KO, CHUN-HSIUNG (Ke Junxiong) (1945- ). Prolific actor Ko Chun-hsiung was born in southern Taiwan, in Kaoshiung. Ko became a contract actor in a company making Taiwanese-dialect film when he was only 18 years old. Soon, he starred in 30 films in two years. Throughout his film career, Ko Chun-hsiung acted in more than 200 films, a quarter of them Taiwanese-dialect films.
When Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI) held an open call for actors in Taiwan in the early 1960s, Ko was the only actor signed. Even though Ko could not join MG&GI due to his military service restriction that prevented him from leaving the country, the publicity about MP&GI’s taking such an interest in him prompted other companies that made Taiwanese-dialect film to fight for him. Ko took an opportunity to join the Mandarin film camp by acting in Lee Hsing’s early Chiungyao film, The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965), produced by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC). Afterward, He acted in both Taiwanese-dialect and Mandarin films, such as The Monument of Virtue/Zhenjie paifang (Lee Hsing, 1966) and Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqi sui (Pai Ching-jui, 1967), another CMPC Mandarin film, for which Ko received the “Best Actor” award at the 1967 Film Festival in Asia. Subsequently, he appeared in many of Pai’s comedy films. He also starred in many early Chiungyao films, but was not very popular in that genre. Li Han-hsiang cast him in a spy drama, Storm over the Yangtze River/An Inch of Ground, an Inch of Blood/Yicun shanhe yicun xie (1969).
Ko’s acting was critically recognized again in Pai’s ambitious work, Goodbye Darling/Zaijian alang (1970), in which he played Ah Lang, a hoodlum who sponges off women yet remains a principled man. Until this day, Ah Lang remains one of the most memorable characters in Taiwan cinema. Unfortunately, Ko’s performance, along with Pai’s directing, was not acknowledged by the Golden Horse Awards. In the early 1970s, Ko Chu-hsiung appeared in many wenyi pian melodramas, directed by renowned directors including Lee Hsing, Pai Ching-jui, Sung Tsun-Shou, as well as Hong Kong directors Lung Kong, Chor Yuen, and Lo Wei.
Ko’s other memorable performances included several national policy films produced in the mid-1970s, such as Everlasting Glory/Ying lie qianqiu (Ting Shan-hsi, 1973) and Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (Ting Shan-hsi, 1975). Ko was awarded “Best Actor” for Everlasting Glory in 1974 Asia Film Festival. He won “Best Actor” award in the 1979 Golden Horse Awards for another national policy film, A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangpu jun hun (Liu Chia-Chang, 1979). (Ko won a special award for acting for a wenyi pian, Love in the Shadow/Ai you mingtian , directed by Lai Cheng-Ying, at the 1977 Golden Horse.)
Ko’s screen image of the Nationalist army officer was so unforgettable that he became the personification of the army. Even the military education films made in the 1970s and 1980s, such as Yes, Sir!/Report to the Squad Leader/Baogao banzhang (Chin Ao-hsun, 1988), cast him as a leader in the military.
In late 1970s, when the gangster film genre was very popular, Ko was cast as the big boss of the Taiwanese mafia. This was probably due to Ko’s ability to portray the evil personality of a character, as well as military heroism. Ko Chun- Hsiung’s directorial debut was also a gangster film, Big Brother/Xiang dage xiashou (1974), in which he costarred with Hong Kong action choreographer-actor Sammo Hung Kam-Bo. Ko’s most well-known antagonist character was in Jackie Chan’s Black Dragon/Jiji (1989). Following that, Ko co-directed a film with Wu Ma, and won a second Golden Horse “Best Actor” award for Generation Pendragon/Yidai xiaoxiong caocao, playing another villainous character, Tsao Tsao/Caocao, a notorious hero from Chinese history.
KO, I-CHENG (Ke Yizheng) (1946- ). Ko I-Cheng was born in 1946 in Chiayi/Jiayi, central Taiwan. After graduating from the Department of Motion Pictures at World Journalism College (now Shih Hsin University) in Taipei, Ko went on to study filmmaking at Columbia College in Hollywood. He made two experimental films there, Lost in the Woods/Mi lin (1980), and Edge of Water/Shui zhi jue (1980), both winners at the 1981 Golden Harvest Awards. In 1980, after returning to Taiwan, Ko I-Cheng was invited by Sylvia Chang to work on her 11-episode dramatic TV mini-series, Eleven Women, that she produced for Taiwan Television (TTV). Ko directed two episodes – Happy Single Women/Kuaile danshen nulang (1981) and Last Summer/Qunian shatian (1981). (Edward Yang directed an episode.) Subsequently, when Hsiao Yeh and Wu Nien-Jen were looking for young novice directors to helm an omnibus film made under the “newcomer policy” of Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), Ko was chosen from 15 candidates. In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982), considered by many to be one of the pioneer works of Taiwan New Cinema, was codirected by Ko, Edward Yang, Chang Yi, and Tao Dechen. Ko directed Jumping Frog/Tiao wa, the third part of In Our Time, in which he criticized absurd social phenomena utilizing an obscure style.
