To Rise at Dawn. To Muse at Dusk: Film Retrospective of Wang Toon

Venue: Louis Koo Cinema, Hong Kong Arts Centre 
Date: 2020.11.17 - 2020.11.22
Price: Tickets will be available at URBTIX from 2 October 2020. 
To Rise at Dawn. To Muse at Dusk: Film Retrospective of Wang Toon
 
Filmmaker Wang Toon is one of the pioneers of New Taiwanese Cinema. His work witnesses the tumultuous history of Taiwan. With great cultural and artistic depth and richness, he has brought ordinary people’s stories to new dimensions. Wang honours the humanity of ordinary lives that strive in difficult times. His works have won popular appeal and critical acclaims. Wang was appointed jury president and awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Taipei Golden Horse Awards last year.
 
Hong Kong’s first retrospective of Wang presents seven classics of his. He will also visit Hong Kong to meet the audience.
 
About the director
 

Wang Toon’s film career has spanned over 50 years with 15 fiction features under his helm. His works participated in numerous international film festivals and were awarded several times by the Taipei Golden Horse Awards. He was honoured by the National Awards for Arts from the National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Golden Horse Film Awards. He was head of jury of the Golden Horse in 2019. His collaborators include King Hu, Wu Nien-jen, Tsai Ming-liang, Mark Lee Ping-bing, and Imamura Shohei amongst others.

 

Screening Schedule:

17/11 (Tue) - 7:30pm* A Way We Go
19/11 (Thu) 7:30pm* Strawman
20/11 (Fri) 7:30pm* Banana Paradise
21/11 (Sat) 2:30pm* Hill of No Return
21/11 (Sat) 7:30pm* Red Persimmon
22/11 (Sun) 2:30pm The Ritual + Run Away
22/11 (Sun) 5pm Masterclass with Wang Toon
22/11 (Sun) 7:30pm* Where the Wind Settles

*With after-screening talk. Conducted in Cantonese or Mandarin.

 

 

A Way We Go

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Film Song, Golden Horse Award 2001
Jeonju International Film Festival 2002
Changchun Film Festival 2002

Yearning for freedom but not knowing where to go

17/11 (Tue) 7:30pm*

*Film critic Ka Ming will attend the after-screening talk. Conducted in Cantonese.

 Cast: Chang Rui-zhe, Lee Kang-sheng, Shin Ying, Wen Ying

 Taiwan | 2001 | 132 mins | In Mandarin and Taiwanese with Chinese subtitles | DCP | Colour 

Wang Toon takes a turn from his usual ruralist themes to make a contemporary tragicomedy. The film scrutinises the distinct values of two generations of Taiwanese in a time of social transformation, and describes people’s sense of displacement and awkwardness as they try to get accustomed to a new age. A Long has been leading a traditional Chinese music troupe for 40 years, but its members quit one after another, and A Long is not quite sure of how to continue the group. His older son, A Hui, aimlessly hangs around with his welder pal, A Gou, all day. His polio ridden younger son, A Ming, is a cynical teenager. It has been said that the two doors, drawn with guardian gods, are of high value, so A Gou steals the doors and sells them to the black market. Later, A Gou offends his boss when he gets seduced by the boss’s wife. While A Gou is being wanted by different people, A Hui and A Ming also get caught up in his troubles. Meanwhile, A Long’s family wins the lottery, but the cash prize has been replaced by air tickets, so the family visits New York, where they meet the god of liberty and the god of guardianship.

Written by the famous Taiwanese playwright Chi Wei-jan, A Way We Go is the contemporary version of Run Away. The two films tell stories of people that are trapped by their circumstances, but the new version’s characters wear suits and not robes, and Wang Toon already turned from aged forty to sixty.

 

Trilogy of Modern Taiwan

Dubbed the “Trilogy of Modern Taiwan” (1987 - 1992), these masterpieces of Wang Toon render the history and sentiments of common modern Taiwanese, and are important filmic works of Taiwanese ruralist traditions. The stories begin from the Taisho period, the start of Japan’s colonisation of Taiwan, until the time of white terror after the Kuomintang’s (the Nationalists’) takeover of the islands and later days. These three different portraits of lives are an overview of modern Taiwan. The director adopts parody and satire to illuminate the tragedies and absurdities of those turbulent times. Wang Toon has mentioned, “A filmmaker, author or a painter that doesn’t get close to one’s homeland has no life. I’m Taiwanese and I have to film my own things. Taiwan has its own history of tragedies, and these subjects are alive and kicking, so I made the Trilogy.”

