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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
Dave Chua
Brandon Wee
Wong Lung Hsiang
Felix Cheong
Foong Ngai Hoe
Adrian Sim
Chris Khoo
O Thiam Chin
Lau Chee Nien
Ambient Noise
Sarhan Rashid
Ying Wuen
Ellery Ngiam
Toh Hai Leong
Toh Hai Leong, Auteur
Wong Kar Wai
The Seduction of Wong Kar Wai
Tsai Ming Liang
Lav Diaz
Mikio Naruse
Leslie Cheung
Jonathan Foo Interview
Chinese Ghosts
Assassins in Asian FIlms
Sex in Asian Cinema
Erotic Cinema of the Shaw Studios
Homosexuality in Chinese Films
My Left Eye Sees Creativity
Hollywood Remakes
Comic Book Superheroes
One League of Social Consciousness
Emerging Trends in East Asian Cinema
Postwar Korean Cinema
Decline of Hong Kong Cinema before 1997
Rise of Afghan Films
Singapore's Mini Cinema
Creating A Singapore Cinema
Why Cinema is Important to Singapore
Singapore Film Industry
Rites of Passage
Replying to Critics
Daniel Yun Interview
Singapore International Film Festival
Bangkok International Film Festival
Tokyo International Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Writer's Block
All Tomorrow's Parties
And Also the Eclipse
Another Heaven
At Five in the Afternoon
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Bangkok Haunted
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Batang West Side
Battle Royale
Bear Hug
Beautiful Boxer
Beijing Rocks
Bend It Like Beckham
Best of Times
Betelnut Beauty
Big Durian
Big Shot's Funeral
Bird Man Tale
Blissfully Yours
Blue Kite
Bounce Ko Gals
Brighter Summer Day, A
Cafe Lumiere
Cat Returns
Chinese Odyssey 2002
City of Glass
City Sharks
Color of the Truth
Color Blossoms
Confucian Confusion
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Dark Water
Destination 9th Heaven
Divine Intervention
Double Vision
Dumlings: 3 Extremes
Enter the Phoenix
Era of Vampire, The
Eye, The
Eye 2, The
Eye 10, The
Fat Choy Spirit
Floating Weeds
Fog of War, The
Formula 17
Full Alert
Ghost in the Shell
God or Dog
Golden Chicken
Golden Chicken 2
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Guru, The
Hana-Bi (Fireworks)
Harold and Kumar
Hidden Blade, The
House of Flying Daggers
House of Fury
House of Sand and Fog
Howl's Moving Castle
I Not Stupid
In the Mood for Love
Infernal Affairs
Infernal Affairs III
Innocence: Ghost in the Shell 2
Iron Ladies 2
Isle, The
Jan Dara
Jealousy is My Middle Name
Joint Security Area
Ju-On: The Grudge (2003)
July Rhapsody
Korban Fitnah
Kung Fu Hustle
Lan Yu
Last Life in the Universe
Last Samurai, The
Legend of Zu, The
Liang Po Po
Love Letter
Lucky Number
Marry a Rich Man
Me Thao
Medallion, The
Monrak Transistor
Moveable Feast, A
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Musa the Warrior
My Left Eye Sees Ghosts
My Neighbors The Yamadas
My Sassy Girl
Naked Weapon
Name of a River, The
New Police Story
Nobody Knows
Nobody Knows How to be a Film Critic
One Leg Kicking
Perfect Blue
Phone, The
Ping Pong
Pirated Copy
Princess D
River, The
Road Home
Romance of Book and Sword
Runaway Pistol
S Diary
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine
Scent of Green Papaya
Seoul Raiders
Seventeen Years
Shall We Dance?
Shanghai Knights
Shaolin Soccer
Singapore Gaga
Skywalk is Gone
So-Called Friends
So Close
Someone Special
Song of the Stork
Spider Forest
Spirited Away
Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring
Stories About Love
Storm Riders
Summer Holiday
Sumpah Pontianak
Super Size Me
Surprise Party
Swing Girls
Tale of Two Sisters, A
Tears of the Black Tiger
Teenage Textbook Movie
This Charming Girl
Three: Extremes
Tokyo Raiders
Touch, The
Tree, The
Truth or Dare
Twelve Storeys
Twenty-Four Eyes
Twins Effect
Twins Effect 2
Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
Visitor Q
Volcano High
Warriors of Heaven and Earth
Way Home, The
Welcome Back Mr McDonald
Wesley's Mysterious File
When I Fall In Love With Both
Wishing Stairs
Wolves Cry Under the Moon
Woman is the Future of Man
Women's Private Parts
World Without Thieves, A
Zombie Dog
A Time to Live A Time to Die
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   Leslie Cheung  