After the success of In Our Time, Sylvia Chang, now in charge of Taiwan productions of Hong Kong’s Cinema City & Films, invited Ko to direct Kidnapped/Dai jian de xiaohai (1983), with Sylvia Chang playing a successful fashion designer whose son is mistakenly kidnapped. Ko continued to explore children’s issues in his subsequent films, with the exception of I Love Mary/Wo ai mali (1984), based on nativist writer Huang Chun-ming’s novella, which is a satiric representation of a slavish comprador character. Reunion/Women doushi zheyang zhangda de (1986) traces the experiences of elementary school classmates growing up. Last Train to Tansui/Wo men de tiankong (1986) explores the simple need of an old man and his young friend to escape daily routine and either rediscover their past feelings or find new fun in life. A Piggy Tail/Wawa (1991) is a family drama about a little girl’s adventures in the city while searching for her lost playmate, a mini-pig. Blue Moon/Lan yue (1997) is an experimental narrative composed of five reels – red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The film can be projected in any combination of the five reels, ending up with 120 possible versions of the story about a young woman’s uncommitted love affairs with several men whom she loves.
Ko I-Cheng did not make any film after Blue Moon. However, he appeared as an actor in many films. He played a playboy father in Ah-Fei/Youma caizi (Wan Jen, 1984), an executed political prisoner in Super Citizen Ko/Chaoji da guomin (Wan Jen, 1995), a dirty politician in Sacrificial Victims/Da xuanmin (Wan Jen and Liao Ching-Song, 2002), father of the lead female character in Betelnut Beauty/Ai ni ai wo (Lin Cheng-sheng, 2000), and an old man making a home video about his old acquaintances in a short film, End Cut/Lao xu de wanjiepian (Liao Chi-hua, 2009). Other important films in which Ko appeared include Edward Yang’s That Day on the Beach/Haitan de yitian (1983), Taipei Story/Qing mei zhu ma (1985), and Mahjong/Shake and Bake/Majiang (1996); Hong Kong director Shu Kei’s Soul/Lao niang gou sao (1986); Stanley Kwan’s Full Moon in New York/Ren zai niu yue (1990); and Taiwan director Chang Chi- Yung’s Such a Life/Yi zhi niao zi xiao jiu jiu (1997) and Lament of the Sand River/Sha he beige (2000).
Ko I-Cheng also directed several single-episode television dramas, such as Forbidden Love/Ni nu (1998), a rare lesbian film about forbidden lesbian love between two teenagers. Ko won “Best Director for Single-Episode Drama” in 2001 Golden Bell Television Awards. Other television dramas Ko directed included Hotspring Hometown/Wenquan jiaxiang (1995) and People’s Mistress/Wanren qingfu (2000) for Public Television Service’s “Life Story” series.
Ko is also involved in theater directing, writing, and performance. In 1992, he founded Paper Windmill Theater Company, a children’s theater group, and Greenray Theatre Company in 1993, with Wu Nien-Jen, Lee Yung-feng, and others.
KUEI, YA-LEI (Gui Yalei) (1941- ). A celebrated actress in Taiwan and China, known especially for her performances in Ang Lee’s films, Kuei Ya-lei was born on 2 June 1941 in Changsha City, Hunan Province, China. She moved to Taiwan in 1949 with her family after the Nationalists relocated their Republic of China government there. Her acting talent was discovered by her father as early as four years old, and he encouraged her to pursue acting as a career.
After graduating from the Department of Drama at National Taiwan Academy of Arts (now National Taiwan University of Arts) in 1964, Kuei was selected to be the leading actress in director Wang Yin’s Chiungyao film, Misty Rain/Yanyu mengmeng (1965), which won her “Best Actress” at the 1966 Golden Horse Awards. In 1966, Kuei became a contract actor in director Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company. She was the main actress in Li’s masterpiece, The Winter (1969), which further enhanced her reputation as an excellent actress.
When Grand Motion Picture Company ended its business in Taiwan in 1970, Kuei Ya-lei became a free agent, acting in films from many different genres, including Chiungyao film, wenyi pian melodrama, fantasy, historical epic, romantic comedy, national policy film, adventure, thriller, and even kung fu film in the 1970s and 1980s. She made around 70 films during this period. She is known for her roles as a good wife and mother. Since 1974, she has been cast as older woman as well. Kuei was awarded “Best Actress” for Home Sweet Home/ Home is Taipei/Jia zai taibei (Pai Ching-jui, 1970) at both the Film Festival in Asia and Golden Horse Awards in 1970. Her performance in Didi’s Diary/Didi riji (Chen Yao-chi, 1978) won her “Best Supporting Actress” at the 1978 Golden Horse.
