As the sun sets over the Victoria Harbour, the pulse of vintage Hong Kong reverberates through The Hall of the Hong Kong Museum of Art (HKMoA).
Kicking off on September 30, 2023, the “Movie Date at the Museum” initiative revisits four quintessential Hong Kong films spanning from the 1980s to the 2010s. This selection includes “A Moment of Romance” (1990), “Love Unto Wastes” (1986), “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (2011), and “The Phantom Lover” (1995). Beyond mere nostalgia, this pop-up cinema delves into the interpretations of love from yesteryears.
Film rating is influential on people’s pick on movie. According to Rotten Tomatoes, a movie or TV show is considered “good” if it garners positive reviews from at least 60% of audiences. As of October 3, 2023, only “A Moment of Romance” secured 84% positive reviews from over 500 audiences. “The Phantom Lover” mustered a 60% audience score, while “Love Unto Waste” was a notch lower at 57%.
While on Douban, a mainland China film rating platform, the films scored differently, offering a broader perspective on cultural reception: “A Moment of Romance” (8.4/10), “Love Unto Wastes” (7.4/10), “The Phantom Lover” (7.9/10), and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (6.8/10). On Douban, movies with a score above 7.0 are typically seen as worth a watch, while those that surpass an 8.0 are often hailed as classics.
Upon the divergence of opinions, it prompts a question: Why did HKMoA select these specific films from the expansive oeuvre of Hong Kong romance? It would be on the audiences to head to the cinema and judge the movies’ merits.
“A Moment of Romance” narrates a tragic love story between a gangster and a lady of a rich family, its influence evident in later romantic narratives. Stanley Kwan’s “Love Unto Wastes” might hold a modest 57% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, but its artistic value led it to clinch the 6th Hong Kong Film Awards.
With Leslie Cheung in the lead, “The Phantom Lover” engrosses viewers with a suspenseful romance, fetching it the 15th Hong Kong Film Awards. Fast forwarding to the 2010s, Wong Kar-wai’s “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with Daniel Wu and Louis Koo casts a modern take on love.
Other A-listers in these four films comprise Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Chow Yun-fat, and Jacklyn Wu Chien-lien.
The trio of films from the ‘80s and ‘90s, rooted in traditional Chinese tenets like “marriage between equals” and “parental matchmaking”, provide a glimpse into their era, capturing love in its purest form. These films poignantly highlight societal class disparities and grim social realities. In contrast, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” from the 2010s adopts a lighter touch, presenting a pragmatic, modern take on romance. Through the interpretation of love in these films, the audiences can see shifts in film production techniques and different styles of the movies.
Their collective narrative, while anchored in love, also transcends it, hinting at the rationale behind HKMoA’s selection. It encompasses an appreciation of evolving culture and society, diverse filmmaking styles, and a reminiscent journey through Hong Kong cinema’s golden age.
In partnership with the Hong Kong Film Archive, screenings are set for every Saturday until November 26. With “A Moment of Romance” making a return on October 28, enthusiasts can next look forward to “Love Unto Wastes” on October 7.