by Felix Cheong

April is the cruellest month, says American poet T.S. Eliot. How true. How apt, Leslie, that you had timed your death at the beginning of spring, when winter is forgiven and trees turn over new leaves. For beneath Nature’s green force is often creative destruction.

What had died inside you, what chaos at the heart of you, before you died?

Was there a moment, before the light step off the ledge, when you wondered if you were committing suicide as your self or as Jim Law, the troubled psychiatrist you had portrayed in your last film Inner Senses (2002)? Did you wonder if you’d be saved by harness and wires, mattresses below cushioning your body so it would not be broken into blood and bone?

But no. After the vertigo - the horror of not being able to freeze-frame your fall. The finality of not being able to call "cut!" and ask for a retake.

Who were you when you were not acting, Leslie? Whose eyes gazed back at you in the mirror? From reports, it seemed you had to see a psychiatrist because you were having problems sidestepping the role of the psychiatrist after the filming of Inner Senses.

Not knowing where the act ends and the actor begins – it’s a professional hazard isn’t it? Remember how Tony Leung was arrested last year for drunk driving and he later claimed he was still in character? Remember how Winona Ryder was hauled off to court for shoplifting and she claimed she’d been researching into her character? Remember also how recent Oscar winner Adrien Brody said he couldn’t slip out of the sadness even after director Roman Polanski had wrapped up filming for The Pianist?

That’s the nature of the beast. Acting demands that your own nature lock horns with the character you take on, that your body and heart be the raw material, the pivot of your art. Unlike the painter, writer or composer whose creative process finds articulation in a physical form, an actor’s work is largely internalized. And if you’re not strong enough, you run the risk of the part taking over the whole.

Most actors have learned how and when to let it go but not you, Leslie. Perfectionist that you were, you asked for nothing less than to live with the mask till it breathed on your face. And the movies for which you’ll be remembered suggest you relished the friction of rubbing reel against real.

For instance, if we were to carve out the soul of Yuddy, the character you played like a latter-day James Dean in Days of Being Wild (1991) - which, incidentally, is also the Hong Kong title for Dean’s seminal film Rebel Without a Cause – how much of you would we be able to uncover? Probably most of it since like Yuddy, you were known to be volatile and given to mood swings.

You must’ve realized that your screen charisma thrives on this image, and you therefore made career choices based on it: the amoral assassin in Ashes of Times (1994), the deformed lover in The Phantom Lover (1995), the scorned gigolo in Temptress Moon (1997). All laconic and emotionally unpredictable – shades and shadows of yourself surely.

A related screen persona: that of the tortured artist, one who dreads making compromises but sometimes resorts to bargaining with the devil to get what he wants. Wasn’t this probably how you must’ve felt whenever you had to shoot these dreary, corny, made-for-Chinese-New-Year duds like Ninth Happiness (1998)?

Some of this angst about making compromises must’ve been assimilated into your role in Farewell My Concubine (1993), as a Chinese opera singer giving in to the Communists during the Cultural Revolution. Some of it must’ve also been channeled into Viva Erotica (1996), in which you depict a filmmaker who, against his better judgement, directs a soft porn flick in order to keep his head above water.