Since the mid-1980s, Kuei’s career became versatile, and expanded from Taiwan to China in the 1990s. She was a singer in Singapore in 1983. She also performed in (and produced) many television drama series, until Ang Lee cast her in The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (1994). Kuei won another “Best Supporting Actress” award at the 1993 Golden Horse, as well as at the Independent Spirit Awards in the United States.
Since the mid-1990s, she has appeared in many internationally renowned films directed by Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong directors. She was recipient of the “Best Actress” award at the 1995 Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, for her performance in China director Xie Yan’s Maiden Rosé/Nuer hong (1995), and “Best Supporting Actress” for the Chinese film, The Knot/Yun shui yao (2006), at the Hundred Flowers Awards in China.
KUNG FU FILM (Martial Arts Action Film). Kung fu, by definition in the Chinese dictionary, means efforts. Used in martial arts, it refers to the Chinese art of combat and self defense, including fistfighting and fighting with weapons that require specific routines and exercises.
Chinese kung fu started to be known to the rest of the world only after Bruce Lee’s films became popular around the globe in the 1970s. However, kung fu film as a genre emerged back in the 1920s, in Chinese films made in Shanghai. By the 1950s, it flourished in Cantonese films made in Hong Kong with a series of films about martial arts master Wong Fei-Hung/Huang Feihong. Around 80 such films were made in the 1950s and 1960s, and more than 100 by 2010.
Bruce Lee invented “Jeet Kune Do” or JKD, mixing the techniques of Wing Chun/Yongchun, boxing, and fencing, and demonstrated it in his starring roles in the early 1970s, i.e., Fists of Fury/The Big Boss/Tangshan da xiong (Lo Wei, 1971) and The Chinese Connection/Jing wu men (Lo Wei, 1972). After the international success of Bruce Lee’s films, including films made after The Chinese Connection – The Way of the Dragon/Meng long guo jiang (Bruce Lee, 1972), Enter the Dragon/Long zheng hu dou (Robert Clouse, 1973), and The Game of Death/Siwang youxi (1978) – many terrible look-alikes and cheap rip-offs appeared in Hong Kong and Taiwan, turning the genre into a fad that quickly replaced swordplay wuxia pian. However, by 1973, kung fu action films were overproduced and unable to be digested by the domestic market, while the Southeast Asian market for Taiwan-made wuxia and kung fu films dwindled due to those countries’ regulations against the importation of such films. Nevertheless, the international market for kung fu films expanded to 53 countries. A total of 250 films, the majority of them kung fu action, sold for US$10 million, a record high. These golden days would be soon over, as more and more countries either banned or set barriers to the importation of kung fu films from Taiwan.
Chang Cheh started making kung fu wuxia films before the sudden rise of Bruce Lee. His Vengeance!/Baochou (1970) was an “early Republic (of China) action film,” a sub-genre full of fistfights. The film not only won Chang “Best Director” and actor John (David) Chiang “Best Actor” at the Asia Film Festival in 1970, but also influenced Bruce Lee’s Fists of Fury and The Chinese Connection. When Chang Cheh established Chang’s Film Company, which was based in Taiwan between 1974 and 1976, he brought his fighting teams with him and made several mixed-genre films, including period fantasy action, period historical martial arts kung fu, and war films, all of them variations of his kung fu fistfighting films. Chang’s influence on Taiwan cinema was prominent, as the hundreds of copies of his style made in the mid-1970s by the Taiwan film industry attested. These films were poorly made, however, and could not find distribution or exhibition. It was reported that more than 100 such films were shelved and unreleased in Hong Kong in 1975.
During some 10 years’ development of kung fu genre film, two sub-genres emerged, i.e., Shaolin kung fu film and kung fu comedy. Most Shaolin kung fu films, many of them made in Taiwan, explored the secrets of the almost mythic Shaolin school of martial arts, while adding a lot of imaginative fantasies about such training and skills. The 18 Bronzemen/Shaolinsi shiba tungren (Joseph Kuo, 1976) emphasizes the hardship of learning and practicing routines and exercises in Shaolin martial arts. Chang Cheh’s series films on the Shaolin Temple, including Men from the Monastery/Shaolin zidi (1974), Heroes Two/Fang shiyu yu hong xiguan (1974), and Shaolin Martial Arts/Hong quan yu yongchun (1974), all starring Alexander Fu Sheng, demonstrated the techniques of Shaolin martial arts.
Lau Kar-leong/Liu Jialiang, a practitioner of “Hung quan” martial arts, which originated from Shaolin and was passed on to him by Wong Fei-Hung and Lau’s father, directed many films that invoked or referred to the techniques of Shaolin or Wudang schools of martial arts. Executioners from Shaolin/Hong xiguan (1977) and The 36th Chamber of Shaolin/The Master Killer/Shaolin sanshiliu fang (1978) showed the Shaolin fighting style, and were followed by a series of films about Shaolin martial arts. Lau proved himself a master action choreographer as well as filmmaker, excelling in using the camera to capture and represent actions.
