Hong Kong

HONG KONG NEW WAVE: 1979–1984

The Hong Kong New Wave burst onto the international film scene in 1979. During the late 1970s the film industry in Hong Kong suffered a serious decline in audience numbers, largely due to the popularization of television. Most studios were desperate to find solutions

Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung in Wong Kar Wei's international hit, Hua yang nain hua ( In the Mood for Love, 2000).
and therefore were willing to innovate. In addition, a new class of nouveau riche formed during the economic take-off of the 1970s were interested in investing in the film industry. Thus, between 1979 and 1980 about thirty to forty new directors made their debuts. All of their films used Cantonese, and many were technically superior to earlier films made by the established studios, and more contemporary in style and theme. Important examples include Feng jie ( The Secret , Ann Hui, 1979), Liang zhu ( Butterfly Murders , Tsui Hark, 1979), Ming jian ( The Sword , Patrick Tam, 1980), and Fu zi qing ( Father and Son , Allen Fong, 1981). Although these films are generically and stylistically heterogenous, one common characteristic of these New Wave films was that they shared a "Hong Kong–centered" sensibility, unlike the films of their refugee predecessors, who had taken Hong Kong as a temporary residence before their final return to China. This generation that grew up in Hong Kong fundamentally changed the look and the nature of its cinema.

Many New Wave productions were creative explorations of social issues and cinematic traditions, but not all were commercially successful. For instance, after several commercial failures Tsui Hark (b. 1950), one of the leading directors of the New Wave, found himself working for a newly formed commercial studio, Cinema City Company, which specialized in combining action with comedy. Its style combined glamorous visuals, fast editing, and modern urban settings. By using big budgets, big casts, and extensive packaging and publicity, it quickly rose to the top in the 1980s. Among its most successful hits were Zuijia Paidang ( Aces Go Places , 1982) and its four sequels. New successful production houses such as Cinema City began to replace the old studio system of Shaw Brothers, which officially closed down production in 1986. Since then the financing of films usually have come from one of the three companies—Golden Harvest, Golden Princess (financier of Cinema City), and D&B Company—which control both production and distribution.

Because industry financing came from a small number of companies, it is not surprising that the New Wave's freedom from strict commercial demands would be short-lived. By the mid-1980s a "Second Wave" was taking shape, working more within the confines of the commercial system while continuing the technological advances and the social sensibility of the First Wave. The Second Wave was composed of some of the New Wave directors such as Tsui Hark, Yim Ho (b. 1952), and Ann Hui (b. 1947), as well as younger directors such as Mabel Cheung (b. 1950), Clara Law (b. 1957), and Wong Kar Wei (b. 1958). Second Wave films dealt with contemporary issues, particularly those related to the 1997 reunification of Hong Kong with China. Like their First Wave predecessors, many of the Second Wave's works were shown on the international festival circuit, at the Cannes Film Festival, New York Film Festival, and Tokyo International Film Festival. Some major works of this period include Center Stage ( Ruan Linguy , 1992), by Stanley Kwan (b. 1957) and Floating Life ( Fu Sheung , 1996), by Clara Law. Many of its popular productions, such as the Aces Goes Places series, beat Hollywood films at the domestic box office. During this time, Hong Kong films dominated the markets of Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and mainland China.

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