Tai Kwun Movie Steps 2023

Tai Kwun Movie Steps (Jan-Feb 2023) “You Drive Me [Wild/Crazy]”

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Tai Kwun Movie Steps (Jan-Feb 2023) “You Drive Me [Wild/Crazy]”

Date & Time

8 Jan - 12 Feb, 2023 4pm


Laundry Steps


Free of charge


Programme Partner

Hong Kong films during the 1980s and early 1990s are often jam-packed with laughs or fights. Perhaps overlooked, however, are the skilled and sophisticated works on love and even eros during the same era. Compared to today’s trend of polished films that cater to cultured youths or center on an issue, Hong Kong films at the time could be crudely intense. Films touching on social condition tend to focus naturally on the anti-authoritarian stance rather than the lapse of justice.

At the time, more is more when it comes to melodrama. Even a simple film romance will be filled with contradictions of the human condition simply to heighten the conflict. The films then may feature smartly dressed characters and appropriate art direction, but the core themes and values are geared for entertaining the grassroots. The quintessential example is none other than A Moment of Romance (1990) in which the rich girl falls in love with the bad boy. The overwrought sense of tragedy stems from the class divide. There is no doubt the male lead has to die in order to break free from his constraint (inferiority) which conveniently becomes the female lead’s cherished and eternal memory. Considered “too dram” (excessively dramatic) in today’s parlance, the film lacks tension, conflict, and nuanced depictions of the characters.

A refreshing counterexample would be director Ringo Lam’s Cupid One, starring Sally Yeh and Mark Chen. The romantic leads’ relationship is built on abuse, if not pain infliction. Although the scene where they slap each other may not have induced childhood trauma, it did leave lingering doubt in this writer about this being part and parcel of relationships. Pale Passion, released a year earlier, is also a cautionary tale of love with plenty of harm and obsession. The vicious relationship, however, leads to tragic and irreversible consequences. With a cerebral director like Kam Ping-hing, the film is imaginative in its depiction of lust and passion. In the stylistic neo-noir thriller On the Run, director Alfred Cheung throws in murder, betrayal and drug trade in a gritty tale between a sensuous assassin and an ill-fated policeman. Unlike the tropes in romance, they go from enemies to lovers out of sheer desperation. The plot of the gender-bender comedy Happy Din Don is taken from Some Like It Hot. Michal Hui stars as a guitarist who, trying to escape from mobsters, dresses as a woman to join a girl’s band. Starring other comedic greats including Bill Tung, Ricky Hui and Wong Wan-sze, the film features Cherie Chung as the sexy yet innocent Din-Din, bringing seductive appeal to the role (similar characters have almost gone extinct in light of political correctness). In the epic Au Revoir, Mon Amour, Anita Mui plays a songstress living amid the chaos of the looming war and her love affair. Trapped in a dilemma, she has to choose between finding her true love and repaying the kindness of a suitor.

A highlight of the screening programme includes the iconic Anita Mui performing a zany rendition of her hit song in a cameo role as a rising star in Happy Din Don which is not to be missed.

Honkaz Fung

Curator of “Tai Kwun Movie Steps - You Drive Me [Wild/Crazy] (Jan-Feb 2023)”




Au Revoir, Mon Amour (1991)


On the Run (1988)


Happy Din Don (1986)


Cupid One (1985)


Pale Passion (1984)

Promotion Video

Post-screening Sharings

Post-screening sharing will take place at Laundry Steps in February to share the context and stories of the films selected in “You Drive Me [Wild/Crazy]”. Stay after the screenings and let us know your thoughts after watching the films.

Post-screening sharing of Cupid One (1985)

Date: 5 February 2023

Time: 5:30pm (after the screening of Cupid One)

Guests: Fung Hing Keung, curator of “You Drive Me [Wild/Crazy]” and Wong Cheuk Man, local filmmaker

* Post-screening sharing will be conducted in Cantonese

Au Revoir, Mon Amour (1991)

