Tsui Hark

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Tsui Hark
Tsui Hark2011.jpg
Chinese name 徐克
Jyutping Ceoi4 Hak1 (Cantonese)
Birth name Tsui Man-kong (徐文光)
Origin Vietnam
Born (1950-02-15) 15 February 1950 (age 64)
Saigon, Vietnam
Occupation Film director, producer, presenter, screenwriter, actor
Spouse(s) Nansun Shi
Tsui Hark
Chinese 徐文光
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 徐克

Tsui Hark (born 15 February 1951), born Tsui Man-kong, is a Vietnamese-born New Wave film director, producer and screenwriter. Tsui has produced & also directed several critically acclaimed Hong Kong films such as A Better Tomorrow; A Chinese Ghost Story; Once Upon a Time in China; and most recently, Seven Swords; Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame; and Flying Swords of Dragon Gate. He is viewed as a major figure in the Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema and has been regarded by critics as "one of the masters of Asian cinematography." [1]

Early life[edit]

Tsui was born and raised in Saigon, Vietnam, to a large Hoa family with sixteen siblings. He was an avid scholar in Chinese and Vietnamese history and literature and these served as an inspiration base for his cinematography. The rich history of both China and Vietnam provided many great tales that garnered Tsui's wonder and awe.[2] Most notably, historical figures such as the great soldier of fortune Liu Yongfu, folk hero Wong Fei-hung and the legendary Vietnamese general Trần Hưng Đạo had a profound influence on his works. Tsui showed an early interest in show business and films; when he was 10, he and some friends rented an 8 mm camera to film a magic show they put on at school. He also drew comic books, an interest that would influence his cinematic style. By the age of 13, he and his family immigrated to Hong Kong.[3]

Tsui started his secondary education in Hong Kong in 1966. He proceeded to study film in Texas, first at Southern Methodist University and then at the University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 1975. He claims to have told his parents he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as a pharmacist, and that it was here he changed his given name to Hark ("overcoming").

After graduation, Tsui moved to New York City, where he worked on From Spikes to Spindles (1976), a noted documentary film by Christine Choy on the history of the city's Chinatown. He also worked as an editor for a Chinese newspaper, developed a community theatre group and worked in a Chinese cable TV station. He returned to Hong Kong in 1977.

Career[edit]

New Wave period[edit]

Upon turning to feature filmmaking, Tsui was quickly typed as a member of the "New Wave" of young, iconoclastic directors. His debut film, The Butterfly Murders (1979), was an eccentric and technically challenging blend of wuxia, murder mystery and science fiction / fantasy elements. His second film, We're Going to Eat You (1980), was an eccentric blend of cannibal horror, black comedy and martial arts.

Tsui's third film, Dangerous Encounter of the First Kind (1980), put him beyond the pale. The thriller about delinquent youths on a bombing spree was nihilistic, grisly and pregnant with angry political subtext. Heavily censored by the British colonial government, it was released in 1981 in a drastically altered version titled Dangerous Encounter – 1st Kind (or alternatively, Don't Play with Fire). Unsurprisingly, it was not a financial success. However, it helped to make Tsui a darling of film critics who had coined the New Wave label and were hopeful for a more aesthetically daring cinema, more engaged with the realities of contemporary Hong Kong.

Blockbuster cinema[edit]

In 1981, Tsui joined Cinema City, a new production company founded by comedians Raymond Wong, Karl Maka and Dean Shek, that was instrumental in codifying the slick Hong Kong blockbuster films of the 1980s. Tsui played his part in the process with pictures like the 1981 crime farce All the Wrong Clues, his first hit, and Aces Go Places 3 (1984), part of the studio's long-running spy spoof series.

In 1983, Tsui directed the wuxia fantasy film Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983) for the studio Golden Harvest. Tsui imported Hollywood technicians to help create special effects whose number and complexity were unprecedented in Chinese-language cinema and remains preoccupied with pushing back the boundaries of the industry's effects technology.

Mogul[edit]

In 1984, Tsui formed the production company Film Workshop along with his wife and occasional co-producer, Nansun Shi, making it a home base for a tirelessly prolific roster of directing and producing projects. Here, he also developed a reputation as a hands-on and even intrusive producer of other directors' work, fueled by public breaks with major filmmakers like John Woo and King Hu. His most longstanding and fruitful collaboration has probably been with Ching Siu-tung. As action choreographer and/or director on many Film Workshop productions, Ching made a major contribution to the well-known Tsui style.

Film Workshop releases became consistent box office hits in Hong Kong and around Asia, drawing audiences with their visual adventurousness, their broad commercial appeal, and hectic camerawork and pace. Tsui has the knack of trend-setting in film genres. He produced John Woo's A Better Tomorrow (1986), which launched a craze for the hardboiled mob film or "triad" movies, and Ching Siu-tung's A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), which did the same for period ghost fantasies. Zu Warriors and The Swordsman (1990) brought back the long-out-of-favor wuxia film.