More interesting is how, as I see it, some of the roles you’d chosen emboldened you into coming out of the closet. Or perhaps you’d chosen them precisely so the public could gradually come to accept you as gay. This is where the blurring of lines between film and biography becomes most pronounced.

It began with Farewell My Concubine, in which your huadan (a man assuming a female role in Chinese opera) character falls in love with his opera partner. A year later, you play a composer-producer in the comedy He’s a Woman, She’s a Man (1994), in which your character thinks he’s in love with a man, who turns out to be a woman. Though both films touch on homosexuality, the angle of entry is oblique; the tangled relationships are still very much couched in male-female terms.

It’s in Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together (1997), still banned from a commercial run in Singapore that you finally play an out-and-out gay man alongside Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. It couldn’t have been coincidental that in the same year that this film was released, you finally acknowledged your love affair with Mr. Tong - something you could not reveal up until then. Portraying Po-Wing, an emotionally unstable gay man, must’ve given you the freedom and confidence to come clean but it must’ve also cut a lot closer to home.

Irish poet W.B. Years once asked: how do we tell the dancer from the dance? To that I should add: how do we tell the actor from the act? Your career, Leslie, has been nothing short of an interesting case study of art gatecrashing into life.

Good night, sweet prince. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.This article was first published in Today on 5th April 2003.


Hong Kong Actor and Singer
by Kenneth Lyen

Leslie Cheung will not be attending this year’s Hong Kong Film Awards where he is nominated for Best Actor in the film Inner Senses. He jumped to his death from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on April Fool’s Day 2003, apparently because of emotional depression following the separation from his partner. He was only 46 years old.

In this relatively brief life, he managed to reach the pinnacle both as an actor and as a pop star. He appeared in 60 films, winning the Best Actor Award in the 1991 Hong Kong Film Awards for the film Days of Being Wild, and winning the Best Original Song Award in the 1993 Golden Horse Film Festival for the film The Bride With White Hair. He achieved international status with such films as Rouge, Farewell My Concubine and Happy Together.

The youngest of 10 children, Leslie was born in Hong Kong on 12 September, 1956. His father was tailor to the actor William Holden. After the parents’ divorce, he went to Leeds University to study Textile Management. In 1976 he returned to Hong Kong and won second prize in the ATV Asian Music contest. This paved the way for him to work as a pop singer on television, film and the stage. The success of his 1981 album The Wind Blows On made him one of Asia’s most popular singers.

In 1986 he was cast opposite Chow Yun-Fat in the film A Better Tomorrow, directed by John Woo. It was followed in 1988 when he played the lead in Stanley Kwan’s film, Rouge. This highly acclaimed film showed that Leslie was capable of playing both a romantic as well as an action lead.

Leslie's talent and boyish good looks enabled him to be noticed by several of Hong Kong’s most celebrated directors. In 1990, he once again appeared opposite Chow Yun-Fat in John Woo’s Once a Thief. In 1991, he played the villain in Wong Kar-Wai’s Days of Being Wild, and in 1993, he was a romantic swordsman in The Bride With White Hair.

But it was his appearance in Chen Kaige’s internationally acclaimed film Farewell My Concubine (1993) that allowed him to demonstrate his most sensitive acting skills. Ironically he played a tragic gay in this film, and life seems to have imitated art.

He appeared in two Wong Kar-Wai’s films, Ashes of Time in 1994, and Happy Together in 1997. The latter was highly acclaimed and is noted for its controversially explicit sex scenes.

In 2002 he played the role of a psychiatrist in Law Chi-Leung’s film Inner Senses, which attracted a nomination for Best Actor in the Hong Kong Film Awards 2003. Sadly he will never know whether or not he won.

A brilliant singer and actor, a legend in his own lifetime, he will be profoundly missed.