Set against the backdrop of the second Sino-Japanese war, Au Revoir, Mon Amour tells the sweeping wartime romance between Mui-yee (Anita Mui) and Leung Sam (Tony Leung Ka-fai) who first met in anti-Japanese protests. Just as their love blossoms, WWII takes Sam away. On a fateful night, Sam is brought to a smoky nightclub where the songstress is none other than his first love Mui-yee. To save Sam who is now a resistance operative, Mui-yee’s family is torn apart while she is catapulted into a tortuous and guilt-ridden love triangle. The film’s star-studded cast also includes Ng Kar-lai, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Tsui Siu-keung and Japanese actors Akai Hidekazu and Chikako Aoyama. Director Tony Au worked in fashion design before studying film abroad. Upon graduation, he joined the film industry as an art director for numerous films including Dangerous Encounter - 1st Kind, The Story of Woo Viet and Boat People. His directorial debut is the visually stunning The Last Affair (1983), and Au Revoir, Mon Amour is Au’s ambitious epic after directing Profiles of Pleasure (1988) and I Am Sorry (1989). The film is bolstered by Bao Hei-ming (Peter Pau)’s exquisite cinematography and a textured atmosphere crafted by the late art director Eddie Ma, both of which accentuated the fleeting nature of life during wartime. Instead of embracing the sentiment of “love conquers all”, Au Revoir, Mon Amour is thorough in its portrayal of people’s pursuit of desire. As life becomes volatile during the war, Mui-yee simply longs to be with her lover. Sam, however, puts patriotism before love and only promises a future that may never come, thus creating an insurmountable rift that sets them apart. The sense of irreparable loss is seen also in the unfaithful stepmother and the corrupt Japanese collaborator who both fill their voids by slipping further into turmoil. In a tailor-made role, Anita Mui gives a riveting performance especially in portraying Mui-yee who yearns for happiness that is forever out of reach. The film’s ending is highlighted by Mui-yee having to make an impossible choice in a cruel twist of destiny. Anita Mui’s subtle and nuanced performance of the character’s sorrow and regret made this one of the most heart-rending scenes in Hong Kong cinema.


On the Run (1988)

CID Hsiang Ming (Yuen Biao) and narcotics officer Lo Huan (Idy Chan) may remain a couple by law, but Lo Huan was already embroiled in an affair with homicide unit superintendent Lui (Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin). With the approaching handover in 1997 leading to his department being disbanded, Hsiang Ming is considering emigration right before Lo Huan is brutally assassinated. He suspects the murder is related to the drug trade and investigates on his own. After arresting female assassin Chui (Pat Ha) who comes from the Golden Triangle, Heung realises that he is also being targeted as a hit and they begin to be on the run together.

Director Alfred Cheung began as a screenwriter in the early 1980s and won the first Hong Kong Film Award for Best Screenplay in 1982 for The Story of Woo Viet (1981). He later wrote and directed Let’s Make Laugh (1983) for the Shaw Brothers. Not only was the film well-received, it also garnered Cheung his second award in Best Screenplay and cemented his creative path in urban comedies.

On the Run is a rarity in Cheung’ oeuvre with its gritty and intense sentiments. The film may have prepared Cheung for his political comedies which appeared two years later. Compared to other cop-and-gangster films, On the Run is not exactly a high-octane fight fest. The film, however, has a refreshing perspective on building the character’s conflicts around impending changes in the political environment. The plot is also unique in its progress of how Hsiang Ming and Chui evolve from foes to friends and eventually lovers as they care for Hsiang Ming’s daughter. Pat Ha is perfectly cast as the cold-blooded female assassin with a perfect aim and a petrifying gaze. As Chui warms up to the girl with games, the character is given complexity, being both tender and ultra-violent. Another welcomed surprise is Yuen Biao’s meaty dramatic role as he portrays his character’s rage and helplessness when faced with drastic changes in life. Perhaps as a reflection of the political climate at the time, Lui gives a lengthy discourse in justifying his own actions which, in a perverted sense, Hsiang Ming is able to understand. Faced with the death of his loved ones and a future without choice, Hsiang opts for permanent departure.


Happy Din Don (1986)

Fat (Michael Hui) and Tat (Michael Lai) are down-and-out guitarists in a nightclub whose obsessions with gambling cost them their jobs. After witnessing a drug deal gone wrong, Fat is on the run from gangsters. As Tat just becomes the manager of a female band on their way to Thailand for a tour, Fat dresses up as a female and joins the band. Now in drag as Don-Don on the cruise ship, Fat is enchanted with the beautiful singer Din-Din (Cherie Chung) while being hotly pursued by Ma Masa the Crocodile King (Bill Tung). Knowing about Din-Din’s dream to marry a rich man, Fat gets close to her by assuming a second disguise as a wealthy tycoon. The mob’s henchmen arrive at last for a final showdown at a crocodile pit.

