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Chinese language cinema

Film review: All’s Well, Ends Well - Lunar New Year screwball classic back in cinemas

Family-friendly comedy, re-released with an added scene, is a time capsule of the best of early 1990s cinema that radiates the Hong Kong spirit better than most; Leslie Cheung’s presence adds poignancy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 11:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 January, 2016, 11:54am

The Lunar New Year tradition of family-friendly screen fare reached new screwball heights during Hong Kong’s last celluloid golden age with this 1992 farce.

The meandering hodgepodge of a script, revolving around three brothers and their significant others, was transformed by director Clifton Ko Chi-sum and his super-stellar cast into a low-comedy classic that today serves as a time capsule of the crème de la crème of early 1990s cinema. Contemporary audiences responded by making this the fifth-highest grossing Cantonese picture of the decade, its HK48 million box office total rarely surpassed since.

My original review for the Post commented, “All’s Well, End’s Well is a hit-and-miss affair in which the hits overwhelmingly outnumber the misses.” Nearly a quarter-century later, the description remains apt.

The movie better radiates the Hong Kong spirit than the majority of holiday films that have followed, exemplified by the performances of Stephen Chow Sing-chi, then in his prime and still a top star; Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, delightful in an uncharacteristically silly turn; and late pop idol Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, whose presence lends the proceedings an unexpected poignancy.

Supposedly justifying the movie’s current re-release is the gimmick of adding a shoot-out finale never before shown in Hong Kong but tailor-made for South Korea, then an important market for Hong Kong productions. Even if the “new” gun battle doesn’t add to the film’s explosive impact, it’s nevertheless an entertaining reminder of an era when local cinema was not only number one in its home territory but a force to be reckoned with across East Asia.

All’s Well, Ends Well opens on January 30