Posts tagged ‘wuxia’

Constant Sorrow: Tracing Shadow film review

Francis Ng contemplates filmmaking, Tracing Shadow, 2009

Francis Ng contemplates filmmaking, Tracing Shadow, 2009

Dear Francis,

Just wanted to let you know that I saw your new movie, Tracing Shadow, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t really like it very much. Although it had some killer martial arts sequences, the art direction was divine, and you yourself looked quite lovely in your braided hair extensions and little mustache, the movie as a whole really stank. Unfortunately, since you’re the director as well as the star of the film, there’s no one else to blame for the slipshod pacing, unimaginative blocking and framing, egregious mugging and overacting (Xie Na being the absolute worst offender on that account), and aggravating, abrupt shifts in tone and mood throughout the movie. You yourself put in a less-than-thrilling performance, which I didn’t think you were capable of doing. And both you and your love interest, Pace Wu, have really nice cheekbones, but there isn’t a whole lot of chemistry between the two of you otherwise.

Pace Wu and bone structure, Tracing Shadow, 2009

Pace Wu and bone structure, Tracing Shadow, 2009

Ever since it was announced several months ago I’ve been looking forward to this film, since you’re my favorite actor and your last wuxia movie, The White Dragon, is a great little flick. But somewhere along the way something went terribly wrong. It’s a shame, since the movie has the bones of a much better film. The storyline is classically drawn, with martial-arts masters converging on a village in search of a lost treasure map. But the film’s execution is so off-kilter and confused that it feels bad regional theater. At times it seemed like two or three different pictures competing for screen time—the slapstick comedy, the martial-arts action film, the dramatic mystery—with none given enough time or attention to cohere successfully. I felt myself wishing that you’d stuck to a straight-ahead dramatic treatment of the material, ala the film’s supposed inspiration, King Hu’s classic Dragon Inn, instead of using the story for laughs.

Your past directorial efforts, although flawed, showed flashes of brilliance and promise. But all three of your other movies were small-scale affairs rather than big-budget extravaganzas like Tracing Shadow. 9413 was an intense crime drama that showed a feel for mood and intensity as well as some cinematic chops. What Is A Good Teacher brought out some good, quirky moments from its youthful cast. Dancing Lion had some great improvisational set pieces. But all of those also had top-drawer actors, yourself included, to move things along, whereas the cast of Tracing Shadow–a TV show hostess, a model, and the son of a famous man–is, to put it delicately, pretty weak.

Xie Na and Jaycee Chan mug for the camera, Tracing Shadow, 2009

Xie Na and Jaycee Chan mug for the camera, Tracing Shadow, 2009

I’m truly sorry that the film turned out so badly. I really wanted you to achieve your dream of directing a successful movie. I don’t know exactly why things went so wrong–I’m not sure if it was the strain of holding together a big-budget costume picture, the complexity of mixing so many genres, or the pressure of living up to the hype of a high-profile project. I wonder if there was pressure from your financial backers (Huayi Brothers) to make the film as accessible, i.e., lowbrow, as possible, too, or if that decision was yours. At any rate, I hope that you get another chance to direct a film and that you’re more successful next time. This time I’m afraid you lost your way.

Sincerely,

your biggest fan

Anthony Wong & Francis Ng in happier times, Laughing Gor: Turning Point, 2009

Anthony Wong with Francis Ng in happier times, Laughing Gor: Turning Point, 2009

PS: Congratulations on Laughing Gor: Turning Point—I’ve heard that it’s really good and that it’s doing great box office, too, which hopefully takes some of the sting out of Tracing Shadow’s disappointing ticket sales.

UPDATE: Go here for a much nicer, more positive review of the movie.

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September 14, 2009 at 6:14 am 15 comments

10,000 maniacs + gratuitous Francis Ng pix

Walking softly and carrying a big sword, Francis Ng, Chasing Shadows, 2009

Walking softly and carrying a big sword, Francis Ng, Chasing Shadows, 2009

Hey! This blog just got it’s ten-thousandth hit (thanks, Edison) so in honor of reaching that milestone I’m posting some gratuitous pictures of the reason I started blogging in the first place. So here’s a recent publicity still from Chasing Shadows, Francis Ng’s upcoming wuxia movie which is now in postproduction. Note the excellent updo that Francis is sporting, which suggests a touch of goth in the art-direction mix.

