling Tiger' Tsu Kan.

Directed and written by King Hu, the man behind such classic fist-flying action films as “Dragon Inn” (1967) and “Touch of Zen” (1971), “Come Drink With Me” effortlessly combines stunning visuals, smart dialogue, poignant drama, and precision-choreographed action set-pieces to make high entertainment for fans. And Hu manages to do this without resorting to over-use of close-ups and zooms. That, in itself, is most refreshing.

Visually, Hu utilizes the widescreen process expertly. Along with cinematographer Lan-Shan Ho, Hu stages his shots to purposely exploit the wide-angle lens used, avoiding intimate close-ups and obvious pan-outs as much as possible. This helps to provide a panorama that gives the film an epic feel. Both men make heavy use of exterior shooting to offer color and expand the story and draw the viewer in with a sense of awe. Ying-Chieh Han and Kin-Kwan Poon direct the action sequences with a methodical touch.

The fighting is staged to show multiple stunts going on at the same time and in rapid-fire movement. This provides an exhilarating, “who’s fighting with whom” feel, that sends the viewer on an adrenalin-soaked rollercoaster ride.

Hu does a nice job of melding the action with moments of subtle drama. The heroes of his film are flawed and vulnerable, filled with self-doubt.

Golden Swallow (金燕子) is unsure of her ability to defeat her enemies by herself in one sequence after she is felled by a poison dart and Drunken Cat struggles to confront his brother and deal with his own demons. Hu is aided by brilliant turns by Cheng Pei-Pei as Swallow and Yueh Hua as Cat. Both offer ballet-like physicality and subtle emotional resonance as the heroes.

Both Pei-Pei and Hua show a surface of a feral beast with underpinnings of  frailty. Hua also nicely handles the films few comic moments, interspersed throughout to leaven the action. Strong work is also provided by Hung Lieh Chen as Jade-Faced Tiger, the head of  the bandit gang.
In an interview with Cheng Pei Pei, she said: "Actually, my English name is 'Regina.' It was given to me by my uncle, an English teacher in Hong Kong."

Cheng was born in 1946 in Shanghai. "Growing up in Shanghai during the 1950s," Cheng ponders, "that time was good in the sense that society was changing, and because of that time, the way things were, everybody was on a different road of life. I learned a lot about the basics of life.

When we came to Hong Kong, it was hard because we didn't know anyone and couldn't speak English, so we decided to act because we speak mandarin and that was being used in films."
Cheng received secondary school education in Shanghai and also accrued six years of ballet training, training that was in reality supposed to be for her other younger sister.

Pei-pei explains, "Yes, this happened before my mother left for Hong Kong. She wanted my other younger sister, who now lives in London -- she was five, I was eight -- but she wanted her to learn ballet at a private school. The teacher was Russian. I'd take her to class, she didn't want to go.

During her class I'd watch and practice outside. The teacher saw that and told my mother not to waste money teaching my sister. But my mother said I'm not artistic and thought I couldn't do it. I'm very quiet back then, didn't talk much, maybe because of my family background or I'm the oldest sister and always must take care of my younger sisters and brother.

But I got to learn ballet, I'm glad I did. So after I was left all alone in Shanghai, I at least had something to do, and next I learned Chinese dancing and taught dancing."

Yet she frankly admits, "I have never considered myself a martial arts lady, I'm really a dancer.  I tell my children that it's a bonus to be a dancer because you are graceful, can kick high, bend low.  But kung fu is different; you must learn to use your power, and the body types are different.

Fights are universal, but in drama you must know your culture and accept that; otherwise you won't understand why something happens the way it does. Love in Chinese and Western films are communicated differently, but fights are the same, and we can understand what they're fighting about.


The above photos of some of the favorite scenes in the "Come Drink with Me" movie.

Cheng Pei Pei then and now...

Cheng Pei Pei in recent photo in Singapore.  Cheng Pei Pei fans are happy to see her on MediaCorp TV.

So after watching the same old movie I had seen last night, what are my feelings, my memories?

In other words, where am I coming from?

How to explain my thoughts, my human emotion?

To share my blogging experience, I found that one difficulty for me  to blog to express is communication.

Either too lengthy or too short to express myself, I cannot understand.  My friends say I am too "lor sor".

So I have to use photos, videos as "memory-aid" on the blog to help.

Although we speak in the same language, same level of literacy or professional lingo, there is misinterpretation with misunderstanding at different wavelengths  or channel of communication or twiested forked tongues as seen and heard from the audience. 

Language (eg British and American English, Pinyin and Fanti Chinese) is indeed a complex systen of education.  Individual expression of personal perspective and interpretation.  The best way to communicate is using the hearts to undestand people, like the language of love and expression with smiles.

On this blog topic,  my meaning is simple.  Old movies, old actress and old viewer are juxtaposing a different time-frame are happening five decades of the same people for everyone, but these thoughts, feelings and action cannot be repeated or re-enacted as the situations which had happened.

For instance, if the "Come Drink with Me" were to be re-filmed from the same scripts, same props in the movie, the same people or the same movie viewers would feel in the same way. Another way is a new set of cast of actors and actresses at their age of when the original cast of them when they were young, 50 years ago.

Perplexing isn't it... Same, same but different....have fun!



Blogger lim said...

Interesting that you mention "Come Drink With Me" (大醉狭). It is still my favourite martial arts movie. All the latest movies using high-tech effects cannot hold a candle to it. The other one I like very much is Shaolin Temple (少林寺) - real gongfu at its best.

August 15, 2012 at 9:57 PM  

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