Wednesday, 1 August 2007

My Young Auntie (1981)

Chinese title: The Elder or The Senior.

My Young Auntie (1981)Both the Chinese and English title provides tantalising clues as to what this story is all about.

Liu Chia-Liang took Gordon Liu under his right wing, and Kara Hui under his left. I guess he did for Kara Hui what King Hu did for Cheng Pei-pei - groomed them to be the 1st female lead heroines in wuxia and kungfu genres respectively.

In wuxia, SB took the lead, and so the title of the 1st nuxia in wuxia went to Cheng Pei-pei. But when it comes to kungfu genre, GH took the lead, and so the honour of the 1st nuxia in kungfu genre went to Angela Mao in Hapkido. Kara Hui could only take the honour as the 1st in a SB production.

Story wise, this is in fact a Republican period drama directed by Liu Chia-Liang. The 2nd part of the sentence implies that this is a kungfu flick (quite often comes with comedy. This 1 does).

The Republican period drama deals with many societal issues and conflicts that arose from the turmoil period between 1912 to 1949. As a possible Republican period drama, it has great potential for psychological depth the likes of Springtime in Small Town. This depth was never plumbed, or meant to. Let's not lose sight that this is a action comedy flick. The kungfu diminishes the seriousness of the drama, while the farcical comedy finishes the job of killing it.

The dramatic theme in this film deals with at least 3 issues - the confusion of the new, the generation gap, and most importantly, the inner conflicts arises from our heroine's dual roles as a young woman, as well as an elder of the family. The oxymoron title 'Young Auntie' reflecting that contradiction caused by the duality of her position.

Actually, there's 1 more dimension to her role - that of her tomboyish quality because of her martial arts skills (a proper lady doesn't play with swords, nor does any fisticuffs. But she's from a grass root society). Her character name is Dai-Nan, literally means 'Big-Man' (at least sounds like it) and becomes the object of teasing among the town's punks. But deep down she's young and feminine. She's one complicated character.

These conflicts are being played out in this comedy action flick that earned her the Best Actress award for this movie because of her dramatic role. Pure action roles don't get acting awards. If they do, Jackie Chan would need a warehouse for his awards (and he ain't bad in dramatic roles either).

This is in fact quite interesting subject matter to analyse. But kungfu fans of Kara Hui need not worry about any weighty theme to deal with and leaves out the action. She put in her fair share of pugilistic performance, and showed more of her shapely legs than her previous movies.

Minus the desperately fluffy comedy, and put in more drama and fighting would improve this film. Still, it's a noteworthy movie despite this shortcoming.

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