Kung fu comedy began with action choreographer-turned-director Yuen Woo- ping’s debut film, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow/She xing diao shou (1978), followed by Drunken Master/Zui quan (1978). In both films, Yuen teamed up with Jackie Chan, who became an overnight star, and is considered the only Chinese actor ever to rival Bruce Lee internationally. Yuen and Chan blended physical comedy with kung fu action that eventually became Chan’s signature style, welcomed by enthusiasts everywhere. Kung fu comedy came at a time when kung fu action films were on the wane, thus extending the fervor for the kung fu genre around the globe. These kung fu comedies and Lau Kar-leong’s kung fu action films soon took over the Taiwan market.
Sammo Hung Kam-Bo/Hong Jinbao, Jackie Chan’s classmate at Peking Opera School in China Drama Academy, brought kung fu comedy into a new direction with The Prodigal Son/Bai jia zai (1981), Carry on Pickpocket/Tifang xiaoshou (1982), as well as Winners and Sinners/Qi mou miao ji wo fuxing (1983), and the subsequent “lucky stars” series. The trio of Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, and Yuen Biao, another classmate at the Academy, created some of the most memorable kung fu comedies, including Project A/A jihua (1983) and its sequel Project A, Part II/A jihua xuji (1987), both directed by Chan.
By 1990s, Tsui Hark conducted experiments with stylizing the kung fu genre in his “Wong Fei-Hung Series” films, beginning with Once Upon a Time in China/ Wong Fei-Hung/Huang Feihong (1991), which, in its way, replaced kung fu comedy.
The trend of kung fu comedy and kung fu action certainly had their followers in Taiwan. However, by 1979, restrictions by foreign governments, as well as changes in appetites, finally decreased the overseas market for Taiwan’s martial arts kung fu films. Taiwan filmmakers started to expand the genre of kung fu comedy and action films. One variation can be seen in Chu Yen-ping’s rather iconoclastic, mixed-genre, ‘boundary crossing’ films – Golden Queen’s Commando/Hongfen bingtuan (1982), Pink Force Commando/Hongfen youxia (1982), and Fantasy Force Mission/Dragon Attack/Mini te gong dui (1982), all starring Brigitte Lin, before she emigrated to Hong Kong. In the mid-1980s, Chu also began a “Kung Fu Kids Series,” mixing kung fu comedy with the children’s film genre. The success of Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids/Hao xiaozi (1986) soon prompted a series of sequels, and by 1989, the production company, Thomson Film Company, owned by former action star Hsu Feng, had made its sixth film in the series, Kung Fu Kids Part VI: Enter the Young Dragon/Hao xiaozi liu Xiao long guo jiang. But by the 1990s, all private Taiwan film production companies either produced low-budget films for the videotape market, or invested in Hong Kong films made by directors from Hong Kong or China. Very few films were actually made by Taiwan filmmakers. With the domestic film market continuing to go down for Taiwan productions, Taiwan-made kung fu action films ceased to exist after 1990.
KUNG, HENRY HONG (Gong Hong) (1915-2004). Henry Kung Hong is known for his contributions to the Taiwan film industry during his tenure as general manager of Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) between 1963 and 1971. It was after his advocating “healthy realism” that Mandarin films by Taiwan filmmakers picked up momentum in the 1960s and were welcomed in Southeast Asia.
Kung Hong was born on 9 December 1915 on Chongming Island, Jiangsu Province in China. In 1933, he was admitted to the Kuomintang’s (KMT’s) Central Political School in Nanking/Nanjing, majoring in journalism. He was appointed general manager of the KMT’s printing company in Chungking/ Chongqing in 1941. Three year later, he was assigned chief writer of India Daily News, a Chinese newspaper published in Calcutta/Kolkata by the KMT. A year later he was promoted to head of the newspaper. He was then transferred to Hong Kong as correspondent for the KMT’s Central Daily News, and was also responsible for organizing an overseas press for the KMT. Two years later, Kung was appointed general manager of the KMT’s Chinese Culture Publishing in Shanghai.
When the Mainland fell into the hands of Chinese Communists, Kung and his family were trapped in Shanghai. A year later, they managed to flee to Hong Kong, where Kung got a job as an art editor at Swen Publications, an external agency of the State Department of the United States government. Kung emigrated to Taiwan with his family in 1951. He continued to draw anti-communist cartoons for Swen Publications, which had also moved to Taiwan that year. A year later, after Swen Publication was incorporated with the U.S. Information Agency of the State Department, Kung became an employee of Taipei U.S. Information Service, where he was responsible for editing a weekly pictorial. On the side, he drew anti-communist cartoons for the KMT’s Central Daily News.
