Tsui Hark

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Tsui Hark
Tsui Hark2011.jpg
Tsui Hark at the New York Asian Film Festival, 10 July 2011
Background information
Chinese name徐克
JyutpingCeoi4 Hak1 (Cantonese)
BornTsui Man-kong (徐文光)
(1950-02-15) 15 February 1950 (age 68)
Saigon, Vietnam
OccupationFilm director, producer, presenter, screenwriter, actor
Spouse(s)Nansun Shi (m.1996–2014)
Awards
Hong Kong Film Awards
Best Film
1987 A Better Tomorrow
Best Director
1992 Once Upon a Time in China
2011 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
2016 The Taking of Tiger Mountain
Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
Best Director
2016 The Taking of Tiger Mountain
Asian Film Awards
Lifetime Achievement Award
2017
Golden Horse Awards
Best Director
1981 All the Wrong Clues for the Right Solution
Golden Rooster Awards
Best Director
2015 The Taking of Tiger Mountain
Tsui Hark
Chinese徐文光
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese徐克

Tsui Hark (Chinese: 徐克, Vietnamese: Từ Khắc, born 15 February 1950), born Tsui Man-kong, is a Vietnam-born Chinese film director, producer and screenwriter. Tsui has directed several influential Hong Kong films such as Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), the Once Upon a Time in China film series (1991-1997) and The Blade (1995), and also was a prolific writer and producer, whose other works include A Better Tomorrow (1986), A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), and The Killer (1989). 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]

In the late 1990s, Tsui had a short-lived career in the United States, directing the Jean-Claude Van Damme-led films Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998). Both films were commercially unsuccessful and critically panned; Tsui himself was unsatisfied with his lack of creative control, and returned to Hong Kong for the rest of his career. He has since found new commercial and critical success with blockbusters such as the Detective Dee film series (2010–present), Flying Swords of Dragon Gate (2011) and The Taking of Tiger Mountain (2014).

Early life[edit]

Tsui was born and raised in Saigon, Vietnam, to a large Chinese (Hoa) family with sixteen siblings.[2] 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.

Cinema City[edit]

In 1981, Tsui joined Cinema City & Films Co., 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 now ex-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, fuelled 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 which earned him the name 'Steven Spielberg of Asia'. 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 favourite 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; US title, "Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters") reworked a subgenre 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 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 Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Maggie Cheung and Brigitte Lin. 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]

His film The Taking of Tiger Mountain premiered in China in December 2014.[7]

Future projects[edit]

Hark is set to work on a film with Milkyway Image with Ann Hui, John Woo, Ringo Lam, Patrick Tam, Johnnie To, Sammo Hung and Yuen Woo-Ping.[8] Each director will create a segment based on Hong Kong history.[8]

Cultural references[edit]

Tsui was featured on a track which bore his name on the 1994 Sparks album Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins. (Sparks also provided a song, "It's a Knockoff," for the closing credits of Knock Off.)

