Enjoy Longevity - 300 Years
Screened as part of a Film Archive series celebrating veteran film and television actress Lee Heung-kam, Enjoy Longevity - 300 Years is actually a star vehicle for her long-time on-screen sparring partner, Tam Ping-man.
Tam is mostly known to a new generation of filmgoers for his sporadic roles playing loud and brash mobsters in Johnnie To Kei-fung's films (the Election diptych, Exiled). But the 76-year-old's heyday was back in the early 1970s, with his immensely popular comedic turns on TVB programmes.
Enjoy Longevity could be viewed as a spin-off from Tam's hit country-bumpkin roles on the daily television show Enjoy Yourself Tonight. The first part of the film pairs him with his TV partner Lee as a Qing dynasty village idiot who gains immortality when he pulls a genie from a bottle. Tam fumbles his way through life eternal, confronting problems which dog his onward march towards the 20th century.
The gags define Yeung Kuen's film. Tam's character Kot Tai-wo finds himself forever caught up in situations he seems incapable of resolving. His desperate attempts to kill himself offer remarkable comedy. When Kot hollers and screams after another of his failed efforts to leave this world, his helplessness is tinged with sadness: he is the ultimate misfit who can't find his place in society.
This subtext positions Enjoy Longevity as a satire, with Kot at once an observer of social mores and someone who plays a part in how such values are formed.
The film is a comedy, but it highlights the uneasy questions Hong Kong faced as the city lurched towards capitalist cosmopolitanism. Kot's despair about being immortal looked awkward back then, but it makes perfect sense now.
Enjoy Longevity - 300 Years, July 10, 4.30pm, Aug 28, 7pm, Film Archive