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Must-see Taiwanese, Chinese and Hong Kong Films

I just discovered East Asian cinema (sadly, this is not an exaggeration), and since then I’ve been rippin’ through movies – and my kitting has benefitted – like madwoman. I’m ashamed to say that prior to these past half-year, the only Chinese-language film I’d watched was 那些年,我們一起追的女孩 (You Are the Apple of my Eye). 超丟臉. Rough Translation: FUCKIN’ EMBARRASSING.

 Gong Li, how have I not known you until now? Tony Leung, same.  Leslie Cheung – ah! Fuck if I don’t feel embarrassingly late to the party, but better late than never. This is a bit of a “to-do” list of movies I need to watch, more than any kind of review or ranking of classic East Asian cinema. I’ve left out anything in the wuxia genre – I’ll get to that another time. I’ve starred the ones I’ve watched so far, and will probably end up writing an entire post just on Maggie Cheung’s qipao selections in IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE 花樣年華. 

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What began it all was the absolutely beautiful FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE 霸王别姬. Stunning – how cliche to say, but it truly broke my heart – and introduced me to Gong Li and Leslie Cheung. Then came Wong Kar Wai’s HAPPY TOGETHER 春光乍洩, which cemented my undying love for Tony Leung, and where Leslie Cheung continues to make me feel inconsolably melancholy, and then Zhang Yimou’s RAISE THE RED LANTERN 大红灯笼高高挂 – which, Gong Li. And the cinematography.

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Raise the Red Lantern – stunning stills

Then I discovered Zhang Yimou – Gong Li partnership, and going through the movies they collaborated on. Gong Li is a goddess, she absolutely inhabits each role.

Here’s what’s on my list for Chinese director Zhang Yimou:

RED SORGHUM 红高粱

•  JU DOU* 菊豆

RAISE THE RED LANTERN* 大红灯笼高高挂

TO LIVE 活着

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In the Mood for Love – each still could be its own movie

For Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai:

DAYS OF BEING WILD 阿飛正傳

CHUNGKING EXPRESS 重慶森林

HAPPY TOGETHER 春光乍洩

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE* 花樣年華

2046

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Happy Together

And lastly I’m slowly working my way through the Taiwanese New Wave gang, with a focus on the films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Edward Yang:

From Yang:

YI YI*  一一

TAIPEI STORY 青梅竹馬

A CONFUCIAN CONFUSION  獨立時代;

A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY 牯嶺街少年殺人事件

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From Hou’s latest, The Assassin (a wuxia film)

From Hou Hsiao-Hsien – whose muse, Su Qi, is also divine:

• A TIME TO LIVE, A TIME TO DIE 童年往事

A CITY OF SADNESS 悲情城市

FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI 海上花

MILLENIUM MAMBO 千禧曼波

THREE TIMES 最好的時光

A Guide: “Where To Begin with Hou Hsiao-Hsien”

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Flowers in Shanghai

A lot of my snobby creative type friends are rolling their eyes right now being like – how did you just get to this – but fuck them! East Asian cinema can be intimidating when you first dive in. There’s multiple industries (China, Taiwan, HK) and a ton of legendary directors, and even more “must-see” films. I’d start off with a sampling of the top-ranked from all three areas: IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE* 花樣年華 (Hong Kong), RAISE THE RED LANTERN 大红灯笼高 (China), and  FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE 霸王别姬

3 Comments

  1. Missing Comrades a love story by Peter Chan.. That was totally when I fell in love with Maggie Cheung and Leon Lai and HK films..

  2. Brently says

    Check out Zhang Yimou’s Shanghai Triad, too–also featuring Gong Li.

    And one of the best–simple but beautiful films–ever, The Road Home (我的父親母親). This was Zhang Ziyi’s first film, how Ang Lee discovered her. And it’s a gem, and still for the most part unheard of by most.

  3. Kyle Chou says

    ‘To Live’ is my second favorite movie directed by Zhang Yimou. For me, ‘Hero’ takes the cake. So I was surprised not to see ‘Hero’ on your list. Now it is time for me to watch all the movies that made it onto your list! Thanks for sharing

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