Peking Opera Blues (1986)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Country: Hong Kong
Director: Tsui Hark
Producer: Tsui Hark
Action Directior: Ching Siu-Tung
Cast: Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, Cherie Chung (Cho Hung), Sally Yeh (Yip Sin-Man), Mark Cheng Ho-Nam, Cheung Kwok-Keung, Wu Ma, Leung Po-Chi, Kenneth Tsang Kong, Guk Fung, Paul Chun Pui, Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu
Running Time: 102 min.

Plot: Trio of women attempt to recovery a mysterious document from a corrupt general.

Around the time Tsui Hark was taking the Hong Kong New Wave in a new direction (with the production of John Woo’s landmark A Better Tomorrow), the never-tiring director branched into period re-creation with this, one of his truly definitive masterpieces. It’s a kind of slapstick comedy/adventure swashbuckler, in which the trio of heroes, traditionally played by men, are all played by women. Rather than just giving them male problems and male lines, Hark creates situations and complications that seem realistic for these heroines to face.

The plot revolves around three women from different walks of life (Brigitte Lin plays a general’s daughter and undercover democratic revolutionary, Cherie Chung an itinerate musician attempting to make off with a box of jewels, and Sally Yeh, the brave and headstrong daughter of a Peking opera director, who longs to play a role in her father’s all-male troupe), unmasking a counterrevolutionary plot and rescuing their friends from danger in turn-of-the-century Peking.

The actresses are iconic and inspiring in their roles, and Mark Cheng is afforded one of two respectable parts I have ever seen him play in the movies (he normally only surface in crap like Raped by an Angel and The Imp). It is a great film, worth watching several times at least, but you will find yourself getting tired of the main theme as the film goes on. But never mind the music; this movie is about real girl-power! It’s a film about women standing up to villainy and corruption, kicking ass, and saving the day. Whenever I watch the film, the scene in which Sally Yeh and Cherie Chung show up to rescue Brigitte Lin and their male cohorts just makes me stand up and cheer.

The trailer for the film on the Media Asia DVD offers a glimpse at a fabled “lost” scene in which Sally Yeh uses opera kung-fu training to lay waste to the city’s ticketing officers.

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