Critics' Choice 2018 - From Rails to Reels

Venue: Louis Koo Cinema, Hong Kong Arts Centre 
Date: 2018.11.03 - 2018.12.30
Price: Tickets: $65 Tickets available at URBTIX Now  

Screening Schedule

03/11 (Saturday)  2:30pm   Runaway Train
10/11 (Saturday)  2:30pm   Murder on the Orient Express
10/11 (Saturday)  7:30pm   Closely Watched Trains
29/12 (Saturday)  7:30pm   Murder on the Orient Express  
30/12 (Sunday)    2:30pm   Closely Watched Trains
30/12 (Sunday)    7:30pm   Runaway Train

 

Post-screening talks after all screenings. 

 

Runaway Train

1985 | USA | 111' 00" | In English with Chinese & English subtitles | DCP | Colour
 
03/11 (Saturday) 2:30pm Post-screening seminar with Lam Kam-po (in Cantonese)
30/12 (Sunday)   7:30pm Post-screening seminar with Cheng Chuen-wai and Lam Kam-po (in Cantonese)
 
Director:Andrei Konchalovsky
Original Screenplay:Kurosawa Akira
Screenplay:Paul Zindel, Edward Bunker, Djordje Milicevic
Cinematographer: Alan Hume
Music:Trevor Jones
Cast:Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca de Mornay
 
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama, Golden Globe 1986
 
Manny breaks out of an Alaska maximum security prison, accompanied by the young prisoner Buck who hasn't realised the dangers ahead. Once out, they get on a train and make the acquaintance of the engineer Sara. But their lives are in danger as the train goes out of control. This story was to be Kurosawa Akira's Hollywood debut which didn't realise. This seemingly ordinary American independent genre movie combines Kurosawa's sense of adversity and Konchalovsky's determination for freedom. Overlooked in both masters' output, Runaway Train is now ripe to be rediscovered.
 

Choice of Lam Kam-po

Kurosawa's story reworked by a Soviet master. A most daring escape by train through heavy snow.
 
The Soviet director Andrei Konchalovsky first came to my attention through Maria's Lovers (1984). What attracted me in the first place was the seductive Nastassja Kinski, but in terms of the subject and storytelling, Konchalovsky did it differently from the mainstream Hollywood. Runaway Train, Konchalovsky's next film, was a Kurosawa script that would have been the Japanese master's first colour film. The funding failed to come through and the script ended up rewritten by Paul Zindel, scriptwriter of Maria's Lovers, among others. The setting was changed to Alaska and the story is about an escapee who finds himself trapped on an out-of-control train.
 

There are numerous films about trains running out of control but none comes as deep as Runaway Train in its depiction of its protagonists' clashes. Jon Voight is so desperate to be free that put him at odds with Buck, who just wants a second chance in life. They eventually resolve their conflict but in comes Sara the engineer, and the trio find no way out other than death. The film ends with a famous quote from Shakespeare's Richard III, "No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast." So who's the beast? Perhaps there's no beast at all. Was this quote there when Kurosawa wrote it, or crept in during the rewriting?

 

Murder on the Orient Express 

1974 | UK | 127' 00" | In English, French, German, Turkish, Italian & Swedish with Chinese & English subtitles | DCP | Colour
 
10/11 (Saturday) 2:30pm Post-screening seminar with John Chong and Thomas Shin (in Cantonese)
29/12 (Saturday) 7:30pm Post-screening seminar with Thomas Shin (in Cantonese)

 

Director:Sidney Lumet
Original:Agatha Christie
Screenplay:Paul Dehn
Cinematographer:Geoffrey Unsworth
Music:Richard Rodney Bennett
Cast:Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Martin Balsam
 
Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Academy Awards 1975
 

1935, Istanbul. Hercule Poirot hops on the Orient Express to get back to London on an urgent matter. On the way the train is stuck in heavy snow. The next morning, the American businessman Ratchett is found dead with multiple stab wounds. Poirot, who occupies the cabin next to Ratchett's, interrogates thirteen suspects onboard. He finds out that they and Ratchett are all related to a well-publicised kidnapping that has resulted in a child's death. Meticulously crafted and with a very unexpected ending, Murder on the Orient Express is still a classic of the locked room mystery. With a star-studded cast such as Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Sean Connery and Anthony Perkins, Lumet lays out a most gorgeous web of mystery. Usually wary of adaptations of her works, Christie was delighted by Lumet's effort and attended the premiere with her husband. Ingrid Bergman won her third Oscar, this time as the Best Supporting Actress.

 

Choice of Thomas Shin

A most gorgeous web of mystery, the unsupassable locked room mystery.

 

Sidney Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express is an adaptation of Agatha Christie's hugely popular novel. The novel is the tenth novel featuring Hercule Poirot and published in 1934. A Belgian residing in London, the mustached Poirot is short, old, and has an egg-shaped head. He's also the most beloved Christie characters.