Going out for snacks, Francis Ng & friend

Going out for snacks, Francis Ng & friend

Francis has been getting into some extracurricular trouble lately with “production assistants” and “music consultants” while editing Chasing Shadows in Beijing. He’s been spied wandering around late at night with women who are not his wife (who just gave birth back in October), supposedly walking with his arm around one of them and suspiciously playing loud music in his apartment at all hours of the night. It’s all conjecture and speculation, of course, but it makes for good tawdry unsubstantiated gossip so the Chinese press is all over it. Look out for those telephoto lenses, Francis, the next time you visit the 7/11 at midnight!

Francis gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, 2007

Francis gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, 2007

Francis is apparently getting a rep for being a playa in Hong Kong entertainment circles. A couple years ago he was caught on video canoodling in a karaoke bar (video below) with Ellen Chen, who played a sexy prostitute alongside Francis in Exiled. At first he denied it but when confronted with the videotaped evidence he ‘fessed up. Luckily he managed to get his wife to publicly forgive him.

Last year he attempted some damage control by releasing a series of pictures of said wife, then pregnant, and himself in marital bliss, with Francis dutifully following her around Hong Kong while she window-shopped. It was also noted that he cooked special soup for her during her pregnancy.

orange-kid

Two of a kind, Francis & Feynman Ng, 2009

Some other conveniently shot pictures from this February showed Francis, wife, and infant son Feynman (named for the physicist) tooling around Hong Kong, with father and son in matching orange outfits.

Method acting, Francis & co-star

Method acting, Francis & co-star

But Francis’ attempts to salvage his rep have taken a hit these past couple weeks with the gossip about his purported shenanigans in Beijing. Reports also mention his close personal relationship with starlet Jiang Yi-Yan, who played his mistress in Deadly Delicious. Apparently the two prepped for their make-out scenes by drinking together, which lead to some pretty convincing love scenes.

It’s none of my business what celebrities do in their personal lives but I’m always surprised when they get caught on film or video messing where they shouldn’t be messing. It should be patently obvious that when you’re a movie star, you’re living in a fishbowl and you should be on guard at all times against sneaky papparrazi with hidden cameras. There have been rumors for a long time that a couple of the Heavenly Kings are gay (you get to guess which ones) but there has never been a scrap of supporting evidence to prove it, even with Hong Kong’s notorious media machine constantly on the prowl. So there are three probable scenarios at work here:

1. Francis Ng has really poor judgment.

2. Francis Ng has really lax handlers.

3. Francis Ng has nothing to be guilty about and he just likes having business meetings with his production staff in the middle of the night in his private apartment.

You make the call.

Note: Thanks to dleedlee for the translation help and advice. You rock.

UPDATE: Thanks to the hkmdb for more Francis Ng damage control. How many times can he trot out his wife & kid to show he’s a happily married man? Sorry for the cynicism but it seems awfully calculated to me. That said, I do hope it works because one of the greatest pleasures in my life is watching Francis Ng act on the screen and I’d hate to see his career flounder, for whatever reason. Luckily Edison Chen is providing a much better distraction for the HK press & public so hopefully Francis will get a pass.

Bonus video: Francis Ng & Ellen Chen get busy. Canoodling starts around :46. Warning: bad karaoke singing.

UPDATE 2: Francis has been cast in a couple new Hong Kong flicks, Laughing Gor, which is based on the popular Michael Tse television character, and Most Wanted Terrorist, Dante Lam’s follow-up to Beast Stalker. There’s also the upcoming summer release of Tracing Shadow, which Francis stars in and co-directed, so I guess his peccadillos haven’t hurt his career too badly. Edison Chen should probably get a special award for running interference for everyone these days in Hong Kong.

April 3, 2009 at 7:36 am 9 comments

Quickie fangirl post: teaser trailer for new Francis Ng 吳鎮宇wuxia movie Tracing Shadow 追影

First stills for Chasing Shadow!

Francis Ng & deadly chopsticks, Tracing Shadow 追影, 2009

Just wanted to fire off a fast post about the appearance of a new, very brief teaser trailer (see below) for the upcoming Francis Ng wuxia pic Chasing Shadows. Looks like the movie will be full of the old-school 1990s style wire-fu & special effects that I cut my teeth on back in the day.