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Functioned as Notes
Director Writer Producer Actor Role
1979
The Butterfly Murders
Yes No No No
1980
We're Going to Eat You
Yes Yes No No
Also known as Hell Has No Gates
Dangerous Encounters of the First Kind
Yes Yes No No
Interpol Officer
Uncredited cameo
1981
All the Wrong Clues for the Right Solution
Yes Yes No No
1982
Aces Go Places
No No No Yes
Ballerina Director
Also known as Diamondfinger and Mad Mission
Yi jiu ling wu de dong tian
No No No Yes
Li Shutong
1983
Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain
Yes No No Yes
Blue Army soldier fighting Fat Man
Aces Go Places 2
No No No Yes
FBI
Also known as Mad Mission II
Search for the Gods
Yes No No No
Wo ai Ye Laixiang
No No No Yes
Japanese Ambassador
All the Wrong Spies
No No No No
Production designer
1984
Shanghai Blues
Yes No Yes Yes
Pedestrian Who Gets Soaked
Aces Go Places 3
Yes No No Yes
Police Officer in Computer Room
Also known as Mad Mission 3
Run, Tiger, Run
No No No Yes
Grandpa Steak
1985
Kung Hei Fat Choy
No No No Yes
Gold Grabber
Working Class
Yes No Yes Yes
Sunny
Heart of Dragon
No No No Yes
Panadol
1986
Peking Opera Blues
Yes No Yes No
Spirit Chaser Aisha
Yes No Yes No
TV series
A Better Tomorrow
No No Yes Yes
Music Judge
Happy Ghost III
No No No Yes
Reincarnation Director
Righting Wrongs
No No No No
Action choregrapher
Also known as Above the Law
1987
Final Victory
No No No Yes
Big Bo
A Chinese Ghost Story
No No Yes No
A Better Tomorrow II
No Yes Yes No
1988
The Big Heat
No No Yes No
Inspector Yiuming Butt
Also uncredited director and actor
Roboforce
No No Yes No
Also uncredited director and writer
1989
A Better Tomorrow III: Love & Death in Saigon
Yes Yes Yes Yes
Police Officer in Computer Room
The Killer No No Yes No
1990
Fight and Love with a Terracotta Warrior
No No Yes No
The Swordsman
No No Yes No
Also uncredited director
Spygame
No No Yes No
A Chinese Ghost Story II
No No Yes No
Also editor
1991
Once Upon a Time in China
Yes Yes Yes No
The Raid
No Yes Yes No
Also uncredited director
A Chinese Ghost Story III
No Yes Yes No
Also uncredited director
King of Chess
No No No No
Executive producer; also uncredited director
The Banquet
Yes Yes No No
Co-directed with Alfred Cheung, Joe Cheung and Clifton Ko
1992
Twin Dragons
Yes Yes No No
Co-directed with Ringo Lam
Also known as Shuang long hui and Brother vs. Brother
Once Upon a Time in China II
Yes Yes Yes No
The Master
Yes Yes Yes No
Completed in 1989, but only released following the success of Once Upon a Time in China
Swordsman II
No Yes Yes No
Also known as The Legend of the Swordsman
New Dragon Gate Inn
No Yes Yes No
Also known as Dragon Inn
The Wicked City
No Yes Yes Yes
Card player
1993
The East Is Red
No Yes Yes No
Also known as Swordsman III
Once Upon a Time in China III
Yes Yes Yes No
Green Snake
Yes Yes Yes No
Once Upon a Time in China IV
No Yes Yes No
1994
Burning Paradise
No No Yes No
The Lovers
Yes Yes Yes No
Once Upon a Time in China V
Yes Yes Yes No
1995
The Chinese Feast
Yes Yes Yes No
Love in the Time of Twilight
Yes Yes Yes No
The Blade
Yes Yes Yes No
Also editor and production manager
1995–1996
Wong Fei Hung Series
Yes Yes Yes No
TV series; wrote and directed the episodes "The Final Victory" and "The Ideal Century"
1996
Tristar
Yes Yes Yes No
Shanghai Grand
No No Yes No
Black Mask
No Yes Yes No
1997
Once Upon a Time in China and America
No No Yes No
Double Team
Yes No No No
American and English-language debut
A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation
No Yes No Yes
Solid Gold (voice)
Also editor and executive producer
1998
Knock Off
Yes No No No
Second and last American and English-language film
2000
Time and Tide
Yes Yes Yes No
Narrator (voice)
Uncredited cameo
2001
The Legend of Zu
Yes Yes Yes No
Also known as Zu Warriors
Old Master Q 2001
No No Yes No
2002
The Era of Vampires
No Yes Yes No
Also known as Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters
Black Mask 2: City of Masks
Yes No Yes No
2003
1:99 Shorts
Yes No No No
Collaborative project made of 2 minutes-long segments; directed one segment
2004
Xanda
No Yes Yes No
Also known as Sanda
2005
Seven Swords
Yes Yes Yes No
2005–2006
Seven Swordsmen
No Yes Yes No
TV series
2006
The Warrior
No No No No
Action director
2007
Triangle
Yes Yes Yes No
Co-directed with Ringo Lam and Johnnie To
2008
Missing
Yes Yes Yes No
All About Women
Yes Yes Yes No
Taxi driver
Also editor
Uncredited cameo
2010
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Yes No Yes No
2011
A Simple Life
No No No Yes
Director Tsui
Also known as Sister Peach
Flying Swords of Dragon Gate
Yes Yes Yes No
The Great Magician
No No No Yes
Warlord
2013
Sheng dan mei gui
No No Yes No
Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon
Yes Yes Yes No
2014
The Taking of Tiger Mountain
Yes Yes No No
2016
The Mermaid
No No No Yes
Uncle Rich
Credited under the name Ke Xu
The Bodyguard
No No No Yes
Old Man
Sword Master
No Yes Yes No
2017
Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back
Yes Yes Yes No
Theater employee
Also editor
Uncredited cameo
The Thousand Faces of Dunjia
No Yes No No
Also executive producer
2018
Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings
Yes No Yes No
TBA
Baat Bou Bun
Yes No No No
Anthology film; directed a segment
Filming

