April 04, 2006


Last night, the Hong Kong International Film Festival paid tribute to HK's action choreographers with a gala banquet and seeing Sammo Hung, Lau Kar-leung, Yuen Wo-ping and Ching Siu-tung standing shoulder-to-shoulder for photographers was both larger and smaller than life. Everyone looked a lot younger than I expected and while you can get the basics via Variety, here's an alternate set of awards bringing you the evening's good, bad and ugly.

Yasuaki Kurata with his shiny shoes and his dapper tuxedo took this one hands down. While everyone else looked nice there were a large number of t-shirts amongst the assembled stuntmen, but you have to give them a break. They're probably so concussed they were lucky to make it to the Convention Center at all. But Yasuaki Kurata took the cake with his swank, Clooney-esque ensemble, despite sporting a strange, canary yellow pocket square.

It's a known fact that if Simon Yam merely lays his hand on your child's head he can cure many diseases and increase your kid's IQ by up to 50 points. However, that doesn't change the fact that he was woefully underdressed last night, especially when sharing the stage with Yasuaki Kurata. The club jacket and t-shirt were all right, but the worn jeans with ripped knees and sneakers were not.

Not much competition here because there was only one cake in the room: a four foot tall fancy wedding cake fantasy in white frosting and many layers to celebrate the HKIFF's 30th B-Day.

Five choreographers were honored: Sammo Hung, Yuen Wo-ping, Lau Kar-leung, Ching Siu-tung and Jackie Chan. Everyone managed to show up except for Jackie. Where was he? Kicked too hard in the chest? Busy? Upset that he would have had to share the stage? No one knows, but the theories were flying.

Gordon Liu showed up in glasses that looked like safety goggles for the raquetball court and wearing a cream, deconstructed suit coat covered with designer grafitti and everyone just had to take a step back and let him through because we all knew he shopped at a store that was located in the future. The fact that he was accesorizing with Cheng Pei-pei's willowy daughter also helped.

Gordon Liu takes it again. Botox cannot be responsible for how young this guy looks. Does he bathe in virgin's blood? Get total skin transfusions every five months? Ching Siu-tung was the runner-up since he seems to be aging backwards: getting younger and more boyish every year. The "Most Timeless" Award goes to Ann Hui whom, I imagine, has always looked like a 50 year old woman. She was probably born looking 50, and will die looking 50. There's something to be said for someone whose face demonstrates this kind of consistency.

Settling in for a long evening, a ripple of minty refreshment swept the room when Yuen Wo-ping came to the stage to get his award. "Thank you," he said. "Thank you very much." And then he sat back down. No, no, Yuen Wo-ping. Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen...Coco Lee! Wherever there are cameras, there you'll find Coco Lee,  singing for her supper and here she was tonight, belting out a medley of the theme song from CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, "Reflections" from MULAN and "The Colours of the Wind" from POCAHONTAS. And let me tell you something, there is not enough alcohol in the world to get you through a medley like this with your sanity intact.

Jackie Chan's Stunt Team, hands down. It was like watching the Lollipop Guild from THE WIZARD OF OZ enter the room. Their faces were all recognizable, they've put their lives on the line in countless movies, and none of them were over five foot five. Very strange.

At the beginning of the presentation they ran a montage of action movie clips and it was rousing stuff until I realized that the only representatives of post-97 cinema were CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, a quick clip from HERO, and one from KUNG FU HUSTLE. Oh, and KILL BILL (speaking of which, Chiaki Kuriyama was on hand to say a few words for no real reason, but it was nice that she'd ironed her hair for the occasion). It was while watching this clip that I suddenly realized that we were attending something akin to a funeral. Action choreography is what made Hong Kong movies internationally famous, it's Hong Kong's major contribution to world cinema, and it's a dying art. These men and women had a talent they wanted to showcase and they created a brand new form of cinema in which to do it. And now it's over.

