Chinese Modern: A Tribute to Cathay Studios A Special Showcase of the 45th New York Film Festival
October 10 - 16, 2007
Sponsored by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office New York and organized by the Film Society, in collaboration with the Hong Kong Film Archive.
Like the film industries in the U.S. and Japan, the Hong Kong film industry was dominated by a few large companies that did everything from make films to own and run the movie theaters where they played. By the mid-1950s, two studios moved to the front of the pack: the legendary Shaw Brothers and Motion Picture and General Investment Ltd. (MP & GI), or as it was universally known, Cathay. Each made dozens of films a year, had stars and directors under contract, and operated large studios that ran practically 24 hours a day. Competition was cutthroat, and more than once an announced film by one of the studios would be scooped by the early release of a film on the same subject by the other. Although both studios made broad selections of films each year, the Shaws became internationally known for their huangmei (opera) and later wuxia (martial arts) films, while Cathay was best known for its decidedly contemporary comedies, musicals and melodramas. If the Shaws hoped to transport their audiences to an imaginary Chinese past, Cathay productions such as Mambo Girl and Our Dream Car asked those audiences to imagine a different kind of Chinese future.
Most historians cite the overwhelming influence of Cathay's chairman, Loke Wan Tho, as the reason for Cathay's distinctive style. By all reports a worldly, highly sophisticated gentleman with a passion for bird watching, Loke oversaw the creation of a "modern" vision of Chinese life that embraced not only Western ideas and technology but also lifestyles and attitudes. Stars such as Grace Chang and Linda Lin Dai were new kinds of Chinese women, not only strong, but also independent. Even in some of their more formulaic films, the emphasis is on making up one's own mind, on deciding things for oneself. Chairman Loke died tragically in a plane crash in 1964, and sadly the fortunes of Cathay went down soon after; the company ceased production in the mid-'70s. Yet Cathay films remain popular with audiences and filmmakers alike. Tsai Ming-liang used the songs from The Wild, Wild Rose for The Hole, and several critics have pointed out the influence of several Cathay films on Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love. Chinese Modern: A Tribute to Cathay Studios offers a brief introduction to this most important element in Hong Kong cinema.
Calendar to view the schedule, film descriptions and, to purchase tickets online.
Special thanks to Cathay-Keris Films Pte. Ltd., Cathay Organization Holdings, especially Violet Kwan and Jennifer Wee, and also to Sandi Tan, Norman Wang, Sam Ho, Hazel Chang, Wong Ai-ling and Shu Kei for their help in making this series possible.