Filming Margins: Tang Shu-shuen - A Forgotten Hong Kong Woman Director by Yau Ching Hong Kong University Press $375 Unassuming in public, but vociferous in private; stylistically diverse, yet uncompromisingly principled; instilled with western culture, but grounded with local knowledge of Hong Kong. These are characteristics shared by Cecile Tang Shu-shuen, one of the most accomplished directors in local cinema, and Yau Ching, a scholar in feminism and cultural studies and also an independent filmmaker. Given their similarities, it's no surprise that a sympathetic yet insightful book emerged when the latter cast a critical eye on the former. The granddaughter of a provincial governor in Yunnan, Tang was born in Hong Kong and educated in Los Angeles, before returning to make four critically acclaimed movies in the 1970s. Her debut, The Arch, was showered with awards in Hong Kong and Taiwan and shown at Cannes. In 1979, she moved to Los Angeles, where she's now more famous feting than directing film stars in a restaurant she owns near Beverly Hills. This is more than enough material for a straightforward narrative. Filming Margins, however, offers more. Rather than dithering on the 'what' - the critical examination of Tang's oeuvre - Yau is more interested in the 'why': the unique cultural contexts that fed into Tang's movies. Her representations are revealing about the tensions that prevailed in Hong Kong at the time. Movies touch on the oppression of female desire, such as the widow's doomed romance with a younger man in The Arch; or sexist exploitation, as in Hong Kong Tycoon's depiction of the lives of a self-made millionaire's wife, mistress and secretary. The short vignettes about mahjong - which make up Sup Sap Bup Dap - reflect cultural and social problems, from the obvious about Hong Kong's capitalist obsession with conquests and wealth to more subtle issues, such as the game's importance as the connection between exiled mainland intellectuals. The chapter on The Arch seeks to address - through scrutiny of film reviews and other media coverage - how critics, most of them men, dismissed Tang as a woman director addressing women's issues. Sup Sap Bup Dap - with its mix of melodrama, comedy and farce - has long been the least admired Tang film. Yau champions it by pointing at Tang's intention to subvert mainstream forms as 'counter-drama'. Aided by source material supplied by Tang, Yau contextualises Tang's films and reveals urgent issues still facing Hong Kong.