HONG KONG HORS CATEGORIE + CATEGORY III | Offscreen
There was a time when Hong Kong was the Hollywood of the East. At its peak in the early 1990s, the local film industry was second only to that of the United States as the world's biggest in terms of output per capita and as the largest exporter of product. Hong Kong played a key role in the spread of Asian cinema to the West, first in the 1970s with the martial arts productions of famous studios such as Shaw Brothers, followed in the 1980s and 1990s by the action, fantasy and horror films of John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam.
But alongside the box-office successes, Hong Kong cinema maintained a remarkable level of creativity. Although it had its roots in traditional genres aimed at mass audiences, it also found room for experimentation, innovation and boundary-pushing, as much in terms of form and technique as in themes and genre tropes.
Under the heading "Hors Catégorie", we focus on Hong Kong cinema outside the mainstream, with a selection of 18unconventional, extraordinary, pioneering and even demented genre offerings attesting to a vibrant, audacious and visceral film culture.
We pay special attention to exploitation films that were awarded the Category III classification. Although Category III, introduced in 1988, is not a genre in itself, these shocking and sensational films had one characteristic in common: they defied good taste and conventional morality with their depictions of explicit sex and graphic violence. Far from scaring people off, the Category III rating came to be regarded as a guarantee of transgressive elements in the Hong Kong films that flooded cinemas across Asia, while remaining below the radar of most Western audiences.
We augment and enhance our selection of nine Category III films such as Naked Killer, Taxi Hunter and Sex and Zen with nine "Hors Catégorie" curios such as Encounter of the Spooky Kind, Zen Kwan Do Strikes in Paris and The Wicked City, adding up to an unforgettable feast of cinema at its most extreme, inventive and and intoxicating.
Anthony Wong, fearless as ever, plays a horny sleazebag who catches ebola from a woman he rapes in Africa. Pausing only to murder his boss and turn the corpse into burgers, he carries the virus back to Hong Kong and runs amok. Yau’s gory yuckfest is tasteless, hilarious and guaranteed to offend just about everyone.
An intrepid writer suspects an odd couple and their cat are extra-terrestrials, though he's slow to realise what we already know: these aliens are the good guys. The real threat comes from a psionic blob-monster in this sci-fi fantasy packed with demented special effects, including a crazy cat vs dog kung fu fight.
Screen goddesses Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh and Anita Mui play rival superheroines who join forces to foil an evil being who has been kidnapping newborn babies in this action fantasy with wuxia-inspired effects, unexpected infant mortality and gratuitous urination. Watch out for Anthony Wong's flying guillotine!
A scholar is obsessed with seducing women, leading to slapstick comedy, tragic irony and plenty of softcore lubriciousness in this sensuous adaptation of a 17th century Chinese erotic novel. Highlights include a horse penis transplant, letter-writing by vagina, and a flute co-opted as a lesbian sex-aid.
The 1990s were a notorious period in the history Hong Kong cinema. By turns gory sexualised, violent and just plain outrageous, Category III films quickly gained a reputation as cult films. As often in extreme exploitation movies, these films challenged a whole range of societal norms and French critic Julien Sévéon will explore the taboo breaking aspects of Category III films that has made them such a cultish draw for so many. Examining films before and after the handover of Hong Kong to China, Dr Calum Waddell (University of Lincoln) will interrogate the ways in which these films seem to foreshadow the current political crisis in Hong Kong. We will also be joined by Dr Victor Fan(King’s College, London) who will turn his wide-ranging expertise in Chinese cinema and politics on to the crazy, bizarre and confrontational world of Category III.
This documentary tells you everything you need to know about Hong Kong cinema at its most extreme, from early shockfests to the shadow of real-life political events to the post-handover scene. Among the talking heads are Anthony Wong, star of some of Cat III's most outrageous hits, and Josie Ho, of Dream Home fame.
Leslie Cheung plays a struggling film director who has to compromise his ideals by making softcore porn. This sex-comedy meta-masterpiece pokes fun at Category III and features unusually nuanced female characters, notably Karen Mok as the director’s girlfriend and The Assassin's Shu Qi as his starlet, “Miss Mango”.
Hong Kong superstars Chow Yun-Fat, Simon Yam and Anthony Wong play scumbags who double-cross each other and shoot, stab or blow up anything that moves, including innocent bystanders. Early use of "Bullet Time" seals the deal in the sort of raunchy, ultra-violent shindig that makes Hollywood action pics look anaemic.
When his pregnant wife gets her dress caught in a cab door and is accidentally dragged to her death, a mild-mannered insurance salesman (Anthony Wong) flips out and wreaks revenge on bad taxi drivers. Vigilante madness, peppered with dark humour and references to Taxi Driver.
Kitty, an air hostess who shoots men in the balls, is mentored by a female assassin who keeps rapists chained up in her basement for killing practice, but starts to lose her edge when she falls for a traumatised cop (Simon Yam). A sexy, action-packed work of Cat III genius, featuring death by poisoned lipstick!
The film for which the Category III rating was first created is a gruelling account of horrific experiments conducted by Japanese scientists on Chinese prisoners during WW2. Mutilation of real cadavers, human vivisection and animal cruelty are just some of the atrocities on show. Warning: not for the squeamish.
Humans and demons coexist uneasily in this live-action adaptation of a Japanese anime. Two cops investigate a deadly new drug which turns its users into vapour, while demons jostle for power in an orgy of mad special effects, turning themselves into a spider-woman, drinking water, and a fuckable pinball machine.
Supernatural action comedy directed and choreographed by the legendary Hung, who plays a village pedicab driver. His wife's lover plots to murder him with black magic, leading to slapstick encounters with ghosts, zombies and hopping vampires, a duel between rival sorcerors and some sensational fight sequences.
Hark's epic masterpiece is a breathless parade of dazzling beauty and groundbreaking special effects. In fifth century China, a young army deserter tags along on a wuxia quest for twin magic swords to defeat an evil sect. Sammo Hung plays a wizard who keeps a Blood Demon at bay with nothing more than his eyebrows!
Leslie Cheung plays a poor debt collector who spends the night in a haunted temple and falls in love with a beautiful ghost. Alas, a long-tongued tree demon is forcing her to lure men to their doom. Can our hero escape a grisly fate? Delightful period rom-com with freaky special effects and wuxia wire-fu action.
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