 

Strawman

Won Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Effects and Best Cinematography, Golden Horse Awards 1987
Best Feature Film and Best Supporting Actor, Asia Pacific Film Festival 1988
Best Screenplay and Best Editing, Bogota Film Festival 1990

Wearing the same clothes everyday
Dreaming the same dream
Waiting for the same tomorrow

19/11 (Thu) 7:30pm*

*Dr. Timmy Chen will attend the after-screening talk. Conducted in Mandarin.

Cast: Chang Po-chou, Jo Shen-Li

Taiwan | 1987 | 94 mins | In Mandarin, Taiwanese and Japanese with Chinese subtitles | DCP | Colour

This parody portrays how Taiwanese had to compromise their dignity to stay alive during the last years of the Japanese occupation. A Fa and Big Mouth are poor tenant farmers. The harvest is bad. Cattle were taken away as levy. They also need to take care of their old and deaf mother, a mentally unstable sister and a group of children. One day, the landlord returns to the village, intending to sell the land to a sugar factory. As the brothers worry about their livelihood, a large unexploded bomb falls onto their farmland. While the villagers are scared out of their wits, the village patrol and the brothers gleefully carry the bomb to the Japanese police as “a gift for the Emperor of Japan”, but his reaction is far from what they have expected…

The script is inspired by anti-war drama The 25th Hour (La Vingt-Cinquième Heure, 1967) and comedic satire The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), and shot by master cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bin. It is a tale of how innocent and destitute farmers survive their desperate circumstances, and their modest but persistent hope for the basic necessities of life.

 

Banana Paradise

Won Best Supporting Actor and nominated for Best Feature Film, Best Leading Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup and Costume Design and Best Sound Effects, Golden Horse Awards 1989

To live with a borrowed life

20/11 (Fri) 7:30pm*

*Veteran film critic Cheng Chuen-wai will attend the after-screening talk. Conducted in Cantonese.

Cast: Miu Cheng-che, Chang Shih, Tseng Ching-ya

Taiwan | 1989 | 145 mins | In Mandarin with Chinese subtitles | DCP | Colour

During the Chinese Civil War, brotherly friends Door Latch and Te-sheng fake their identities and retreat to Taiwan with the Kuomintang (the Nationalists). The new land, though abundant with bananas, is no paradise. Threatened by white terror, people hide their true selves to readily dodge unexpected and unfortunate happenings. But the two brothers are misidentified as communist spies, and are captured and tortured. Door Latch meets a widow Yueh-hsiang and her baby son Yao-hua, then pretends to be the deceased husband to live with them. Te-sheng has mentally broken down, so Door Latch and his new family take care of him, trying to forge a stable life in a volatile time. When travel restrictions are lifted across the straits, to surprise his father, Yao-hua travels to Shandong to find his grandfather clandestinely, takes him to Hong Kong, and calls his parents to visit the city to meet. The secrets of Door Latch and Yueh-hsiang are about to break out, and are even more shocking and melancholic than anticipated…

Scripted by director Wang Shao-di and screenwriter Song Hong, the film criticises the tyranny of the Kuomintang government as the martial law fades away. With dark humour, it accuses the absurdity and brutality of war, and embraces the bewilderment and embarrassment of mainlanders who are trying to get used to a new life in Taiwan. It also shows the empathy, courage and tolerance of people who survive together.

 

Hill of No Return

Won Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Makeup and Costume Design, Audience Choice Award and nominated for Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Sound Effects, Golden Horse Awards 1992
Jury Prize, China Times Express Film Awards 1992
Best Screenplay and Best Art Direction, Asia Pacific Film Festival 1993
Best Leading Actress and Special Jury Award, Singapore International Film Festival 1993
Golden Goblet Awards (Best Feature Film), Shanghai International Film Festival 1993

Everyone has their own life
Life and death are ruled by destiny

21/11 (Sat) 2:30pm*

*Professor Lee Daw-ming will attend the after-screening talk. Conducted in Mandarin.