In 1956, Henry Kung was invited to be a consultant and secretary-general of the Government Information Office (GIO), where he produced a documentary, Visit to a City of Cathay (1960), about a panoramic painting by Song Dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145), called Along the River During the Qingming Festival/Qingming shanghe tu. In 1962, Kung was promoted to the GIO deputy minister, responsible for the first Golden Horse Awards ceremony. When the GIO Minister James Shen was given a concurrent post as the chairman of CMPC in 1963, he appointed Kung Hong general manager, Kung’s official entry into the Taiwan film industry.
Hong Kong-made Mandarin films had dominated the Taiwan film market for many years, and continued to win major prizes at the Golden Horse Awards. The wave of huangmei diao film that followed the success of Shaw Brothers’ The Love Eterne (Li Han-hsiang, 1963) prompted Kung to consider which type of films the CMPC should make. After seeing Our Neighbor/Jie tou xiang wei (1963), a realism film directed by Lee Hsing, he invited Lee to work for the CMPC. Kung Hong’s concept was to copy the style of Italian neorealism in the CMPC films meant to promote the progress in Taiwan society under Nationalist government rule. In Kung’s mind, realism does not necessarily have to expose the dark side of the society. It can also be used to show the human touches that warm the human heart. This is the essence of Kung’s healthy realism.
The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (1963), the first healthy realism film made in the CMPC, was codirected by Lee Hsing and the CMPC’s senior director Li Chia. The film, showing the hard, diligent life of fishermen who cultivate oysters, was the first color cinemascope film totally made by Taiwan filmmakers. Before it, the cinematography of both Shaw Brothers’ The Love Eterne and Taiwan Film Studio’s No Greater Love/Wu feng (1962) was by Japanese cameramen and their assistants. The prominent camerawork in The Oyster Girl, under the direction of cameraman Hua Hui-ying, led Taiwan films into the era of color cinematography.
While Lee Hsing was still in production of The Oyster Girl, Kung asked him to direct the second healthy realism film, The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (1964). Using the lives of duck farmers as background, the film depicts the love between parents and their children. Both The Oyster Girl and The Beautiful Duckling were commercially and critically successful, earning the trust of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia audiences, thus opening the overseas market to Mandarin films made in Taiwan.
After the success of these two healthy realism films, Kung supported Lee Hsing in adapting popular romance novelist Chiung Yao’s works into films. Four Loves/Wanjun biaomei (1964) and The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965) were two of the earliest Chiungyao film. This created the first wave of Chiungyao film in Taiwan and Hong Kong, in conjunction with director Li Han-hsiang’s Grand Motion Picture Company, which made more than a handful of such films after 1964. In Four Loves and The Silent Wife, Lee tried to add some positive educational elements in the otherworldly romantic love stories, thus the films were able to support the CMPC’s role as the government agency whose purpose was to guide the film industry. The commercial and critical successes of Four Loves and The Silent Wife also solidified the leading position of the CMPC in the Taiwan film industry.
During his tenure, Kung began using new directors, including Pai Ching-jui, Liao Hsiang-hsiung, Richard Chen Yao-chi, Liu Yi, Ting Shan-hsi, and Liu Chia-Chang. Most of their film careers began at the CMPC. For example, Pai Ching-jui came to the CMPC in 1963, after graduating from the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome. Kung first appointed him as manager of the Production Department, to let Pai become familiar with the process of film production, and to help develop healthy realism films. After he codirected a historical costume epic, Fire Bulls/Huan wo he shan (1966), Kung gave Pai his solo debut film, Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqi sui (1967), which established him as an important director in Taiwan. Due to the success of Lonely Seventeen, Kung let Pai bring the commedia all'italiana style of comedy to Taiwan, making two CMPC comedies, The Bride and I/Xinniang yu wo (1969) and Home Sweet Home/ Home is Taipei/Jia zai taibei (1970). Once again, they were successful both commercially and critically.
However, after the two popular Chiungyao film, the more “serious” films that Lee Hsing directed did poorly at the box office. Kung advised Lee to make a popular musical with a number of movie stars. The vast lively scenes in Stardust/Qunxinghui (1969), never seen before in Taiwan movies, opened the audiences’ eyes and was commercially very successful. Lee not only regained his confidence, but it also pushed him in the 1970s to move closer to popular commercial cinema.
After his years of experience as general manager of the CMPC, enjoying the glory of its commercial and critical film successes, Henry Kung Hong started to make decisions about the subjects and writing of the CMPC films. At one point, he even pondered becoming a director himself. His shift in attitude led Kung into direct conflict with Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui. They left the CMPC with their partners, cinematographers Lai Cheng-yin and Lin Chan-ting, and former manager of the CMPC’s Project Development Department Hu Cheng-ding, to form Ta Chung Motion Picture Company. After their departure, Kung used many young directors, such as Ting Shan-hsi, who directed the critically acclaimed The Ammunition Hunters/Luo ying xia (1971). The Ammunition Hunters delivered patriotic messages in an action plot, following the mixed conventions of both the martial arts wuxian pian and adventure genres.
