Years later, a woman narrates her personal story of the Japanese takeover of Hong Kong in 1941. She's Nam, young, attractive, daughter of a wealthy rice merchant, and prey to painful, disabl... Read allYears later, a woman narrates her personal story of the Japanese takeover of Hong Kong in 1941. She's Nam, young, attractive, daughter of a wealthy rice merchant, and prey to painful, disabling seizures. Her boyhood friend is Coolie Keung, whose family used to have wealth; he's n... Read allYears later, a woman narrates her personal story of the Japanese takeover of Hong Kong in 1941. She's Nam, young, attractive, daughter of a wealthy rice merchant, and prey to painful, disabling seizures. Her boyhood friend is Coolie Keung, whose family used to have wealth; he's now impoverished, a tough kid, a leader, in love with her. Into the mix steps Fay, cool and... Read all
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
- Bogey Man
- Dec 28, 2002