Awards and nominations[edit]

Golden Horse Awards[edit]

Year Category Film Result
1981
Best Director
All the Wrong Clues for the Right Solution
Won
1992
Best Adapted Screenplay
Swordsman II
Nominated
1994
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Lovers
Nominated
1997
Best Adapted Screenplay
A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation
Nominated
2005
Best Adapted Screenplay
Seven Swords
Nominated
2014
Best Director
The Taking of Tiger Mountain
Nominated

Hong Kong Film Awards[edit]

Year Category Film Result
1985
Best Film
Shanghai Blues
Nominated
Best Director
Nominated
1987
Best Film
A Better Tomorrow
Won
Best Action Choreography
Righting Wrongs
Nominated
1988
Best Film
A Chinese Ghost Story
Nominated
Best Supporting Actor
Final Victory
Nominated
1990
Best Film
The Killer
Nominated
1992
Best Film
Once Upon a Time in China
Nominated
Best Director
Won
1993
Best Film
Once Upon a Time in China II
Nominated
Best Director
Nominated
1995
Best Director
The Lovers
Nominated
2006
Best Film
Seven Swords
Nominated
Best Director
Nominated
2011
Best Film
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Nominated
Best Director
Won
2012
Best Film
Flying Swords of Dragon Gate
Nominated
Best Director
Nominated
2016
Best Director
The Taking of Tiger Mountain
Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ Interview: Tsui Hark PHIL MILLS, FAR EAST FILMS 26 October 2011
  2. ^ Online Exclusive: An Annotated* Tsui Hark Interview – Film Comment
  3. ^ Online Exclusive: An Annotated* Tsui Hark Interview (Part II, aka Annotation Overload) – Film Comment
  4. ^ "Kungfu Master". Product listing. Sensasian. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
  5. ^ "《怪兽通缉令》遴选"小怪兽" 演绎"牛孩"故事".
  6. ^ "Tsui Hark to receive Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award at Busan". Asia Pacific Arts. 9 February 2011.
  7. ^ Stephen Cremin (18 April 2014). "John Woo's Crossing joins 3-D December". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
  8. ^ a b Shackleton, Liz (6 February 2015). "Johnnie To assembles top Hong Kong talent". Screen Daily. Retrieved 9 February 2015.

Sources[edit]

  • Bordwell, David. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-674-00214-8.
  • Dannen, Fredric, and Barry Long. Hong Kong Babylon: The Insider's Guide to the Hollywood of the East. New York: Miramax, 1997. ISBN 0-7868-6267-X.
  • Hampton, Howard. "Once Upon a Time in Hong Kong: Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-tung". Film Comment July–August 1997: pp. 16–19 & 24–27.
  • Morton, Lisa. The Cinema of Tsui Hark. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-7864-0990-8.
  • Teo, Stephen. Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions. London: British Film Institute, 1997. ISBN 0-85170-514-6.
  • Yang, Jeff, and Dina Gan, Terry Hong and the staff of A. magazine. Eastern Standard Time: A Guide to Asian Influence on American Culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. ISBN 0-395-76341-X.
  • Bringing a Wealth of Cinematic Knowledge to the Screen in 3-D

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]