Chinese films for the New Year of the Dragon

Posted on: 10 January 2012 by Richard Lam

If the endless monotony of Dancing on Ice, Celebrity Big Brother leaves you cold check out Richard Lam's film companion to the best Chinese films on DVD - and start enjoying watching the TV again.

Farewell My ConcubineTo celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Dragon, I've been busy putting together a selection of the best Chinese films from the past few years that will make good additions to you DVD collection and also give you a taste of Chinese culture:





Year of the Dragon

(Screenplay: Oliver Stone; Stars: Mickey Rourke, John Lone, Tracy Tzu)
A crime drama set in New York’s Chinatown based on the novel by Robert Delay, with Mickey Rourke and John Lone in stellar form.

The story centres on the investigation of a murder prominent figure in the New York Chinese community is assassinated by the Chinese youth gang and Mickey Rourke, Vietnam veteran cop assigned to clean up the gang problem and the inter-weaved encounters with John Lone, the crime boss.
With the all the action and sheer violence Year of the Dragon is considered one of the gratuitous gang movies and did stir up the Chinese community when it first released.

The Last EmperorThe Last Emperor

(Director: Bernardo Bertolucci; Stars: Peter O’Toole, John Lone, Joan Chen)  
The film tells the incredible life of Pu Yi (John Lone) the Last Emperor of China in the 1908 at the age of three. His reign was rather short (only three years) ended with a revolution for a new republic was born in China. He remained being a prisoner in his palace with the enclosed walls of the Forbidden City for twelve years and ended with the later journey of self discovery. Peter O’Toole starred as the Emperor’s private tutor R.J.

The Last Emperor won nine Oscars including the Best Picture; Bertolucci and the producer Jeremy Thomas spent two years in negotiation for the permission to film in the Forbidden City for this unique splendour and beautiful film.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Ang Lee brings together a stunning combination of action, breathtaking sceneries, martial-arts and visual effects for a story of honour, courage and love.

Set in the 19th century China, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon follows the favourite of martial-arts story with the battle against evil forces, magical and mystical power and the loyalty before self-indulged love.

Winner of over 40 awards including Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, Music, Cinematography and Art Direction in 2000 and four BAFTA and set the scene for future blockbuster Chinese martial-arts dramas.

In the mood for love

(Director: Wong Kar-Wai; Stars: Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung)    
Set in Hong Kong in 1962 with the sumptuous costume (Chinese Long Dress/Cheong Sam), backdrop of the period and the colourful cinematography. In the Mood for Love is a timeless film with its style and sensuality.
Chow (Tony Leung) is a newspaper editor with an elusive wife and his neighbour Li-Zhen (Maggie Cheung) is a secretary whose husband seems to spend all his time on business trips. They become friends, making the lonely evenings more bearable. As their relationship develops they make a discovery (about their spouse) that changes their lives forever. Their encounters are rather tempting and forbearing.

The film has received international awards at Cannes 2000 for best actor, cinematography and editing. The sequel, “2046” continues the story of Chow is now an out of work journalist with his playboy lifestyle and passion for beautiful girl leads to his encounters with Zhang ZiYi, Faye Wong and Gong Li. 2046 is a sexy and breathtaking film but somehow lacking the seductive elements as “In The Mood for Love”.

Bruce Lee (The Legend)

Bruce Lee was born in 1940 in San Francisco, USA where his father’s Cantonese opera troupe visited there and Bruce Lee started his movie career at a very early age and became a well known child star in the Hong Kong movie industry.

Before he kicked off with his kung fu movies back in Hong Kong, he starred in many 60s TV series in America: ‘Longstreet’, ‘Marlowe’ and the ‘Green Hornet’. His remarkable life cut short in 1973 when he die aged 32 and his films including ‘The Big Boss’, ‘Fist of Fury’, ‘The Way of the Dragon’, ‘Enter the Dragon’ and ‘Game of Death I & II’. His son; Brandon also die young in 1993 (aged only 28 years old) while filming ‘The Crow’ and both of them buried side-by-side in the Seattle’s Lakeview Cemetry, USA.
Bruce Lee also set the kung fu movie scene for many more actors to follow: Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Donnie Yen.

Young Bruce Lee

(Directors: Manfred Wong, Wai Man Yip; Stars: Tony Leung Ka Fai, Aarif Rahman)
A portrait of the early stages of Bruce Lee’s life until he left Hong Kong for America at the age of 19.

Infernal Affairs

(Directors: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak; Stars: Andy Lau, Tony Leung)
Lau and Leung lead parallel lives: Lau is a Triad mole in the police department and Leung is a police stooge in mob boss Triad gang. Both of them have a desire to put their false lives behind and to take up their rightful places in a society that eludes them. The two men’s path finally crossed and a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. In this race against time nobody is safe and all lives involved are under-threat.

Infernal Affairs Trilogy sets a stylish benchmark for modern thrillers with the beat and the suspense hanging every moment of the storyline. It broke all-time box office records in Hong Kong.

Martin Scorsese bought the copyright and re-made it as “The Departed” with casts of Jack Nicholson, Leonard DiCaprio and Matt Damon. In my opinion, the Chinese original version is the one not to be missed!

Ip Man [DVD] [2008]

(Director: Yip Wai-Shun; Stars: Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung)    

Ip Man, celebrated master of the Wing Chun and the teacher of Bruce Lee on martial arts. Donnie Yen as the kung fu sensational martial arts legend Ip Man: Part I portrait his early life and defeated the best fighters of the Imperial Japanese army in occupied Foshan, China.

Part II cover the post-war period in Hong Kong where his family settled; Master Ip opens a kung fu school to teach Wing Chun and his popularity draws challenges from powerful enemies including the Hung Quan master, Hung Chun-nam (Hung). But the two forgot about their differences in defending the dignity of the Chinese people with the formidable British boxer Twister (Darren Shahlavi).

It will not disappoint any true kung fu fans with the martial arts fight choreography to new heights and Donnie Yen is currently the hottest kung fu star in the Far East.

Farewell My Concubine

(Director: Kaige Chan; Stars: Leslie Cheung, Gong Li, Fengyi Zhang)

The story of two men, who met as apprentices in the Peking Opera, and stayed friends for over 50 years and interweaved with betrayal, love, loyalty and the taboo subject of homosexuality which China banned the film when it was first released. The film covers the period of the Japanese, Nationalist and Communist, a reminder of Modern China torrential times. Leslie Cheung’s portrayal of the effeminate role is outstanding and the photography, elaborate costumes, exotic location and the opera music guarantee you a visual and audio sensational journey.

Sadly Leslie Cheung tragically committed suicide on 1st April 2003 from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong but his superb acting will never be forgotten.

Founding of the Republic

(Director: Han Sanping, Huang Jianxin ; Stars: Tang Guoqiang, Zhang Guoli, Xu Qing, Liu Jin, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Andy Lau, Donnie Yen)   

The Film is to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the People Republic of China in 2009 and capture the era of the background to the history of grand vision and the political system from birth to the establishment of this major historical milestone. The film reflects the period when the Communist Party in the fight against Kuomintang’s Chiang Kai Shek and the political twists to the final glorious victory. Many political heavyweights at that period are captured in the film such as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Chiang Kai-shek and the young Deng Xiaoping and the actors who play the parts are extremely impressive. The all-star cast  include  Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Jet Li and Donnie Yen for this action-packed monumental epic. The film is not only for its entertainment context but also a run-through on the history of the formation of modern China.

Enjoy your films!
A very prosperous Chinese New Year of the Dragon to you and Kung Hey Fat Choy!!   


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Richard Lam

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