Cast: Peng Chia-chia, Yang Kuei-mei, Huang Pin-yuan, Chen Hsien-mei, Jen Chang-bin, Wen Yin

Taiwan | 1992 | 168 mins | In Taiwanese and Japanese with Chinese subtitles | DCP | Colour

When Japan rules Taiwan in the 1920s, brothers A Chu and A Wei sell themselves to a farm for the money to bury their parents. When they can no longer put up with the exploitation, they escape to Jiufen, a town with a vibrant gold mining industry, for their fortune. But the Japanese-run mines are dark, dangerous and grueling. The brothers are only to be exploited again. As Japanese rule gets harsher, the commoners become more defiant and determined. In this decadent and crime-ridden town among the hills, A Chu falls in love with a widow, A Rou, and A Wei is infatuated with a young prostitute, Fumiko, but life is so harsh that romance is out of the question. Between hope and despair, these innocent, disheartened and anguish souls are forced to surrender their dignity to struggle for survival.

Veteran filmmaker and writer Wu Nien-jen’s script depicts the sentiments of that age with vivid intimacy. The film demonstrates a poignant balancing act – while it portrays many characters, it manages to pay respectful and genuine attention to each of these lives without overlooking any of them, making all their stories compelling. Human nature and destiny intertwine in a small town, and unfolds a colonial history of rural Taiwan.

 

Red Persimmon

Won Best Art Direction, nominated for Best Director and Best Leading Actress, Golden Horse Awards 1996

Grandma, do you still miss the big red persimmon tree?

21/11 (Sat) 7:30pm*

*Director Ying Liang will attend the after-screening talk. Conducted in Mandarin.

Cast: Tao Su, Shih Jun, Chang Shih, Wong Jang

Taiwan | 1995 | 165 mins | In Mandarin with Chinese subtitles | DCP | Colour

Based on Wang Toon’s childhood, the film is a loving recollection of how a family secure a living and paves for a future while overcoming the hardships caused by the Chinese Civil War. As the Kuomintang (the Nationalists) lose their power in mainland China, a family with a grandmother, a mother, eleven children and their house servants flee from Henan to Taipei. The father, a Kuomintang general, crosses the straits to meet his family, and later gets dismissed and turns into a commoner in Taiwan. As days go by, the fortune of the family diminishes, so the parents work multiple odd jobs to raise the family, and the resilient and versatile grandmother takes care of the children with her inborn wisdom while being their best playmate. The seemingly happy grandmother endures the demands of life with laughs and tears. Her naggy and calculating persona is just one side of her dedicated frugality to maintain the household. Grandmother, who still abides by traditional ways, always misses the persimmon tree in the old backyard in the mainland, but time flows and the scenery has changed.

Shu Tao was nominated for Best Leading Actress at the Golden Horse Awards for her excellent performance as the magnetic grandmother – one can love and hate the character, but she is just too full of charm. Taiwanese film critic Tony Lan has described the film, “[Wang Toon’s] sympathetic and dignified cinematic sensibilities manifests the Chinese philosophy of survival of coping with the flow of destiny.”

 

Run Away

Screening with Wang Toon’s short film The Ritual

Best Art Direction, Best Makeup and Costume Design and nominated for Best Feature Film, Golden Horse Awards 1985
Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography, Asia Pacific Film Festival 1985

With footprints traversing heaven and earth
Like a soaring eagle, but not finding a habitable tree

22/11 (Sun) 2:30pm

Cast: Ma Ruh-fong, Chaung Yin-jeng, Dern Bing-chen, Wang Rey

Taiwan | 1984 | 114 mins | In Mandarin with Chinese subtitles | DCP | Colour

The world is in turmoil after the demise of the Tang Dynasty, the era of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms is successively ruled by corrupt and inefficient rulers and officials who pride themselves on the lack of morality. A horde of bandits loot a village during a famine but without avail. They therefore kidnap Dan Ju, the daughter of the village chief, and threaten the villagers to hand out food within ten days. When the bandits return to the village, they are ambushed and their leader is killed. The leader’s foster son Ho Nan escapes, and rapes Dan Ju in rage and locks her up. Dan Ju is infuriated. After spending days and nights of destitution and hardship together, Dan Ju and Nan gradually develop mutual sympathy for each other. Days of torrential rain drives the bandits to a severe shortage of food, so Nan leads his comrades to rob the government silver…