The very first Hong Kong movie that I saw long ago at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco was A Chinese Ghost Story, with its amazing action choreography by the great Ching Siu-Tung. His trademark style includes lots of beautiful night photography, swirling fog, gravity-defying synchronized stunt performers, flowing robes, and flying people bounding over rooftops and through forests. He’s the action director for classics including Swordsman 2, New Dragon Inn, and House of Flying Daggers, among many more.

Chasing Shadows, in which Francis Ng not only stars but codirects, with Marco Mak, looks like a throwback to those glorious movies. According to news sources,

“As a form of tribute to past wuxia films, not only does the film contain various well-worn wuxia elements, but it also has the protagonist, his nemesis, and the four exponents named directly, onomatopoeically, metaphorically, in part or combination after the famed wuxia directors: Chang Cheh, Li Han Hsiang, Tsui Hark, Chor Yuen, Sammo Hung, Liu Chia Liang, Tong Gai and King Hu, possibly with some of them doing cameos.”

The movie also stars Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee Chan and Pace Wu. Ching Siu-Tung’s protege, Ma Yuk Sing, is the action choreographer for Chasing Shadows and Ching’s influence is pretty clear in the trailer.

First stills for Chasing Shadow!

The lady in red, Tracing Shadow 追影, 2009

Needless to say, my anticipation meter is off the charts with this one.

UPDATE: According to Twitch, as of late March the film’s title has been altered to “Tracing Shadow 追影,” which I’m not sure I like more than the original. “Chasing” seems a bit more active and dynamic than “tracing,” but I’m not the marketing expert so who am I to say? Looking forward to it at any rate & hoping it rocks.

Here’s the teaser trailer for your viewing pleasure. There’s a very short subliminal of Francis at the very end of the clip fyi.

UPDATE 2: New trailer for Tracing Shadow 追影 below, which lists a July 2009 release date. It’s mostly in Mandarin, except for one cryptic English intertitle that states “kung fu all star,” and seems to be living up to previous reports that the film will be a martial arts comedy. Francis Ng appears briefly about halfway through, getting water thrown in his face, striding across the screen, and later comically twitching his eyebrow. The rest of the trailer heavily features clips of Jaycee Chan, backed by a raucous electric guitar riff, no doubt aiming straight for the lucrative youth market. I’m sure I’m missing lots of other significant information due to my lack of Chinese-language skills–if anyone else wants to fill in the blanks it would be much appreciated.

Director Ng & cast at Tracing Shadow press conference, June 16, 2009

Director Ng & cast at Tracing Shadow 追影 press conference, June 16, 2009

There’s also a lot of information in the Chinese press this week about the launching of the film’s website but the translation I got through google translate gives me a headache so I can offer little insight. But here’s a picture from the press conference. Francis has his hair in the little topknot he seems to have adopted for his role in Laughing Gor, which he’s shooting at the moment.

UPDATE 3: English translation about the press conference here, plus another view of Francis’ topknot.

Happy Francis Ng with topknot, Tracing Shadow press conference, June 2009

Happy Francis with topknot, Tracing Shadow 追影 press conference, June 2009

UPDATE 4: Go here for The Making Of Tracing Shadow 追影. Caveat: it’s on youku.com, the Chinese streaming site, which sometimes loads awfully slow, and the video is all in Mandarin. But it’s got nice behind-the-scenes footage of the movie shoot, with interviews with all of the stars including Francis, Jaycee Chan, and Pace Wu. With the movie being released in just a couple weeks the hype is becoming deafening. Huayi Brothers are obviously banking on this to be a big summer hit and every other day there are more movie stills, interviews, and other fluff about the movie all over the Chinese press. It will be interesting to see the actual box office once the movie’s out.

Tracing Shadow movie poster, July 2009

Tracing Shadow 追影 movie poster, July 2009

UPDATE 5: Here’s the latest Tracing Shadow 追影 poster, and here’s the official website. Navigation is in English, though the movie clips, synopsis and other info are in Chinese. The gallery has tons of stills that showcase the movie’s fancy costumes and art direction, featuring lots of animal furs, elaborate upswept hairdos, and saturated blacks and reds.

twitchfilm.net also has the first English-language review of the film and it’s pretty favorable.

And here’s the cool little music video from the movie—it takes several scenes from the film and incorporates them into a comic-book style layout. The song is Zhui Ying 追影 and the singer is Cong Haonan 丛浩楠.

