Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We miss you Leslie

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.


Sandy Nawrot said...

One of my blogging buddies, who is Chinese, just did a huge tribute to Leslie on his blog. He too was suckered in by that news flash when it happened. Check him out at:

I loved Farewell My Concubine.

Sam C. Mac said...

Just had to ring in and echo Kathie's praise that "everyone should see" Wong Kar-Wai's "Days of Being Wild," my favorite Wong and actually... I'd go so far as to say it's one of my top 5 favorite films.

Great tribute. I still need to see "A Better Tomorrow."

Kathie Smith said...

Thanks for the link San. It was really a sad news when it happened. Apparently he was struggling with depression (and his homosexuality) for a while, or at least that is what the tabloids say.

It's amazing how A Better Tomorrow stands up, almost in spite of its over-the-top 80s look. I watched a about fifteen minutes of it the other night (because I couldn't place Leslie's look in the film) and much of it I was impressed with, again! A pretty stark contrast with Woo's more recent films.

YTSL said...

Hi Kathie --

Just watched "He's a Woman, She's a Man" for the first time on a big screen earlier this week. It's such a lovely movie -- echo your comments about it having a great cast. And love the music too. Was humming some of its songs for days afterwards.

So, like you, would have it in my top five Leslie Cheung movies list. Also, "A Chinese Ghost Story". And "Days of Being Wild". OTOH, my two other choices would have to be "Ashes of Time" (1994) and "Happy Together" (1997).

Very Wong Kar Wai heavy, to be sure, but there you have it.

Sandy Nawrot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathie Smith said...

YTSL, I read your post on seeing He's a Woman, She's a Man! I was very HKIFF jealous, but it also compelled me to take out the DVD. I only intended on watching a little bit, but I ended up watching the whole thing. It reminded me how much good performances can lift up a film.

I decided to restrict myself to one WKW film, and that scene where Leslie in dancing by himself in Days of Being Wild seems so genuine. But I couldn't agree more on Happy Together and Ashes: no limit to my love for those films!