In 1971, after suffering from hepatitis and long-term struggles with the CMPC Chairman Hu Chien-chung/Hu Jianzhong, appointed in late 1965, Henry Kung decided to leave the CMPC. He was made chair of the Department of Mass Communications at Chinese Culture University in 1972. Three years later, Kung was invited by Lu Yi-cheng, head of the Information Division at the GIO’s New York branch, to head the Chinese newspaper Americas Daily/Meizhou ribao, partially financed by the KMT. When the paper closed a year later, Kung retired and remained in New York. He was invited to head the jury of the 1988 Asian Film Festival, held in Taipei. Kung was awarded a “Life Achievement Award” at the 1999 Golden Horse Awards. Henry Kung died in New York in 2004, at the age of 90.
During the nine years that Kung Hong was general manager of the CMPC, he produced 35 feature films, most of them not propaganda film in the traditional sense. Kung not only pioneered healthy realism films, he also produced Chiungyao films, melodramatic wenyi pian (both contemporary and costume), historical costume epic, commedia all'italiana comedy, musical, martial arts wuxia pian, fantasy film, and even horror and spy films. He was able to cleverly hide propagandistic messages in these entertaining films, most of which were winners both at the box office and in film festivals.
During his tenure, the CMPC films were exported to the Chinese film markets in Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and the Americas. The CMPC’s status as leader in the Taiwan film industry was established during Kung’s time, and continued until the end of the 1990s. Henry Kung Hong also made an enormous contribution by training many young directors, cameramen, art directors, and actors, who became the pillars of Taiwan cinema in the 1960s and 1970s.
KUO, JOSEPH NAN-HONG (Guo Nanhong) (1935- ). Taiwan director Joseph Kuo Nan-Hong was born on 20 July 1935 in rural Tainan County in southern Taiwan. When he was three years old, Kuo’s family moved to urban Kaohsiung City, Taiwan’s second largest city, where he was educated, graduating from Kaohsiung Industrial Junior College. Afterwards, he went to Taipei to learn scriptwriting for a half-year at Asia Film Company (AFC). He adapted his own novella into a film script that was bought by the AFC and made into a Taiwanese-dialect film. Subsequently, he was asked by the AFC to direct his debut film, Ghost Lake/Gui hu (1955). In 1956, another film company invited Kuo to write and direct Lament of the Ancient Palace/Gu cheng hen (aka Romance at Chikan Tower/Chikanlou zhi lian), which won him a “top-ten director award” at the First Taiwanese-dialect Film Festival in 1958.
Kuo Nan-Hong went into the army in 1959-1960. After completing his military service, he founded a company to write and direct several films, one of which, The Night in Taipei/Taipei zhi yue (1961), was modeled after Japanese actor Kobayashi Akira’s film in which the star played a wataridori (wandering guitarist). Kuo’s version The Night in Taipei, starring renowned Taiwanese composer-singer Wen Hsia, was a box-office winner. Following this hit, a series of similar films were made, with Wen Hsia in “wandering guitarist” roles.
In 1965, two years after Li Han-hsiang moved his Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) to Taiwan, Li invited Kuo Nan-Hong to join the GMP and direct two Chiungyao films, When Is the Dream Come True/Ming yue ji shi yuan (1966) and Love Is More Intoxicating Than Wine/Shen qing bi jiu nong (1968). Kuo was also asked by Union Film Company (Lianbang) to make a wenyi pian (melodrama based on popular novels), The Last Romance/Yunshan menghui (1971), but he preferred to make a wuxia pian (martial arts film). Lianbang allowed him to direct The Swordsman of All Swordsmen/Yidai jian wang (1968) before doing The Last Romance. The Swordsman of All Swordsmen turned out to be a turning point in Kuo’s career. The film was a box-office winner, not only in Taiwan, but also in Korea. Thus, Kuo Nan-Hong became a swordplay wuxia pian director.
In 1970, Kuo founded Hong Hwa Film Company in Hong Kong, to produce kung fu martial arts action movies. The same year, he was invited by Shaw Brothers to direct Mission Impossible/Jiannu youhun (1971) and The Mighty One/Tongzi gong (1971). Kuo also used a pseudonym, “Chiang Sui-han,” to make Sorrowful to a Ghost/Gui jian chou (1970), a top-grossing film in Hong Kong, co-directing with former Taiwanese-dialect film director Hsin Chi. Afterward, the two made The Seizure Soul Sword of a Blind Devil/Mangnu gou hun jian (1971). Kuo directed another very popular kung fu film in 1976, The 18 Bronzemen/Shaolinsi shiba tongren, which was shown commercially in Japan in 1983.
