Thursday, December 17, 2009

Queer Cinema in Asia Recommendations II..亚洲同志电影推介(II)..アジアゲイ映画お勧め(II)

This is a follow-up post to this post:

I read through some of the reader comments and would like to comment further on the issue. I intended for the post to be about Asian films with gay themes for 2009 and did not intend to go through the entire rich history of Gay Asian Cinematic history..too big for me to deal with!!

However, a reader mentioned 'He's a Woman, She's a Man' which is one of my fav HK films and coincidentally it had a gay-affirming theme in it. Released in 1994 and a blockbuster hit, it was one of the earliest Chinese films to deal with homosexuality not only in a positive affirming way, but also in a light-hearted comedy. It stars Leslie Cheung (the film mirrors his own life at that time, he came out in 2001 i think saying he was a 'bisexual'. But i think he was really gay but its just easier to say you're bi...i mean the guy was with his boyfriend for over 10 yrs by that time!) and my all-time fav HK actress, Anita Yuen (love her!). A follow sequel came out in 1996 with Anita Mui in it too. Both full films with Eng subs available on youtube online:

He's a Woman, She's a Man (1994):

The theme song and opening song sequences are so memorable for me...the movie theme song 追 by Leslie Cheung always brings tears to my eyes whenever I hear it as it reminds me of him after his suicide in 2003, and i always sing it in KTV as the lyrics are so meaningful...if you want me to translate the meaning into English I will. Just leave a comment.

Chinese cinema has always been ahead of Western cinema/American cinema when it came to the homosexual theme. Although Western cinema started earlier in exploring the issue, with British film 'Victim' in 1961 being a breakthrough for its usage of the word 'homosexual' and a sympathetic portrayal of gay men at a time when homosexuality was still a crime in Britain, Asia caught up and sped ahead by the 80s and 90s and are still ahead now. It took a Taiwanese director, Ang Lee, to make the independent hit 'Brokeback Mountain' and no Western mainstream hit has yet been made dealing with gay romance without someone dying or some kind of tragedy like that which has happened in 'Brokeback' and 'Philadelphia'. Almost all Hollywood films which do deal with it in a light-hearted comedy always inevitably shy away from gay romance and focus on the comedic side such as 'The Birdcage' and 'Next Best Thing'. However, i would say despite the shying away from gay romance in gay-themed mainstream hollywood films to date, there are still 2 Hollywood films which i love and which are classics to me. They are 1) In & Out by Kevin Kline 2) The Object of My Affection by Jennifer Aniston.

Trailers here, watch 'em if you can!:

The Object of My Affection:

But of course, our Chinese cinema have always been more daring and ahead of American cinema in frank and positive portrayals of gays and lesbians. For instance, besides 'The Wedding Banquet' waaaay back in 1993 which was a mainstream success with its onscreen kisses and bed scenes of the gay interracial couple, in 1997, Wong Kar Wai made 'Happy Together' with Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung, two of Hong Kong's most well-known actors then with a daring sex scene in the opening mins of the film. No top Hollywood actors have ever attempted such a scene even now in 2009, i mean it'd be like Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks in a raw gay sex scene bck in 1997. We Chinese did it, and I'm proud of that.:-)Then came 'Bishonen' in 1998 with two of HK's hottest new actors then, now very famous, being Daniel Wu and Stephen Fung. Then came 'Lan Yu' which was the first mainland Chinese-HK film to win multiple awards and mainstream success in 2001. Even anti-gay severely homophobic Singapore's govt allowed the production by Jackie Chan's production company of a gay-themed comedy set in Singapore in 2004 called 'Hainan Chicken Rice'.

Trailers for them here:

There are many many more films which i've mentioned in previous post on gay cinema in Asia and so just check out my previous archives.
Two important last notes, remember I mentioned about 'Blue Gate Crossing' as one of my favourite Taiwanese film of ALL time before? The whole movie WITH eng subs is available here:

Also bless the person whom uploaded the Discovery Channel program on Taiwan's LGBT movement in recent years just one day after it was broadcast:
Some recent Taiwanese Entertainment Programs with gay interest topics (read: either discussion of gay topics or invitation of gay men to choose their ideal idol !):
1) (new film promo by out gay director of Bishonen, Yon Fan, new film 'Prince of Tears')
2) (i really like Guo Yan Jun in here..he's the first guy to take down the mask..he discusses his experiences with being chased by gay men, he's straight by the way i think)
3) (Guo Yan Jun in here, he's such a hunk! It's obvious that his good friend Lin Ke is gay..i can tell from what he's saying and also he's secretly in love with's like SO obvious..those whom understand mandarin, have a look, it's obvious rite? Lin Ke obviously stole his worn underwear :-) )
Also, I just discovered a Malaysian tv drama "逆风18", it's so good! Rem my previous post on how good malaysian chinese dramas have become recent yrs? Well, this is another one, and its got a gay theme too! (wow! malaysia is becoming more n more open, i'm surprised the sponsors and management allowed the gay plot to be so central to the storyline). Set in Taiwan with a cast of malaysian chinese, thai, taiwanese is a short 13 epi drama about a straight 18 yr old american-taiwanese whom returns for a summer vacation to Taipei after the death of his mom to visit his long-lost grandma. He meets and falls in love with a girl (taiwanese) whom in turn loves her childhood gay friend (malaysian) whom loves the straight it's a gay/straight love triangle about pure teen love and family relations, love it, love the song too with trailer here:

Last but not least, rem how i said i went to see the hugely fantastic Spanish film 'Chef's Special' at the Sydney Spanish Film Festival earlier this yr? Well, apparently, its a big hit and was shown in Taiwan and S.Korea as well..trailer here:
Previous Post on Homosexuality in Asia:


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I had no idea that Chinese cinema was so ahead of Western in the gay theme. That was an interesting read!

hcpen said...