Wang Toon’s realistic and honest style, meticulously researched costume design, unpretentious martial actions and natural acting re-enact the chaotic time and the complexes of ordinary people. Based on an original story by Chen Yu-hang, this film is scripted by director Tsai Ming-liang and writer Hsiao Yeh, and is the debut of renowned cinematographer Mark Lee ping-bing.

 

The Ritual

Opening Film, Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 2011
Panorama section, Berlin International Film Festival 2012

Taiwan | 2011 | 5 mins | In Mandarin with Chinese subtitles | DCP | Colour

Respect heaven and earth. Fear spirits and gods. Recalling Hill of No Return, Wang Toon has a pair of brothers as his protagonists again, and they have gone up a hill to make a wish…

 

Where the Wind Settles
 
Nominated for Golden Goblet Award (Best Feature Film), Shanghai International Film Festival 2015
Tokyo International Film Festival 2015

A story of the past blowing in the wind

22/11 (Sun) 7:30pm*

*Veteran film critic Cheuk Nam and Wang Toon will attend the after-screening talk. Conducted in Mandarin.

Cast: Tony Yang, Mason Lee, Bea Hayden, George Hu, Amber Kuo, Ko Chia-yen

Taiwan, China | 2015 | 126 mins | In Mandarin with Chinese subtitles | DCP | Colour

As the flames of the Chinese Civil War rage, a few strangers meet and bond haphazardly by fate. They drift to Taiwan, fall in love, get married, settle down and build their lives. During a battle, Kuomintang (nationalist) army officers Sheng, Fan and Shun run into an orphaned boy with a hearty laughter. Smitten with his joy, the three adopt the boy and name him Feng-hsien, then flee to Taiwan. On their way, they meet sisters Chiu-mei and Chiu-xiang, and the daughter of a local noodles vender Yu. Among these characters, the older generation control and act on their romantic feelings subtly with a restrained tradition of conduct. As romance comes and goes, passionate feelings are tempered by the hecticness of everyday affairs. When the older generation ponders the distant past, the younger generation imagines a romantic future. Here is a family that is born from war, formed by fate and sealed through years of love, strife and sacrifice.

Wang Toon took five years to prepare for this romantic historical epic with breathtaking scenes and spectacular mise-en-scène. Trained in art direction and faithful to his period set, Wang borrowed a ship as a prop from the Ministry of Defence, and drew the storyboard by himself. Sets of houses from the 1940s and 1950s and Guling Street were rebuilt for this film.

 

Masterclass with Wang Toon

Date:22/11/2020 (Sun) 
Time5pm
Venue:Louis Koo Cinema, HKAC

Moderator: Cecilia Wong
Guest: Wang Toon

Language: Conducted in Mandarin

Having been honoured with Best Film, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Taipei Golden Horse Awards, Wang Toon is an important member of the New Taiwanese Cinema movement. He is also an authoritative and accomplished figure in the film scene of Taiwan. His works are known for their style of potent realism, deep historical roots and all-round artistic dexterity. They always bring out people’s humanity in tragedies, and their helplessness in absurd conditions. Wang will attend his first film retrospective in Hong Kong, and chat with Hong Kong audiences in a masterclass. This is a rare chance that is not to be missed!

 

Tickets will be available at URBTIX from 2 October 2020.

 

Programme enquiries: 2582 0203
Credit card telephone booking: 2111 5999
Mobile ticketing app booking: My URBTIX (Android & iPhone versions)
Ticketing enquiries: 3761 6661 (10:00-20:00 Daily)
Internet booking: www.urbtix.hk
Website: www.hkac.org.hk

 

While it is the HKAC’s policy to secure the best possible screening versions of our presented films, the HKAC appreciates our patrons’ understanding of the occasional less than perfect screening versions. Thank you for your kind consideration.

 

 Co-Presenters: Hong Kong Arts Centre, Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Cente