Saturday, July 11, 2009

Passing Flickers

Passing Flickers

Have I finally seen enough Shaw Brothers Celestial/IVL re-issues to appreciate this film? Let's see.

(And for those keeping track at home, my count is about 115 so far!)

I may be one of the few people who's seen some of director Li Han Hsiang's erotic films and still not watched The Love Eterne with Ivy Ling-Po or The Warlord with Michael Hui (they're in my to-be-watched pile of my remaining dozen Shaw reissues!). But, in my defense, I watched those somewhat risque films because of a bit of an obsession with 1970's Shaw sexpot Shirley Yu.

Hey, at least I've seen some Shaw re-issues in multiple genres, right?

Okay, onwards to 1982's Passing Flickers. The biggest problem with this film is the complete lack of a plot. The 89-minute is nothing but a series of vignettes on the film sets and behind-the-scenes at the studio. It's amusing but there really is no larger point or story to the whole thing.

So, with that out of the way, I can report that for even a casual Shaw aficionado, the film is a lot of fun if you don't have high expectations.

A viewer gets a real sense of what it must have been like to be at the Shaw Studios, propsmen and cameramen and makeup women scurrying around from a period wuxia film set to a modern erotic film's set, chasing actors and actresses to apply fake facial hair and adjust prop wigs, catching the old man meant to play a Taoist priest in a wedding caravan prop with a significantly younger ingenue and on and on.

The dumb wuxia star played by Anthony Lau Wing treats the crew by dividing up a $100 bill among the 20 of them and the old men promptly go out and visit a brothel. The brothel looks like a set from one of the real director Li Han Hsiang's films -- Facets of Love maybe? -- and the crewmen promptly waste their time with the unglamourous working girls: the lighting guy fixing the lights in his room and so on.

The crew then runs into a studio producer essentially buying his way into producing a film for a former dancing girl.

That sequence is the closest the film comes to a larger plot which is unfortunate as the juxtaposition of the romantic reality for the behind-the-scenes workers with the producer buying sex in a different manner was interesting and a bit comical.

Not a masterpiece, but an enjoyable film that I'm sure I liked more now, 115 films in, then I would have a few years ago.

Unfortunately, this is an early title in the reissue series and it is letterboxed when, given the era, it should have been anamorphic widescreen like other 1980's Shaw titles reissued later. However, picture quality is good -- better than some of those older films in the first waves of the Shaw reissues.

You can order Passing Flickers on DVD here.