April 1st never passes without me being suckered into believing something that I obviously shouldn't (today included.) But for the past five years, April 1st has not passed without remembering Leslie Cheung. Six years ago today, Leslie jumped to his death. When reports of his suicide started popping up on various bulletin boards, it seemed like a sick April's Fools joke. It was no joke.
Leslie Cheung may be best known for Farewell My Concubine in the U.S., but the majority of his career is the heart and soul of my Asian film fandom: 80s and 90s Hong Kong films. Here's a primer:
He's a Woman, She's a Man (1994) directed by Peter Chan
A woman impersonates a man so she can meet her idols and gender-bending hijinks ensue. He's a Woman, She's a Man is a romantic comedy where the performances are so sweet and charming, you just can't help smiling though the entire film. This is really Anita Yuen's movie, but the entire cast is great: Leslie Chueng, Carina Lau, Eric Tsang, and newcomer (!) Jordan Chan. I would say that this film is reserved for Hong Kong fans only, but I think any adventurous film fan could easily have a great time watching this.
A Better Tomorrow (1986) directed by John Woo
It's pretty easy to forget that Leslie is in this film, because this is a showcase for Chow Yun Fat. Nonetheless, Kit (played by Leslie) is the moral conscience of the film.
Days of Being Wild (1990) directed by Wong Kar Wai
I've spent a lot of time on these very pages expressing my adoration for Ashes of Time, in which Leslie Chueng plays a central character. But when it comes to Wong Kar Wai film, Days of Being Wild is Leslie's film. Yuddy, pictured above, is a perfect scoundrel. Everyone should see this film.
A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) directed by Ching Sui-Tung
A story almost as old as China, but a film that was a first in a flood of supernatural swordplay films. Leslie Chueng plays a naive tax collector who unwittingly gets involved with...yup, you guessed it: a ghost!
Eagle Shooting Heroes (1994) directed by Jeffery Lau
The cast from Ashes of Time takes a little breaky-poo from the grueling schedule and you get a madcap comedy that nearly makes me pee my pants. It is parody after parody and really famous people acting like complete idiots. I love it. Please watch the trailer linked above.