Francis Ng drowns his sorrows at Laughing Gor: Turning Point premiere

Francis Ng drowns his sorrows at Laughing Gor: Turning Point premiere

UPDATE 6: Alas, despite the massive hype, it looks like Tracing Shadow has tanked at the box office in mainland China. Apparently it went head-to-head with Wong Jing’s latest inane comedy, On His Majesty’s Secret Service, and lost big time–according to NetEase Enterntainment, OHMSS earned over $100 million yuan at the box office, while Tracing Shadow took in a measly $13 million. Not only that, but Wong Jing apparently claimed in an interview that he wasn’t afraid of duking it out with Tracing Shadow because Francis Ng’s earlier directorial efforts (9413; What Is A Good Teacher; and Dancing Lion) also tanked at the box office. Way to rub salt in the wound, dude! It’s especially painful because earlier Francis had predicted that Tracing Shadow would easily take in at least $100 million. No wonder Francis Ng looked so tweaky at the Laughing Gor: Turning Point premiere. He had probably just heard the bad news about ticket sales for Tracing Shadow.

The film opened today (Sept. 2) in Hong Kong to much less fanfare. Wonder if HK audiences will give their homeboy some support or if the movie will die a slow death in the Special Administrative Region as well.

UPDATE 7: Tracing Shadow just hit the torrent streams so that probably spells an end to any theatrical box office. Some commentators on twitter were less than charitable about the film.

tracing shadow is a very indiscriminate mess

tracing shadow is a lousy movie. i’m sad that I spent more than half an hour to get to this conclusion.

watched the film tracing shadow online, download a waste of time, a waste of computer hard-disk space

You know it’s bad when people who watch the movie for free are dissing it.

But Francis might take some comfort in the fact that On His Majesty’s Secret Service also got reamed by the tweeters:

this is really a rare year of lousy movies—tracing shadow and OHMSS are tied.

Strangely enough, Huayi Brothers might not be too fussed about Tracing Shadows less-than-stellar performance. The film presold to several Asian territories, so chances are that HB got its investment back even before it was released.

January 25, 2009 at 11:02 pm 2 comments

three more francis ng movies

Best to worst

The White Dragon, dir. Wilson Yip, 2004

Francis plays a blind swordsman opposite spoiled and vain rich girl Cecilia Cheung in this 21st century martial arts redux. Full of jokey anachronisms and mo le tau humor, the film is nonetheless affecting due to the charisma and chemistry of the two leads. Francis channels Zatoichi with a twist–he’s a sensitive and noble, lovelorn guy.

Francis with bangs, The White Dragon, 2005

Francis with bangs, The White Dragon, 2005

He also battles a very bad haircut but miraculously manages to become more and more attractive, even though he spends half the film with his eyes rolled up in his head. The scene where he discovers that Cecilia thinks he’s handsome is classic–charming, funny and convincing. Kudos to Cecilia Cheung (who won Best Actress at the HK Film Awards) for keeping her bratty character light and appealing. Wilson Yip continues his schizophrenic directing career, combining wuxia, comedy, romance and satire in classic HK style.

Dancing Lion, dir. Marco Mak & Francis Ng, 2007

Kinda dumb, unfortunately. Sitcom-style humor about a dysfunctional family that starts a lion dancing business and becomes a HK phenomenom. Francis co-directs and stars as a forty-year-old hip hop wannabe dope.

Francis and bling, Dancing Lion, 2007

Francis and bling, Dancing Lion, 2007

Anthony Wong is amazing as a 72-year-old lion dance master–he’s very fun to watch in an otherwise dippy film.

Francis & Anthony in furry pants, Dancing Lion, 2005

Francis & Anthony in furry pants, Dancing Lion, 2007

Himalaya Singh, dir. Wai Kar-Fei, 2005

“Hey, you ever been to India?” “No, why?” “Wanna make a movie there?” “Well, what’s there?” “I dunno, elephants, cobras, yoga.” “Okay, sounds great. Think Francis & Lau Ching Wan will want to go?” “Yeah, and maybe Cecilia.” “Okay, let’s do it.” “And we need to find some Indian guys who can speak Cantonese.”

Cultural insensitivity, HK style, Himalaya Singh, 2006

Cultural insensitivity, HK style, Himalaya Singh, 2005

December 24, 2008 at 9:17 pm 1 comment


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