In fact, Tsui's "movie brat" nostalgia is one of the main ingredients in his work. He often resurrects and revises classic films and genres: the murder mystery in The Butterfly Murders (1979); the Shanghai musical comedy in Shanghai Blues (1985). Peking Opera Blues (1986) plays with and pays tribute to the traditions of the Peking opera that his mother took him to see as a small boy and which had such a strong influence on Hong Kong action cinema. The Lovers (1994) adapts a retold, cross-dressing period romance, best known from Li Han-hsiang's 1963 opera film The Love Eterne. A Chinese Ghost Story remakes Li's supernatural romance The Enchanting Shadow (1959) as a special effects action movie.

The pattern is also seen in perhaps Tsui's most successful work to date, the Once Upon a Time in China film series (1991–97). Jet Li played the role of Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung in the first three films and the sixth, Once Upon a Time in China and America. This series is the clearest expression in his oeuvre of Tsui's Chinese nationalism and his passionate engagement with the upheavals of Chinese history, particularly in the face of Western power and influence.

Tsui also dabbled in acting, mostly for other directors. Notable roles include one-third of the comic relief trio in Corey Yuen's film Yes, Madam! (1985) and a villain in Patrick Tam's darkly comic crime story Final Victory (1987), written by Wong Kar-wai. He also made frequent cameo appearances in his own productions, such as a music judge in A Better Tomorrow and a phony FBI agent in Aces Go Places II.

In the face of an industry downturn in the '90s, he produced two expensive movies. Green Snake (1993) was a poetic and lyric movie based on a favorite Chinese fairy tale. The Blade (1995) was a gory, deliberately rough-hewn revision of the 1967 wuxia classic The One-Armed Swordsman.

American films[edit]

In 1990, Tsui had already attempted a low-budget American action film, the barely released and little seen The Master, with a pre-superstardom Jet Li. In the mid-'90s, Tsui tried Hollywood again with two films starring Jean-Claude Van Damme: Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998). In 2002, Tsui released Black Mask 2: City of Masks, an American market sequel to Jet Li's 1996 film.

2000s[edit]

Tsui returned to directing at home in 2000 after not having made a local film since 1996. Time and Tide (2000) and The Legend of Zu (2001) were action extravaganzas with lavish computer-generated imagery that gained cult admirers but no mass success.

Tsui continues to push technical boundaries and revise old favourites. Master Q 2001 was Hong Kong's first combination of live action and Pixar-style 3D computer animation. Era of Vampires (2002; U.S. title, "Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters") reworked a sub-genre popular in the '80s, hybrid martial arts / supernatural horror films featuring the "hopping corpses" of Chinese folk legend.

In 2005, Tsui launched the multimedia production Seven Swords, a film adaptation of Liang Yusheng's novels Saiwai Qixia Zhuan and Qijian Xia Tianshan. The film came with a television series counterpart (Seven Swordsmen), a comic book series, a cellphone game, clothing brand, and an online multi-player video game. The film was relatively successful, and in February 2006 Tsui announced plans to begin filming the second late in the year. As of 2008, Tsui continues to work on the script for Seven Swords 2 in between filming projects. In 2011 there has been no news nor plans about a Seven Swords 2. Rumors has it that due to lack of interest by the filmmakers of finishing the hexalogy lead the project into being cancelled.

In August 2008, Tsui provided art direction for the direct-to-video anime feature titled Kungfu Master (a.k.a. Wong Fei Hong vs Kungfu Panda), an apparent unofficial sequel to Kung Fu Panda, featuring Chinese folk hero Wong Fei-hung.[4] Also in 2008 was the thriller Missing starring Angelica Lee. His latest comedy film All About Women features wonky sound editing and comic graphics.

2010s[edit]

Tsui's latest work in 2010 is Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, a rare but successful blend of wuxia, suspense-thriller, mystery, and comedy, which was in competition for the Golden Lion award and was also nominated and won numerous amount of other awards.

In 2010 he announced his first 3-D film, The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, which is a re-imagining of his 1992 film New Dragon Gate Inn starring Jet Li. In 2011 Huayi Brothers announced that Tsui will be making a prequel to Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame; shot in 3-D, it was released in 2013 as Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon. Recently he has announced another children's film project titled Monster Wanted (possibly a working title.)[5]

In October 2011, Tsui received the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award at the 16th Busan International Film Festival for his contributions to Hong Kong cinema. He is the fifth Chinese filmmaker to receive this award at Busan.[6]

Possible future projects[edit]

During the pre-production phase of Seven Swords, Tsui announced that it would be a six-part hexalogy.

When presenting his anime film The Warrior he said that he promises that he will make a film adaption of Journey to the West but does not know whether to make it in anime form or live-action form when the time is ripe. However, he feels that the technology is not yet mature enough for him to realise his ambition yet, and he needs to come up with the right script first.

After the release of Seven Swords he said he felt that the film was not big enough for his comeback and that he wants to make a film called The Remnants. Tsui explained that the film's plot would be about a team of archaeologists led by Donnie Yen gathering rare artifacts and treasures from around the globe and returning them to a museum.

Tsui also planned to shoot a film called Shaolin Fighter starring Jet Li and Li Bingbing during the second half of 2006 but the film was either halted or cancelled.

