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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

A solid small film.

8/10
Author: Leigh Melton (leigh@nbi.com) from USA
3 August 1999

A quiet, solid film about three young people caught up in the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong. Filmed as if it were originally a stage play, the story focuses on the relationships which develop between the three main characters as they fight to keep their dignity when faced with the physical and emotional terrors of war.

This is a good one to rent for a quiet afternoon in front of the television. There are some violent scenes (after all, it takes place in a land invaded by a foreign army) but not overly graphic. Cecilia Yip gives an understated performance; Chow Yun-Fat is seen here in his pre-superstar days but does well in a somewhat sparse role.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

top rate production values but lacking in story line

6/10
Author: widescreenguy from London Canada
29 October 2006

I must have missed something when I watched this one because despite having some excellent poetic and dramatic moments, there weren't enough to put it over the top.

Hong Kong filmmakers have thankfully put the run run shaw cookie cutter chop sockie days behind them and this was one of the 1st full breaks from that gender. the growing pains show however, just something lacking. there weren't very many Japanese either despite the title.

I've been to Hong Kong twice and there are places you can *still* see the pockmarks from where the bullets hit in the December 1941 invasion. the same month as pearl harbour bombing so the Japanese were being very aggressive. thats what I expected instead it was just a backdrop to a romance drama. I wish they would spell it out on the DVD box !!!

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Powerful drama and among the HK cinema's masterpieces

9/10
Author: Bogey Man from Finland
28 December 2002

Hong Kong film maker Leung Po Chi's Hong Kong 1941 (1984) was a film that first showed audiences the talent and intense charisma of soon to become superstar Chow Yun Fat as his breakthrough was just two years later in John Woo's stunning gangster piece A Better Tomorrow in 1986. Hong Kong 1941 tells the harrowing story of two Hong Kong based lovers, Alex Man and Cecilia Yip, both very great here, who meet a traveler and a nice fellow (Chow) whom with they get friends with. The year is that of the film's title, and the Japanese are invading China and soon they're going to attack Hong Kong, too, and it doesn't take long before their army arrives and the city full of dreams and people gets into chaos. The three leads try to survive and also learn the power and many sides of true friendship as also Chow falls in love with beautiful Cecilia. No unnecessary humor, no empty or meaningless dialogue, plenty of silence and cinematic power: this is Hong Kong cinema at its most powerful element.

All the actors do great job and there's no over-acting or any other irritating elements in their work. Some very interesting faces are also included in the cast like the director himself and the veteran film maker Wu Ma as the sadistic "fire cracker torturer" but mostly I'm pleased by the work of the leads, the three persons, who give so calm and restrained performances here thanks to the talented director and his ambition to make a believable and touching motion picture. The screenplay is overall very good and the Japanese are not depicted as just sadistic and faceless animals like some other Hong Kong films have done, judging and underlining some dark parts in their history making all of them look completely wicked and rotten. This film just shows and never goes too far. It is pretty correct in other words.

The film won a best cinematography award in 1984 Hong Kong Film Awards (also Chow Yun Fat won the Taiwan Golden Horse for Best Actor in the same year, the film had also many other nominations for different awards) and the visual look is indeed very impressive in its natural lightning, restrained camerawork, some very effective POV shots and angles. The scenery at the beginning and the end not only makes the film look like a "circle" depicting how everything can be different and avoided once we accept to change and look into ourselves, but also gives some very beautiful images of the forthcoming dawn at the sea. Every camerawork detail in the film has its purpose and is not there just to make the piece look "stylish" or special without any other reason.

Among the greatest things in this film is the usage of silence which is so much more powerful than words and dialogue. There are many silent scenes in Hong Kong 1941 (like the boat scene at the beginning and the very emotional scene between Cecilia Yip and Chow once they finally show each others' feelings) and this is definitely something that is usually lacking from many Hong Kong films making them much less than they try to be and express. The power of this art can be at its most brilliant in silence and Japanese master Takeshi Kitano's films (Hana-Bi, Sonatine plus many others) are perhaps the most stunning examples of this.

The theme of Hong Kong 1941 is universal about friendship and sacrifice for the ones we love and care about. The ending could have been the traditional happy one but it isn't as isn't life itself all the time. The ending finally makes the character's in question motives and values as clear as possible in their humanity and good will. Also the harrowing dark sides of our nature get depicted in the piece as some of the historical imagery and war related things are almost shocking and very strong. Violence isn't too plenty in the film, it is just as plenty and graphic as is required to the maximum effect of the piece, and this is definitely the more "easy to take" and polished depiction of the history of China and Japan than film maker Tun Fei Mous' two harrowing films Men Behind the Sun (1987) and Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (1995). Hong Kong 1941 is in many ways a very powerful film, in its drama, visuality and violence, both emotional and physical. One of the most surprising and effective scenes involve Chow's character and his action in one horrible fire cracker related scene as the viewer definitely doesn't know what his character's doing and is he really saying and doing what we see. The screenplay really is that great and multi leveled and this particular scene is possibly the most striking example of that.

Perhaps the only negative things in the film are in the music and some scenes that seem to run little too long and not having too much to say. The music is very effective for most of the time but I think during one fight scene the music is little irritating and too "fast" or "light" and thus makes the scene look a little too harmless and like your usual Hong Kong action scene. Also some scenes between certain characters seemed a little too long but it may be (as usual in Hong Kong films) that these little negative things are more revealed after multiple viewings.

Hong Kong 1941 is an important piece of cinema and hasn't lost its impact or universal importance at all as as long as this world is inhabited by human beings, films like this are required to make our nature change and make a better tomorrow possible and closer. 9/10

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Good story and acting but I expected something different

7/10
Author: gangstahippie from Canada(Montreal, Quebec)
3 September 2007

Rated R for violence.

Hong Kong 1941 is an early Chow Yun Fat film.Today in north America, Chow Yun Fat is known for his action films such as Hard Boiled, The Killer,The Replacement Killers and The Corrupter.I rented this film from blockbuster expecting quite a bit of action.This is not an action film.It is a war/drama film.The film has good acting and a good storyline and people who aren't looking for action would like this film, though there are some fairly violent and bloody scenes.I saw this film about two years ago.The film is basically about the lives of three people during the Japanese occupation of hong kong in the year 1941.Hong Kong 1941 has good acting and a good story but it is a tad bit boring and not what you would expect from Chow Yun Fat.

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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Great Cinematography!

Author: Phillip Escott from Cardiff
28 February 2002

Hong Kong 1941 (Waiting for Day Break) is a little gem that every one must find! The Cinematography is just perfect! every shot looks great... the Actors are all great! (not just Chow) This movie won a few Golden Horse awards too... for best Cinematography and best Actor... which it deserves :)

Any way... go buy the Hong Kong Legends DVD of this baby right now!!! GO! :P

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