Restored “My Heart Is That Eternal Rose” at Metrograph

    Beginning this Thursday, March 22, NYC’s Metrograph Theater is presenting a restored version of “My Heart Is That Eternal Rose,” an important and influential 1989 Hong Kong action film. Go here for more details and ticket information.

    The film is directed by Patrick Tam, who began directing and editing films in 1980. He is regarded as the mentor of the great Wong Kar-Wai, and edited several of Kar-Wai’s films. Tam’s film is an example of the “heroic bloodshed” genre of Hong Kong action films, a genre that John Woo’s 1986 classic “A Better Tomorrow” is often credited with starting. They often involve triad criminals (members of a “Chinese transnational organized crime syndicate based in Greater China with outposts in various countries having significant overseas Chinese populations”) who may betray their employers to help an innocent victim. These films usually include bloody, highly choreographed shoot outs in a style called “gun fu” that was picked up by American action films in the 1990s. (A classic trope: a shooter uses two pistols simultaneously, releasing the empty magazines of both at the same moment.)

    The film begins at a seaside bar in Hong Kong owned by a retired triad criminal, Uncle Cheung (Kwan Hoi San). His daughter Lap (Joey Wang) works there and is being courted by Rick (Kenny Bee). Uncle Cheung reluctantly agrees to help smuggle a Chinese boy in from the mainland and asks Rick to drive for him. When the job goes violently awry, Rick escapes to the Philippines. Lap agrees to be mob boss Godfather Shen‘s companion in order to free her father. Six years later Rick returns to Hong Kong as a contract hit man and Lap tries to renew their relationship despite the violent consequences she will face when Shen finds out.

    The film was shot by Christopher Doyle, the Australian-born cinematographer who later served as the DP for many of Wong Kar-Wai’s classics. You can see Doyle’s work here evolving in his use of stunning, color-saturated shots with neon greens and reds dominating the nighttime scenes. Tam employs some striking deep focus scenes and new wave-ish editing and slow motion to tell the story in a dazzling way.

    Unfortunately the audio of films in the heroic bloodshed genre is generally not as exciting as the visual style. Like most Hong Kong films made from 1960-1990, the audio is post-synched. This was done to make it easier to dub the films in a variety of Chinese dialects and also made production easier (especially in very loud Hong Kong exteriors.)

    “My Heart Is That Eternal Rose” is a must-see for all fans of the Hong Kong New Wave or fans of Asian action films in general.

    Go here for more details and ticket information.

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