1. Inner Senses (Yee do hung gaan) (2002)
2. Okinawa Rendezvous (Luen chin chung sing) (2000)
3. And I Hate You So (Siu chan chan) (2000)
4. Double Tap (Cheong wong) (2000)
5. The Kid (Lau sing yue) (1999)
6. Moonlight Express (Sing yuet tung wa) (1999)
7. Red Lovers aka A Time To Remember (Hong se lian ren) (1998)
8. Ninth Happiness (1998)
9. Knock Off (1998)
10. Anna Magdelena (On na ma dut lin na) (1998)
11. Happy Together (Cheun gwong tsa sit) (1997)
12. All's Well, Ends Well (97 ga yau choi si) (1997)
13. Tri-star (Da san yuan) (1996)
14. Who's the Man, Who's the Woman? (Gum gee yuk yip 2) (1996)
15. Shanghai Tan aka Shanghai Grand (San seung hoi taan) (1996)
16. Viva Erotica (Se qing nan nu) (1996)
17. Yang & Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema (1996)
18. Temptress Moon (Feng yue) (1996)
19. The Chinese Feast (Jin yu man tang) (1995)
20. Phantom Lover (Ye ban ge sheng) (1995)
21. It's a Wonderful Life (Dai fu zhi jia) (1994)
22. He's a Woman, She's a Man (Gum gee yuk yip) (1994)
23. Over the Rainbow Under the Skirt (Ji de... xiang jiao cheng shu shi II: Chu lian qing ren) (1994) (uncredited)
24. Long and Winding Road (Jin xiu qian cheng) (1994)
25. Ashes of Time (Dung che sai duk) (1994)
26. Bride With White Hair (Bai fa mo nu zhuan) (1993)
27. Bride With White Hair 2 (Bai fa mo nu zhuan II) (1993)
28. All's Well, Ends Well Too (Hua tian xi shi) (1993)
29. Eagle Shooting Heroes (Sediu yinghung tsun tsi dung sing sai tsau) (1993)
30. Farewell My Concubine (Ba wang bie ji) (1993)
31. All's Well, Ends Well aka Family Happiness (Jia you xi shi) (1992)
32. Arrest The Restless (Laam Gong juen ji faan fei jo fung wan) (1992)
33. The Banquet (Haomen yeyan) (1991)
34. Days of Being Wild (A Fei jing juen) (1991)
35. Once A Thief (Zong heng si hai) (1990)
36. Chinese Ghost Story II (Sinnui yauman II) (1990)
37. Miss Asia Pagaent 1989 (1989) (TV)
38. Aces Go Places V: The Terracotta Hit (Xin zuijia paidang) (1989)
39. Chatter Street Killer (1988)
40. Fatal Love (Sha zhi lian) (1988)
41. A Chinese Ghost Story (Sinnui yauman) (1987)
42. A Better Tomorrow II (Yinghung bunsik II) (1987)
43. Rouge (Yin ji kau) (1987)
44. A Better Tomorrow (Ying huang boon sik) (1986)
45. Last Song In Paris (Ou ran) (1986)
46. For Your Heart Only (Wei ni zhong qing) (1985)
47. Intellectual Trio (Long feng zhi duo xing) (1984)
48. Double Decker (San wen zhi) (1984)
49. Merry Christmas (Sheng dan kuai le) (1984)
50. Behind The Yellow Line (Yuen fan) (1984)
51. First Time (1983)
52. Crazy Romance (Da sao ba) (1982)
53. Energetic 21 (1982)
54. Nomad (Lie huo qing chun) (1982)
55. Little Dragon Maiden (1982)
56. Lemon Can Be Happy aka Teenage Dreamers (Ning mung hoh lok) (1982)
57. Encore (1980)
58. The Drummer (Gu shou) (1980)
59. On Trial (Shi ye sheng) (1980)
60. Erotic Dream of the Red Chamber (Hong lou chun shang chun) (1978)