Daily | Patrick Lung Kong, 1935 – 2014

Tsui Hark and Patrick Lung Kong

Tsui Hark presented a lifetime achievement award to Patrick Lung Kong at the Museum of the Moving Image on August 15

It was just a couple of weeks ago that New York’s Museum of the Moving Image presented the retrospective Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: The Cinema of Patrick Lung Kong. Yesterday, as Kevin Ma reports in Film Business Asia, Lung died at his home in the US at the age of 79. “Making Cantonese-language films at a time when Mandarin-language films dominated Hong Kong cinema, Lung was a stylish storyteller whose films were considered ahead of their time. Often ending his films with didactic monologues, Lung was far from being a subtle storyteller. However, he was praised for tackling social issues that other filmmakers wouldn’t touch.”

MoMI noted last month that Lung “had a profound impact on following generations of filmmakers, including John Woo and Tsui Hark. Portraying oft-neglected social realities with unflinching fervor, and with formal inventiveness, he drew on the rich traditions of Cantonese cinema while bringing new social dimensions to genre filmmaking. In addition to the fourteen feature films he wrote and directed between 1966 and 1979, Lung Kong acted in 60 films between 1958 and 2002—a prolific career which began at the Shaw Brothers Studios (then Shaw & Sons) and carried over into his own filmmaking.”

Andrew Chan for Moving Image Source:

It’s hard to imagine Lung’s earnest melodramas about teenage delinquency, prostitution, public health, and war ever coming back into vogue, but viewers today who look beneath the moralistic veneer will find a window onto the anxieties that defined a transitional period in both Hong Kong society and cinema in the late 1960s and early ’70s—an era marked by newfound economic prosperity, swift Westernization, anti-colonial riots, and the rapidly dwindling presence of Cantonese filmmaking. Lung began directing with the hope of addressing these issues and raising Cantonese cinema’s profile at a time when Mandarin-language releases dominated the market, stalling the development of Hong Kong’s culturally specific film tradition. He stopped after only thirteen years and fourteen films—a small number by the local industry’s notoriously relentless production standards—but in spite of its brevity, his directorial career (which stands alongside his long filmography as an actor) remains a powerful example of how sociopolitical agendas, commercial impulses, and aesthetic ambitions can serve one another.

For Filmmaker, Vadim Rizov‘s reported on an evening at MoMI featuring Lung and Tsui Hark, who produced John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986). “1967’s The Story of a Discharged Prisoner served as the inspiration for Woo’s game-changing introduction of Chow Yun-Fat in two-guns-blazing mode. Lung Kong’s film is about an ex-con just out of jail trying to keep straight while all society makes it tough for him.” Said Hark: “Those characters touched us when we were teenagers. I saw the movie when I was 15 years old, John Woo I think was a little older than that. I had that movie in my mind for quite a long time.”

In a recent piece for WNYC, Araz Hachadourian chooses to highlight Teddy Girls (1969), “a story of bloody-revenge from three girls (a prostitute, a drug trafficker and a pick-pocket) fresh out of reform school and Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow [1970], an adaptation of Albert Camus’ novel The Plague, which the Chinese Government censored. Teddy Girls broke box office records when it first came out, but other films were met with far more controversy. Hiroshima 28 [1976] was one of them. It sympathetically portrayed a Japanese family in the aftermath of nuclear bombings, and it drew criticism.”

Nick Pinkerton for Artforum: “In keeping the light burning for Cantonese cinema in Hong Kong during dark days, in his devotion to the milieu of lower-class characters and petty gangsters, Lung Kong’s films paved the way for those of Woo, Wong Kar-wai, and Hark—the old saw about the Velvet Underground is applicable here. Lung Kong’s films are not merely transitional, however, but compose an integral body of work unto themselves, made with a verve born of purpose, passionately engaged with the city that they emerged from, attentive to the textures of both everyday and political life. Lung Kong’s films arrived right on time for a generation of Hong Kong cinephiles, but too soon to afford him a long and prosperous career.”

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