Hong Kongers are a tough crowd, and I can't think of a single moment when applause swept the room like wildfire. Many of the tables were booked by capitalist fat cats who had as much  interest in the stuntmen and choreographers being honored as housecats, however, while distracted, they could generally be counted on to rub their withered paws together at the designated moments, producing a dry, raspy sound which approximated applause. There was a lot of text messaging going on, but the worst offender was the representative from Harbour City, Hong Kong's biggest shopping mall. Throughout the speeches she yakked away on her cell phone, oblivious to the actually talented people being honored and every time she hung up it was only to call someone else. No one else seemed to mind, so maybe I'm just being uncharitable when I say that I hope her cell phone gives her a grapefruit-sized tumor on the side of her head.

When sitting through a long event conducted entirely in Cantonese, the simple-minded amongst us (like me) often suffer from the delusion that suddenly we're just going to start understanding what's being discussed. Prolonged exposure will cause our brains to break on through to the other side and suddenly we'll know Cantonese. Never happens. Apparently learning Cantonese still requires hard work and study. Crap.

Two moments have tied for first place. At the beginning of the ceremony, after the opening montage, the stuntmen were invited onstage and they poured up like a tidal wave of scarred and calloused flesh: Yasuaki Kurata, Ching Siu-tung, Sammo Hung, Yuen Wah, Lau Kar-leung, Yuen Wo-ping, Yuen Cheung-yan, Gordon Liu, Ti Lung, Yuen Qiu...the list went on and on and on. Photogs ran to the front of the stage to get snaps of this historic moment, and the guy who got there first, clicking away with his digital camera? Tsui Hark.

After the ceremony as people were making for the hills, Colin Geddes of the Toronto Film Festival approached Yuen Wo-ping with a copy of a MIRACLE FIGHTERS comic book that he'd picked up at a store on Hollywood Road. One of the first licensed comics from a Hong Kong film, he'd found it in a junk shop and wanted to show it to Yuen, who didn't get it at first, and then got very excited. A guy with YWP suggested he also show it to Yuen Cheung-yan who played the grandma in the film and as Colin walked off, Yuen Wo-ping turned back from the person he was talking to and watched the comic move away into the crowd, following it with his eyes. A 24 year old piece of his past had surfaced and was just as suddenly going away and he couldn't take his eyes off it. It was a little off-handed moment, no one else noticed and for some reason I found it really touching.

April 4, 2006 at 01:47 AM in News | Permalink


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Last night, the Hong Kong International Film Festival paid tribute to HKs action choreographers with a gala banquet and seeing Sammo Hung, Lau Kar-leung, Yuen Wo-ping and Ching Siu-tung standing shoulder-to-shoulder for photographers was both la... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 13, 2006 6:22:32 AM


I think Peter Cushing used to suffer from the same disease as Ann Hui.

Posted by: David Austin | Apr 4, 2006 7:09:37 AM

Thanks for the article. That was fun.

Posted by: Tory | Apr 4, 2006 8:13:05 AM

Good coverage, Grady. Always a pleasure. Now I'll have to go find some pics, becomes a Hong Kong Film Festival promoter, and go meet Yuen Wo Ping.

Also: I have the same problem with Cantonese. Don't worry though, some day, osmosis will just kick in and we'll all speak it. I'm sure.

Posted by: FiveVenoms | Apr 4, 2006 9:28:16 AM

They actually offer cantonese at my kid's elementary school here in Toronto, which is just wacky. So, despite my spending better than a decade watching HK films my five year old now understands more canto than I do. Go figure.

Posted by: Todd | Apr 4, 2006 12:24:51 PM

thanks grady,
any pictures ?

Posted by: Buma | Apr 4, 2006 2:36:10 PM

I'm a technically challenged, but you can see pics over on Colin Geddes' blog:


Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Apr 4, 2006 6:52:56 PM

MOST DEPRESSING section is pretty funny.

Oh, and

Colin is Da Man...

Posted by: B | Apr 4, 2006 8:16:36 PM

"...nice that she ironed her hair"? I would bust a gut just to be in the same room with her. I don't care if she shaved her head, I would bow down at her feet. Consider yourself very fortunate.

Chaiki is the most beautiful girl in the world. IMHO

Posted by: Keith Loggins | Jun 2, 2006 8:25:39 AM

judging from his virtuous (facial) stiffness in REAL KUNG FU, gordon liu seems to have gone near some botox.

Posted by: ed | Jun 10, 2006 12:44:58 AM

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