Although Michael Hui borrowed the story from the Hollywood comedy classic Some Like It Hot (1959), changes in keeping with the spirit of Hong Kong comedies made the local adaptation a success. Directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot showcases Monroe’s talent as a comedic actress and the hilarious disguises by the two male stars. While the film’s witty dialogue on gender inversion is crackling with Billy Wilder’s trademark sardonicism, Happy Din Don has no ambition other than to depict the challenges and dreams of ordinary people. Therefore, Fat’s disguises as both Din-Din’s confidante and suitor are driven more by courtship than lust. As for Din-Din, her dream of marrying rich is not out of greed or vanity as she simply wishes to improve her quality of life.  “Nobody's Perfect” indeed. Just like the scornful singer, with Anita Mui in a cameo role, explains: “I have waited for over a decade to be in the spotlight!” For the film characters, every bit of laughter is tinged with both sorrow and joy. Although Hui’s works have plenty of western influences, the element of kindness inherent in his Cantonese films has always been present. Throughout his works, he never patronises from a moral high ground or stoops low to please the audience. It is therefore a pity that, by the late 1980s, Michael Hui’s proudctions were ill-aligned with the absurd and chaotic state behind prosperity, and gradually gave way to “nonsensical” comedies.


Cupid One (1985)

Cupid One’s trailer starts with the voiceover: “When passion explodes, the body is in heat.” For this unconventional film packed with action, the tagline certainly does the film justice. Rich heiress May (Sally Yeh) is to be engaged to Danny, a childhood friend who happens to be the son of his late father’s business associate. Arranged by Danny’s father, the marriage is one of convenience. To escape Danny and his father who are determined to get her drunk, the tipsy May accidentally stows away on board the new yacht “Cupid One” which is en route to Thailand and is captained by Keung (Mark Cheng). By a bizarre twist of fate, May and Keung are trapped in the yacht. They were mutually acrimonious at first, taking joy in cursing and tormenting each other. However, their hatred soon gives way to burgeoning affection. Both are unsettled by and unsure about the new dynamic. Is this a spur-of-the-moment relationship?

Cupid One can be a good entry point into understanding Hong Kong films in the 1980s. With Leung Po-chih initially helming Esprit d'Amour (1983) which Ringo Lam ended up directing, The Other Side of Gentleman (1984) is essentially Lam’s first complete work as a director. Cupid One continued Lam’s investigation of gender roles and the class divide, presenting the contentious issues in a more radical treatment and setting. Keung is the epitome of patriarchy. When classing with the progressive society not unlike the bright and shiny yacht he is supposed to steer, his crude and boorish ways are painful to bear. May, content to give up control in the past, is actually dissatisfied with her fiancé being a pushover. While her interactions with men may appear contradictory, her persistent defiance against Keung may actually be a process. If she is to be entrusted to someone, that person better passes a number of tests including holding back lust and having the determination to win her heart.

There are apparent similarities between Cupid One and Pale Passion (1984) as both films feature an unhinged and violent man in a tangled relationship. They also follow the same trajectory with the films beginning with sex and ending in violence. The films beg the mind-boggling questions of whether relinquishing control is the path to happiness and if a crime of passion implies true love. As Keung rips off his shirt and proclaims to May: “You said I am lovelier when wearing a bell!”, the scene may be testament to the extreme lengths that past Hong Kong films went to put forth a message.


Pale Passion (1984)

“Pale Passion is a realistic film, but not in the sense of exposing the dark and nitty-gritty side of social ills. Neither is the film a tale of love.” Writer and director Kam Ping-hing commented in a past interview. The film, he mentioned, would have benefitted from recording sound on set during production like Lonely Fifteen (1982) but the idea was abandoned due to cost issues.

Born in 1937, Kam Ping-hing is a seasoned film critic born, raised and educated in Hong Kong. Not only did Kim establish “Phoenix Cine Club”, he was also Chief Editor of The Chinese Student Weekly’s film section. Kam was a television script supervisor and screenwriter in his early years, and worked on the “New Wave” films including The System, The Imp and Nomad.

Pale Passion tells the powerfully simple and straightforward plot of lovers Fa (Eddie Chan) and Hsia (Chiang Li-ping). They may appear to be an ordinary couple but their tumultuous relationship turns increasingly extreme, brutal and paranoid. Hsia rejects Fa’s hand in marriage not because of his poverty but because of their fundamental incompatibility. On the verge of breaking up, Fa threatens to jump off a building. Although Hsia softens and agrees to get married, their values and habits are woefully misaligned. As Hsia is suffocated by “love”, the couple spirals into conflict and destruction in a path involving stabbing, self-mutilation and dousing of kerosene.

In a script penned by Kam, Chang Suk-guen and Chan Lai-ping, the plot eschews twists and turns in favour of directness. Driven largely by the characters’ extreme behaviors, the indebted relationship is made memorable by the contradictory Fa and his inability to distinguish right from wrong. His ambiguous and erratic behavior can rival and long appeared before the iconic “Ting Hai” character from television. Cinematographer Poon Hang-sang shot the film mostly with real locations and naturalistic lighting and art direction, a diversion from the typical glitzy and extravagant productions of Shaw Brothers. In no small feat, the film achieves a sense of innocence amid all the bloodshed and mayhem.