HONG KONG CINEMA IDEAS ABOUT FEMININITY
In part, this was because of the heroes' relationships to others, and largely how they interacted with the people around them, which naturally included women.
The women may have been "quieter".
But they were fundamental.
曼玉 FABULOUS JADE -- MAGGIE CHEUNG
If Lau Takwah (Andy Law in the role of Wah, 阿華, 華仔) seems like a cold bastard in 'As Tears Go By' (旺角卡門, from director Wong Karwai 王家衛) because of his no-nonsense violence towards other thugs on behalf of his "younger brother" Fly (烏蠅, played by Jackie Cheung 張學友), he is humanized by his consideration for Ngor (阿娥, played by Maggie Cheung 張曼玉). When things head south for Wah and Fly, due to a confrontation with psychopathic gangleader Tony (Alex Man Chi-leung 萬梓良), it is Ngor who is left emotionally holding the bag. Which, perhaps, is a traditional role for women in many movies.
Maggie Cheung is, from all accounts, a strong woman herself. But she has a softness that allows for a number of roles, and her career has included a number of non-Chinese movies.
Though born in Hong Kong, her family has roots elsewhere.
She's a native-speaker of Mandarin and Cantonese.
Fluent in both French and English.
Educated in Britain.
紫瓊 AMETHYST AND JASPER -- JEE KING
Contrasting enormously with that, almost all performances by Michelle Yeoh (楊紫瓊) show her as one tough cookie, capable of holding her own and them some. If you only knew of her from martial arts movies or police stories, it would be an immense surprise to find out that she was actually a beauty queen; pageant hotties are not known for significant skills, let alone a combination of brains, brawn, and dramatic ability.
When she first started working in the Hong Kong movie industry, she could not speak Cantonese. Her parents native language was Hokkien, and she isn't originally from Hong Kong.
She played the only Bond Woman whom James didn't get to bag.
In that movie, Bond was distinctly second fiddle.
Quite a blow to the British ego.
肥肥 FATTY -- FEIFEI
Completely different than both women mentioned above, actress and television personality Lydia Shum ( 沈殿霞) represented a style of womanhood which was brash, forward, loud, and just about full of dynamite. If she ever played a subservient role, it was only to emerge triumphant after engineering the face-egg of the man in the tale. She is best remembered as a likable harpy in numerous roles; mother, girlfriend, wife, and gossipy neighbor. Not, usually, the actual hero of the tale, but always memorable as the dominant personality.
Like Michelle Yeoh, she wasn't native to Hong Kong.
劉嘉玲 TINKLING GEM -- CARINA LAU
A remarkable woman, who despite a lack of education achieved much. Her acting career includes comedy, romance, gangster films, and over the top fantasies. Perhaps more famous for her fabulous life than her acting; many of her film roles have been supportive.
Probably the quintessence of Hong Kong girl.
Even though hailing from Soochow.
刀馬旦 BLADE & HORSE FEMALE-ROLE
At this point, you will have noted that three of the four actresses above are not, in fact, natives of Hong Kong. Yet they represent as good a cross-section of what a Hong Kong woman is either assumed to be, or imagines herself being. The same holds for the three stars in what may very well be the most representative of Hong Kong movies, which showcases slapstick, derring-do, female heroism, baser instincts, idealism, verve, and high drama: Peking Opera Blues.
The movie is set in early revolutionary times (1913), and features three stellar actresses as the foci of the tale, with the male-roles as more or less foils for the actions of the heroines.
Brigitte Lin as the daring tomboy revolutionary;
Cherie Chung as the greedy ingenue;
Sally Yeh as the dreamer.
All three women, as regular cinema goers can attest, are total dynamite. And there are very few movies in which they have not outshone the male stars. Often strongminded, always memorable, and usually possessed of a stubbornness which triumphs over any amount of adversity.
In some of her most famous roles, Brigitte Lin has combined steaming sexuality with a bloodthirsty fierceness that borders on psychopathic (for instance, in Swordsman II, in which her cross-dressing homicidal eunuchoid performance defies description), whereas Cherie Chung exudes a softer sensuality coupled with independent-mindedness (notable film: 秋天的童話 An Autumn's Tale) ). Sally Yeh, whose acting and singing career spans three decades, often plays the total sex-bombe, yet in her most memorable roles shows both innocence and courage; no one can forget her as the pretty wife in the lighthearted romp Diary of a Big Man (大丈夫日記) in which Chow Yunfat through a series of misunderstandings marries two women and heads towards an inevitable breakdown.
Only Cherie Chung is from Hong Kong, though of Hakka (northern) ancestry rather than Cantonese.
Both Brigitte Lin and Sally Yeh are originally Taiwanese.
After reading about these ladies, the almost inevitable conclusion is that the ideal or typical Hong Kong woman is most likely Joey Wong (王祖賢) from Taiwan, country-girl Chingmy Yau (邱淑貞), or Anita Mui (梅艷芳).
Soft as butter, ultra-feminine, and from somewhere else.
Or brass-balled, determined, and full of beans.
And in any case not a push-over.
Probably loud, too.
NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.