1. Qi mou miao ji: Wu fu xing / Winners & Sinners / 5 Lucky Stars (Sammo Hung, 1983, HK)
2. Fuk sing go jiu / My Lucky Stars (Sammo Hung, 1985, HK)
3. Gam chi yuk yip / He's a Woman, She's a Man
(Peter Chan/Chi Lee, 1994, HK
Glancing at the film's IMDb and ICM pages I see references to Victor/Victoria
- a film I don't remember too well, and which isn't credited as an inspiration for this cross-dressing comedy. Perhaps there are some similarities that I don't recall, or perhaps it's just laziness - one such film is the same as others, we can't call anything original if something similar in the slightest, most remote way was done before, somewhere. Sigh. On another forum I'm on, I see this kind of "it''s got one thing in common with another movie so it's a remake/ripoff" shit all the time. Anyway, there certainly are plenty of comedies about cross-dressing as a form of disguise, either to get a job or to find love - or both - and while this doesn't necessarily offer anything totally "new" it's pretty well done and buoyed by a fine cast - Carina Lau and Leslie Cheung as a sometime couple who are also business partners - she a singer, he her manager - and Anita Yuen as the girl who wants to be Cheung's new discovery, but has to masquerade as a boy because he's currently only signing male acts. There's also Eric Tsang as a very fey gay friend of Cheungs, a role that is probably going to see offensively over-the-top to a lot of people now, but at the same time I think shows some heart and compassion.
4. Da xiang xi di er zuo / An Elephant Sitting Still
(Bo Hu, 2018, China
There's a 1995 film, a documentary of sorts, from a young American indie director named Russ Hexter, called Dadetown
. It was Hexter's first and last film - he died of natural causes at 27 before the film opened. I saw it when it showed in Chicago - I think in 1996 - and it was one of my favorites of the year, and not just mine, but it has vanished into total obscurity (it has 8 checks on ICM and has never had any video release, nor has it appeared streaming on a major platform to my knowledge). While the film got generally great notices at the time, Hexter's early death and the film's rather unusual nature have undoubtedly contributed to it falling off the map, as well as the fact that when it came out in the mid 90s there were still "small" films that just didn't get any video releases, and there wasn't really any online community, let alone downloads or streaming, to keep them alive.
It's probably not possible for Bo Hu's very impressive first/last film to fall into this kind of obscurity in our day, even if by some chance it doesn't get a commercial video release. I mean, I saw it and I don't have as wide an access to rare stuff as many people. But it's certainly going to be a hard sell - a nearly 4 hour, very gloomy and often nihilistic look at several characters - the four principle ones being a teenaged boy; a girl he likes; a somewhat older but still young man, the brother of one of the boy's schoolmates; and an older man about to be pushed out of his apartment by his family. This in a 21st century small-to-medium (or so it looks - I don't have any idea where it was filmed or where it's supposed to be) city clearly struggling with pollution, physical decay, lack of jobs and hope for both young and old, a future that looks grim and problems that seem unsolvable. In the course of our 230 minutes of running time we experience roughly 24 hours in the life of these main characters and a few others, in which we see two suicides and two other violent deaths (one a dog); if authors tend to show themselves in their works, we can't be too surprised that the director took his own life, aged 29, after making this film.
The theme is certainly as bleak as the lives, or rather the lives we experience inform a theme of stillness, but not a pleasant or peaceful stillness - a stillness of despair, of inability to change these lives, to move, to leave bad situations, to get out of bad mental habits, etc. The old man states things quite explicitly near the end of the film as some of the characters seem to be finally on the verge of getting on a bus to go to the city of Manzhouli, where the eponymous elephant sits still, allowing anything and everything to happen to him, ignoring it, doing nothing. Nothing will be any better, nowhere else is going to offer you an improvement in your lives. And yet the film, with it's series of very long tracking shots, it's dusty and wintry landscapes, it's powerful set of lead performances, makes a series of small despairing and unpleasant stories into exciting and enervating cinema, and it's a terrible shame that the director apparently felt more in touch with his characters in their tortured mental states than he did with those of us - not a few I suspect when all is said and done - who can see this film as something special, a new facet in the "slow cinema" landscape at the least and perhaps in our modern cinematic landscape, period.