 
Murder on the Orient Express is also the most popular Poirot novel. In 1930 Christie started a new love life after having been divorced for four years. She met Max Mallowan, an archaeologist much younger than her, on the Orient Express. They got married and the marriage lasted until Christie's death. Christie fondly remembered the period between 1930 and 1937 as her happiest years.
 

Christie kept a low profile and shunned the spotlight. In her memoirs she wrote about her love of travel and trains, and this novel was written in Istanbul. The snow-trapped train was a real experience with the slight variation of being trapped by floods. Count and Countess Andrenyi of the novel are speculated to be the representation of Christie and her husband.

 

Acclaimed as an actor's director and with the iconic 12 Angry Men (1957) among his best works, Sidney Lumet departed his familiar locale of New York and plunged himself in Christie's mysterious world of the locked room mystery. Lumet also took a step away from his pragmatic style while filming adaptations to stage this close-door drama with an array of big stars. Albert Finney, then in his thirties, got himself heavily made up to portray the sixtysomething Poirot.

 

Lumet turned Christie's train into a maze where hatred, revenge and sacrifice are acted out like a play, complete with entrances, performances and curtain calls.

 

Closely Watched Trains 

1966 | Czechoslovakia | 93' 00" | In Czech & German with Chinese & English subtitles | DCP | B&W
 
10/11 (Saturday) 7:30pm Post-screening seminar with Gina Marchetti, Joyce Yang (in Cantonese and English)
30/12 (Sunday)   2:30pm Post-screening seminar with Joyce Yang (in Cantonese)

 

Director:Jiří Menzel
Screenplay:Jiří Menzel, Bohumil Hrabal
Cinematographer:Jaromír Sofr
Music:Jiří Šust
Cast:Václav Neckář, Josef Somr, Vlastimil Brodský
 
Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards 1968
 

Based on the novel by Bohumil Hrabal and co-scripted with the author, Jiří Menzel's feature film debut shot the 28-yearold director to international fame. Set in the Germanoccupied Czechoslovakia during WWII, it tells the story of a young train dispatcher, Miloš, in a small town. Getting this job fulfills a childhood dream of Miloš, but his first sexual encounter ends in embarrassment. The idyllic train station gets caught up in war with the arrival of a Nazi official and a resistance agent who plans to blow up German trains. Will Miloš get over his sexual setback and save his skin in the deadly conflict? Menzel's easygoing approach of this war story conceals a witty sarcasm of contemporary Czech politics. The overdone flattery by the stationmaster to the Nazi official and the senior dispatcher's erotic use of the station stamp are jokes with political overtones.

 

Choice of Joyce Yang

Adolescent sex frustration caught under train wheels. Menzel's easygoing approach of a heavy subject makes this an unforgettable Czech classic.

 

Menzel's handling of political subject matter is always witty. The credit also belongs to Hrabal whose story of a sexually frustrated young man transcends the limit of nation and era. To Miloš, being a train dispatcher is a dream job because it seems easy and it gives him the chance to meet his sweetheart Máša, a train conductor, at work. Outwardly, a story of the common man wouldn't be related to the WWII setting. But as the story progresses, Miloš realises the weight and danger of his seemingly easy job.

 

To me, Closely Watched Trains depicts a state of flux in which politics intrudes on the platform of youth. The simple and warm humanism is constantly put to the test by politics. This gem of Czech cinema is constructed on a small scale. The town, Miloš's stool, even the cast is small. Patriotism is carried out backhandedly. The periphery is used to describe the core. The roles of the stationmaster, dispatchers and the officials are used to satirise the Nazi occupation and all political scheming that came after it. If you can get the message of Closely Watched Trains, you'll also grasp the silly fun of Jiang Wen's Hidden Man (2018). Hidden Man also features a scene where an official imprints a woman's buttocks with the official stamp. Jiang's jest on the hypocrisy of politics and bureaucracy may be seen as a nod to Menzel. In the face of history or political machinations, Menzel always takes the side of the youth and humanism. Miloš's story in this tragicomedy actually goes way beyond WWII and maybe that's the reason of this film's timelessness.

 

The content of the programme does not represent the views of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The presenter reserves the right to change the programme should unavoidable circumstances make it necessary.

 

Tickets: $65

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-  People with Disabilities & the Minder* (50% off)

-  Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Recipients (50% off, with quota)

-  Each purchase of 4 - 9 standard tickets of Critics' Choice 2018 - From Rails to Reels (10% off)

-  Each purchase of 10 or more standard tickets of Critics' Choice 2018 - From Rails to Reels (20% off)  

* For purchase of each concessionary ticket for people with disabilities, the customer can purchase one ticket of same concession for a minder.


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