Lorraine: Yeah, its not often realised...that's why i always roll my eyes whenever someone starts talking about the 'forbidden taboo topic of homosexuality' in Asia and how 'liberal n open' it is in the West in terms of homosexuality when its not always the case, especially not in media:-)

suituapui said...

We don't get to see most of such movies here but I've seen some of them. Didn't like Brokeback Mountain - thought it drags...terribly or another award-winning movie - Lan Yu (China - but I love the theme song at the end). Both by Ang Lee? Can't remember. But I thought "Wedding Banquet" was a very good one. Seen that one?

suituapui said...

I saw Hainan Chicken Rice too. The dvd's available here - with Sylvia Chang Ai Chia and...was it Martin Yan? Singapore setting/movie?

hcpen said...

Suituapui: Yea, I've seen all the ones i mentioned in the post..i like lanyu actually, i dun think it drags at simply shows the love story over many years..brokeback mountain i didn't like tho..didn't feel there was much love at all and all my pity actually went to their wives~and yes, hainan chicken rice was set in Singapore with Martin Yan in it.:-)

YTSL said...

Hi hcpen --

"i always roll my eyes whenever someone starts talking about the 'forbidden taboo topic of homosexuality' in Asia and how 'liberal n open' it is in the West in terms of homosexuality when its not always the case, especially not in media:-)"

Hear, hear. And I'm often like that with regards to pro-female//female power movies too. Bu back to queer Asian cinema, have you seen the following?

Intimates (Hong Kong, 1997)
-- have a feeling you have but in case you haven't...

Okoge (Japan, 1992)

And a nod to the West -- at least the Asian-American part of it ;b

Saving Face (USA, 2004):-

YTSL said...

Oh, and to suituapui --

"Lan Yu" -- which I actually like a lot -- was directed by Stanley Kwan... who also directed "Hold You Tight", his "coming out" film.

hcpen said...

YTSL: Yeah, I've seen the ones you mentioned. I couldn't miss 'The Intimates' given it has Charlie Yeung in it..hehe..also, i introduced 'Saving Face' on my blog before actually...its a really great lesbian movie..i could really connect to the characters,etc..and once again it took a Taiwanese-American director to do it..this time Alice Yang, an out lesbian director..also re: Stanley Kwan, his actual 'coming out' movie was not in 1998's Holding you Tight but in his 1996 semi-autobiographical documentary on Gender/Sexuality History in Chinese Cinema called Yin and Yang. I saw this once at the Melbourne Int'l Film Festival where he narrates his growing up experiences being attracted to men and analyses gender, sexuality and homoeroticism in chinese cinematic history. In the ending part, he actually interviews his mother on camera, asking her how she feels about him being gay! (It was kind of sad to see his elderly mother putting on a brave face, saying she didn't mind about grandchildren, she didn't care what others said about her son's relationship with another man whom she knew about even bck in could any mother her generation waaay bck in 1996 not have minded? What a courageous loving mother he has..)
It was very interesting, and this film basically 'outed' Stanley to the world.

Ai Shiang said...

I've never watched gay asian movie before. But I've watched several series in English, I don't find them interesting. Some have weak stories.

hcpen said...

Ai Shiang: Well, maybe u should start with the ones i recommended in my two posts on it. I agree with you on western ones, i dislike american and western gay films (with the clear exception of Spanish gay films which i love) and i hated brokeback mountain..weak story..actually alot of the chinese gay themed ones also have weak stories, with a few notable exceptions which i've mentioned, lesbian films tend to be alot better which is why i prefer lesbian films, gay ones tend to be a tad too shallow in storyline n have the actors in various states of undress for no good reason or have stupid fantasy-like storylines where a 'straight' guy falls in love with the gay guy in the silly..

gina said...

I think there is one you must have missed. It's called, Farewell to my Concubine. Also addressed the gay issues... and it's so heart wrenching nevertheless endearing. I watched the movie as well as read the book. Love it.

hcpen said...

Gina: Aiya, actually my post is not about gay chinese films history only recent ones, so i won't be listing all of them..i know about 'farewell my concubine', very intense film, heard it was (still is?) banned in China for its depiction of Cultural Revolution and also homosexuality..actually if go thru entire list of chinese films with gay themes covering taiwan,hk,china, will be a long long long list:-)

fufu said...

huuh?? i didnt know asian has produced such a number of gay movies!!! anyway anyway merry christmas ya

hcpen said...

Fufu: Merry Christmas to you over in White Christmas Frankfurt too!:-) I hope the snow storm doesn't get too bad and have a fantastic day tomorrow:-)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year! :)

YTSL said...

Hi again hcpen --

Good point re Stanley Kwan's "Yang +/- Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema" -- which I have seen and also would like to recommend. Okay, how about "Hold You Tight" as Kwan's first feature film post "coming out" then? :)

hcpen said...

Lorraine: Thanks! You too!:-)

hcpen said...

YTSL: Yep, I agree:-) Also, Merry Christmas to you:-) I hope you have a lovely time this Christmas!