The local release of a biopic, Anita, directed by Longman Leung Long-man, has sent Hongkongers on a nostalgic trip down memory lane with a revisit of the life and career of a Cantopop megastar Anita Mui Yim-fong, and the golden age of 1980s to 1990s Cantopop.
Mui is still the city’s most beloved icon after she died in 2003 with cervical cancer. Louise Wang Dan-ni, a fashion model and a newcomer to the film industry, plays the role of Mui. The movie covers Mui’s debut in the entertainment industry, her pain and success throughout her life. Tracing Mui’s life has already attracted a lot of attention before the official release of the film. Apart from the remarkable performances of the casts, the background recalls the collective memories among Hongkongers with the computer-generated imagery (CGI).
The story of Mui’s life was from the 1960s to the 2000s. In order to present some locations in old Hong Kong and recreate the big neon signs, CGI is an essential component for the filming. The director and production team have done mass research and featured the past buildings and street views in the movie successfully.
Those culturally and historically significant sites shown in the biopic were famous landmarks in the past, which arouse many Hongkongers’ memories of the golden age of Hong Kong.
Following are the 5 sites recreated with CGI.
Lee Theatre was the most iconic theatre in Hong Kong before 1991. It was a place for performers and audiences while many concerts, movie premieres, and even boxing matches were held there. It was shown in the movie as Anita Mui participated in the TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship and won first place when she was 18-year-old.
Lee Theatre was not only a first-rate performance venue but also a building with the Beaux-Arts-style. It was built in the 1920s by Lee Hy-san, the patriarch of the Lee family, with the architecture of Parisian theatres in the early 20th century.
After Lee Theatre shut down in 1991, the Hysan Development reconstructed and turned it into the Lee Theatre Plaza, the shopping mall we see in Causeway Bay now.
Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park (Lai Yuen)
Opened in 1949, Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park was the largest amusement park in Hong Kong. It was closed in 1997 when the government decided to use the land for public housing.
It was situated in the area around Mei Foo and has become a memory for many middle-aged people. There was a theatre at the park, and the movie featured Mui following her elder sister, Ann Mui Oi-fong going to the park and sang for a living when she was 4-year-old.
Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park attracted many visitors with its rides, game stalls, theatre, and zoo. An elephant, Tino, was the most popular animal at the old park. The park was re-created as a pop-up carnival at Central Harbourfront and AsiaWorld-Expo in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Lots of unique attractions, including the Lai Yuen Castle and Dinosaur House, were reconstructed. The park’s return also involved the redesign of some game booths for the new generation.
Even though the Lai Chi Kok Amusement Park has been re-created nowadays, its location and appearance have changed. Restoring the park can revive memories for the generations of Hongkongers, but it can never replace its historical meaning and citizens’ collective memories of the old Hong Kong.
Tsim Sha Tsui East Waterfront
Tsim Sha Tsui East Waterfront in the 1980s is quite different compared with nowadays. In 1980, Sino Group completed Tsim Sha Tsui Centre, the first building in Tsim Sha Tsui East. Since the area was still developing at that time, not many people went there.
In the movie, Mui and Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, played by Terrance Lau Chun-him, had a chat and encouraged each other there. Both were Cantopop icons and died in the same year. The biopic described their legendary friendship. Instead of using the performance stage, the director presents their relationship with the dazzling Christmas lights at Tsim Sha Tsui East Waterfront.
The Christmas light displays were unusual in the 1980s. When this place started to dress up for the festive winter, many people came to Tsim Sha Tsui East Waterfront to appreciate the scenery. The seasonal sparkle drew unprecedented crowds in the past, while this has become common during Christmas nowadays.
Nathan Road, the first road built in Kowloon, is one of the most well-known streets in Hong Kong. The road was lined with shops and hotels. During the 1970s, busy thoroughfares, including Nathan Road, were plastered with neon signs suspended above streets.
Neon signs were introduced to Hong Kong in the 1920s and exploded from the 1950s to the 1980s. People used these signs for advertising their businesses. That’s why there were many neon signs on the streets, and it even becomes a symbol of Hong Kong.
Neon signs are disappearing now as they are replaced by LED signs. We can still find some neon lights but just not as convenient as their presence in the past. They represent the city’s prosperity, as well as our visual language in advertising. Although the number of neon signs is decreasing, they remain as a part of the local heritage.
Millie’s Centre anchored the corner of Nathan Road and Jordan Road in the 1970s. This shopping centre sold handbags and shoes, and it was regarded as the brightest corner due to the big peacock neon sign, as shown in the movie.
Even though Millie’s Centre was closed a long time ago, people who lived in the period could still remember this place with the special neon sign.
Anita’s production team made every effort to reconstruct the scenes and get closer to the golden era in Hong Kong. Whether you are a fan of Mui or not, this movie is worth watching.