Catch these 'modern' Cantonese films

Catch these 'modern' Cantonese films
Movie poster: Blood Stains In The Valley Of Love (1957).

If you have never heard of Story Of A Discharged Prisoner (1967), you might know its remake. Hong Kong film-maker John Woo in 1986 added more guns, action and male bonding to the story and released his version, bearing the same Chinese title as the original. Translated, it means True Colours Of A Hero.

But many will know it by its official English title: A Better Tomorrow, the gangster movie that would make Chow Yun Fat an Asian superstar, create a new genre ("heroic bloodshed") and propel Woo onto the world stage.

Story Of A Discharged Prisoner will be screened this Sunday as part of The Story Of Kong Ngee programme at the National Museum of Singapore, a series that showcases the most celebrated films of the now-defunct Hong Kong-based Kong Ngee Film Company.

Mr Bede Cheng, 48, programme manager of Hong Kong International Film Festival, and who has worked with the Hong Kong Film Archive, was here last week to introduce some of the films of the studio he calls a "mini-major". From its founding in 1955 by Singaporean brothers Ho Khee-yong and Ho Khee-siang - Malaya-based cinema operators looking to secure a steady supply of content - it was overshadowed by the larger and better-funded Shaw and Cathay production houses.

But what it lacked in budget and facilities, it made up for in quality and modernity, says MrCheng. The studio attracted talent such as director Patrick Lung Kong, who was behind the Story Of A Discharged Prisoner and other films with contemporary social concerns.

"Kong Ngee helped modernise Cantonese films at that time. Before it came along, Cantonese films were traditional, preachy, concerned with family values," he says.

Ho Khee-yong's philosophy was to "tell modern stories with traditional values", says Mr Cheng.

Kong Ngee's melodramas and Hollywoodinfluenced thrillers would become popular in Hong Kong and two of its contract players, actor Patrick Tse Yin and actress Patsy Kar Ling, would become Hong Kong's first screen idols.

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