Film, Second Sight: 'Father Takes a Bride'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2012, 10:40am

Father Takes a Bride

More than a decade after the founding of the People's Republic of China ushered in a new era in Chinese cinema, the Shanghai tradition still flourished on Hong Kong celluloid. With its focus on love and a positive portrayal of educated bourgeoisie, Father Takes a Bride (1963) was a compendium of elements once the staple of mainstream fare but condemned after 1949 as being reactionary.

Many of the talents responsible for those features - people such as writer Eileen Chang Ai-ling - came in for criticism and relocated to the then British colony.

The style and perspective Chang gave to such pre-1949 Shanghai classics as Long Live the Mistress (1947) and Sorrows and Joys of a Middle-Aged Man (1949) is evident in the screenplays she crafted for Hong Kong's Motion Picture & General Investment (MP&GI) from 1956-1964.

Father Takes a Bride revisited themes she dealt with in Sorrows and Joys (in which a widowed teacher's plans for remarriage meet with his children's disapproval), but shifted the spotlight to the younger generation.

A highlight is the opening scene on a Kowloon bus showing the teacher's grown daughter (Lucilla Yu Ming) becoming outraged at getting goosed. That is, until the pincher is revealed to be a crab in a basket carried by an innocent former classmate (Kelly Lai Chen, more familiar to 21st century audiences as Maggie Cheung Man-yuk's boss in Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love). It is a reworking of an oft-imitated comedic trick introduced to China's screens by the phenomenally popular comedian Harold Lloyd in Hot Water (1924).

The production is a tailor-made showcase of Yu's stellar persona. Under the direction of Wong Tin-lam, she radiates a demure yet chic aura that, like virtually every factor in the movie's success, precluded any chance of its mainland release.

Paul Fonoroff

Father Takes a Bride , Sat, 7pm, HK Film Archive, Oct 28, 2pm, Broadway Cinematheque. Part of the 100-Must-See Hong Kong movies programme