Current future plans are to start production for Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy at the end of 2012 and Tsui Hark is also planning to make another Wong Fei Hung movie which he already selected a new actor for the role. According to Tsui the actor is not well known but possesses the skills to play Wong Fei Hung in the new movie. At this point the name of this actor is not released to the public.

Cultural references[edit]

Tsui was featured on a track which bore his name on the 1994 Sparks album Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins.

Filmography[edit]

Films
Year Title Roles Awards
1979 Butterfly Murders, TheThe Butterfly Murders
蝶變
director
1980 Hell Has No Gates
地獄無門
director
1980 Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind
第一類型危險
director
1981 All the Wrong Clues director
1982 Aces Go Places
最佳拍檔
cameo
1983 Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain
新蜀山劍俠
director, actor
1983 Search for the Gods director
1983 Aces Go Places 2
最佳拍檔大顯神通
cameo
1984 Shanghai Blues
上海之夜
director Nominated — Hong Kong Film Award for Best Director
Nominated — Hong Kong Film Award for Best Film
1984 Aces Go Places 3
最佳拍檔之女皇密令
director
1985 Working Class
打工皇帝
director
1986 Peking Opera Blues
刀馬旦
director
1986 Spirit Chaser Aisha director
1986 A Better Tomorrow
英雄本色
producer, cameo
1987 A Chinese Ghost Story
倩女幽魂
producer
1987 Better Tomorrow 2, AA Better Tomorrow 2
英雄本色2
producer, writer
1988 Big Heat, TheThe Big Heat
城市特警
director, actor
1989 Master, TheThe Master
龍行天下
director, producer, writer
1989 Better Tomorrow 3, AA Better Tomorrow 3
英雄本色3之夕陽之歌
director, producer, writer
1989 Killer, TheThe Killer
喋血雙雄
producer
1990 The Swordsman
笑傲江湖
director, producer
1990 Chinese Ghost Story II, AA Chinese Ghost Story II
倩女幽魂 II:人間道
producer
1991 Once Upon a Time in China
黃飛鴻
director, producer, writer Hong Kong Film Award for Best Director
1991 Banquet, TheThe Banquet
豪門夜宴
director
1991 Raid, TheThe Raid director
1991 King of Chess, TheThe King of Chess director
1991 Chinese Ghost Story III, AA Chinese Ghost Story III
倩女幽魂3:道道道
producer
1992 New Dragon Gate Inn
新龍門客棧
producer, writer
1992 Once Upon a Time in China II
黃飛鴻2之男兒當自強
director, producer, writer Nominated — Hong Kong Film Award for Best Director
1992 Twin Dragons
雙龍會
director, writer
1993 Once Upon a Time in China III
黃飛鴻3之獅王爭霸
director, producer, writer
1993 Green Snake
青蛇
director, producer, writer
1993 East is Red, TheThe East is Red
東方不敗 – 風雲再起
producer
1993 Once Upon a Time in China IV
黃飛鴻之四:王者之風
producer, writer
1994 Once Upon a Time in China V
黃飛鴻5之龍城殲霸
director, producer, writer
1994 Lovers, TheThe Lovers
梁祝
director, producer, writer Nominated — Hong Kong Film Award for Best Director
1995 Chinese Feast, TheThe Chinese Feast
金玉滿堂
director, producer, writer
1995 Love in the Time of Twilight director
1995 Blade, TheThe Blade
director, writer
1996 Tristar
大三元
director
1996 Shanghai Grand
新上海灘
producer
1997 Double Team director
1997 Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation, AA Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation
小倩
producer, writer
1997 Once Upon a Time in China and America
黃飛鴻之西域雄獅
producer, writer
1998 Knock Off director
2000 Time and Tide
順流逆流
director, producer, writer
2001 Legend of Zu, TheThe Legend of Zu
蜀山傳
director, producer, writer
2002 Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunter
千年僵尸王
producer USA Limited Release
2002 Black Mask 2: City of Masks
黑俠2
director, producer
2004 Xanda producer alternative title Sanda
2005 In The Blue director
2005 Seven Swords
七劍
director, producer, writer Nominated — Hong Kong Film Award for Best Director
2006 Warrior, TheThe Warrior
黃飛鴻勇闖天下
director
2006 Seven Swordsmen
七劍下天山
producer television series
2007 Triangle
鐵三角
director, producer
2008 Missing
深海尋人
director
2008 All About Women
女人不壞
director, producer, writer
2010 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
狄仁傑之通天帝國
director, producer Nominated — Golden Lion Award
2011 The Flying Swords of Dragon Gate
龍門飛甲
director, producer, writer -
2011 The Great Magician
大魔術師
actor
2013 Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon
狄仁杰之神都龙王
director
2014 Tracks in the Snowy Forest director

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ho, Sam, ed. The Swordsman and His Juang Hu: Tsui Hark and Hong Kong Film. Hong Kong University Press, 2002. ISBN 962-8050-15-X.
  • Schroeder, Andrew. Tsui Hark's Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004. ISBN 962-209-651-4.

External links[edit]