In the 1980s, Kuo was active in both the Taiwan and Hong Kong film industries. He was director of the Film Producers’ Association of the Republic of China (ROC), 1980-1985; secretary–general of the Golden Horse Awards Executive Committee in 1984; and chairman of the Hong Kong Production and Distribution Association from 1985 to 1996.
LANG, HSIUNG (Lang Xiong, Lang Yisan) (1930-2002). Veteran actor Lang Hsiung (real name Lang Yisan) was born on New Year’s Day, 1 January 1930, to a family which operated a dyeing and weaving factory in Suqian City, Jiangsu Province, China. He grew up in Yangzhou City during a time of continuous war between the Japanese army, Chinese puppet government army, anti-Japanese forces, and the New Fourth Army controlled by the Chinese Communists.
In 1949, Lang Hsiung joined the Youth Corps in Shanghai, and moved with Nationalist General Sun Li-jen’s army to Taiwan. He started his career in entertainment as part of a military theater troupe, on stage in musicals and stage plays. After retiring from the army, Lang joined the Nationalist-owned China Television Company (CTV) and military-owned Chinese Television System (CTS), performing in television drama series between 1970 and 1975. His most famous role was as Emperor Qin Shi Huang in The Dynasty of Tyrant/Yidai baojun (1974).
Lang’s acting debut in a feature film was Dream Lake/The Unforgettable Lake Dream/Meng hu (Wang Shi-Chen, 1975), a melodramatic wenyi pian. His second film, The Venturer/Lang ya kou (Chang Pei-cheng, 1975), a martial arts kung fu film, won “Best Supporting Actor” at the 1976 Golden Horse Awards. Subsequently, he appeared in many films produced by the KMT-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), including Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (Ting Shan-hsi, 1977), a national policy film; Didi’s Diary/Didi riji (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1977), a wenyi pian; He Never Gives Up/ Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (Lee Hsing, 1978); and The Coldest Winter in Peking/Huang tian hou tu (Pai Ching-jui, 1980), another anti-Communist national policy film. Other important films Lang appeared in were Chen Yao-chi’s wenyi pian, A Journey of Love/Wuqing huangdi youqing tian (1978), as well as Lee Hsing’s Good Morning, Taipei/Zaoan taibei (1979) and Story of the Heroic Pioneers/Heroic Pioneers/Tangshan guo taiwan (1986).
Lang Hsiung also was in several “commercial” action films, such as Report to the Squad Leader/Baogao banzhang (Chin Ao-hsun, 1980); Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids IV/Hao xiaozi di si ji: kuayue shikong de xiaozi (Chang Peng-I, 1987); Hong Kong director Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung’s China’s Last Eunuch/Zhongguo zuihou yi ge taijian (1988); and two films by Taiwan director Chu Yen-ping, the war film A Home Too Far/Yi yu (1990) and gangster-thriller Requital/Wu hu si hai (1991).
Lang appeared off and on in television drama series between 1980 and 1991, until he retired as contract actor at the CTV in 1991. Even at the age of 60, he was soon cast as the lead in Ang Lee’s Pushing Hands/Tui shou (1991), which won him “Best Actor” at the 1991 Golden Horse Awards, a highlight in his career. Subsequently Lang was in two other films in Ang Lee’s “father trilogy” – The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (1993), for which the Golden Horse awarded Lang “Best Supporting Actor,” and Eat Drink Man Woman/Yin shi nan nu (1994). These films gave Lang Hsiung renown as an actor famous for portraying Chinese father figures. Several years later, Lang worked with Ang Lee once again in the internationally acclaimed martial arts wuxia pian masterpiece, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu cang long (2000).
After working with Ang Lee on the first three films, Lang Hsiung appeared in Li Han-hsiang’s Lover’s Lover (1994), starring Hong Kong actors Cheng Pei-pei and Tony Leung Ka-Fai; Sylvia Chang’s Tonight Nobody Goes Home/Jintian bu huijia (1996), in which Lang costarred again with Kuei Ya-lei; Chinese veteran (“Fourth Generation”) director Xie Jin’s epic war film, The Opium War/Yapian zhanzheng (1997); Hong Kong director Michael Mak’s gangster-thriller, Island of Greed/Hak gam/Qingyi zhi xixili dao/tanlan zhi dao (1997), starring Andy Lau and Tony Leung Ka-Fai; and Hong Kong director Lee Chi-Ngai’s Sleepless Town/Fuyajo/Bu ye cheng (1998), based on Japanese writer Seishu Hase’s novel of the same title, starring Taiwan-Japan star actor Takeshi Kaneshiro.
After Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lang acted in Taiwanese director Chen Kuo-fu’s epic thriller, Double Vision/Shuang tong (2002), starring Tony Leung Ka-Fai, René Liu, and David Morse. Lang Hsiung’s final film appearance was in The Touch/Tian mai chuanqi (2002), directed by renowned cinematographer Peter Pau (of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), starring Michelle Yeoh, Ben Chaplin, and Richard Roxburgh.
LEE, ANG (Li An) (1954- ). The first Asian to receive a “Best Director” Oscar in the Academy Awards, Ang Lee (Lee is his family name) is recognized as a leading film director in world cinema.
Born in Chao-Chou/Chaozhou Township, Pingtung/Bingdong County in southern Taiwan, Ang Lee is the first son of parents who were teachers (his father in high school and mother in elementary school). Originally from De’an County, Jiangxi Province, China, Lee’s father was a county magistrate in 1945, and later secretary-general of the Ministry of Education in the Nationalist government. Following major loses in the Chinese Civil War, Chiang Kai-shek’s government retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Lee’s father made his way to Taiwan a year later.
When Lee was seven months old, his father was appointed principal of Taitung (Taidong) Girls’ High School in southeastern Taiwan. After more than a year there, Lee’s family moved north to Hualian when his father was transferred to the eastern city as principal of Hualian Teachers’ School. Lee spent eight years of a happy childhood in Hualian, predominantly around waishengren (Mainlanders in post-1945 Taiwan) in the military, public office, and education professions. He saw stage performances by military entertainment troupes, and watched many movies, including Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne (1963), which impressed him and stimulated Lee’s gift for creativity.
Lee’s carefree childhood ended when he was 10, after his father was appointed principal of Tainan Second Senior High School, and four years later, Tainan First Senior High School. Lee’s school life in the southern city of Tainan was miserable. He stayed there until 1973, when he enrolled in the Theater and Film Program at National Taiwan Academy of Arts (NTAA, now National Taiwan University of Arts) in Taipei, a three-year vocational school. This dismayed his father, who, like other traditional Confucians, emphasized good education and conformity rather than the arts and creativity. The entertainment business was considered a degrading profession.
Lee felt quite at home in the NTAA, and was delighted with his experiences in theater there. He soon became lead actor in the NTAA stage productions, appearing in more than 15 plays in three years. He won “Best Actor” in a national competition in 1974. Lee wrote and directed one-act plays, as well as adapting and directing many foreign plays at the NTAA. Ang Lee also began to understand film as an art during college. Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967) was the first Hollywood film that influenced him. His art film experiences began with Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring/Jungfrukällan (1960), Vittorio de Sica’s The Bicycle Thief/Ladri di biciclette (1948), and Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’éclisse (1962).
In his third year at the Academy, Lee made an 8mm film, Indolence on a Saturday Afternoon/Xingqiliu xiawu de lansan (1976), based on a short novel. Lee wanted to express in this 18-minute silent film the struggles and frustration of an artist, like himself, when facing the gap between ideals and reality. He later used the film to apply for the film program at Tisch School of the Arts in New York University (NYU) after attending undergraduate program in Theatre Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Lee also wrote a short story based on his experience making the super-8.
At Illinois, he studied theater and drama theories as well as exploring East/West cultural differences. He concentrated on theater directing, rather than acting, though he acted in three professional stage plays, as well as directing Eugene Ionesco’s The Chairs. In 1980, after graduating from the Department of Theatre with a BFA in Theatre/Theatre Direction, Lee was accepted into NYU’s graduate film program. Lee directed five shorts there, which were his first experience in filmmaking. He married Jane Lin, fellow Taiwan student majoring in microbiology at the University of Illinois, in New York in 1983. In 1985, right before Ang Lee was to move back to Taiwan, his graduation film, Fine Line/Fenjie xian (1985), won “Best Film” and “Best Director” in the NYU Film Festival. This caught the attention of the William Morris Agency, the top American film agency, which convinced Lee to stay in the United States to pursue scriptwriting and directing opportunities.
Lee’s chances as a writer or director in the U.S. were slim, however. All of the countless projects Lee developed and pitched between 1985 and 1990 were either rejected or fell apart. He spent the six years as a house-husband, cooking and taking care of his children, while looking for a chance to break into the film industry. Finally, Lee’s luck made a turn for the better in November 1990, when two of his screenplays won the top two prizes in a competition held by the Taiwan government. He was approached by the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) to turn one of the scripts into a film. The timing of Lee winning screenplay prizes was perfect, because Hsu Li-kong, the newly appointed CMPC vice-president and manager in charge of production, was willing to give new directors their first film directing opportunities. Lee signed a NT$12 million (under US$450,000) contract with the CMPC to make Pushing Hands/Tui shou (1992) in the U.S.
Ang Lee sought help from Good Machine, a new production company in New York, to produce the film in “the Big Apple.” (Thus began decades-long cooperation between Ang Lee and James Schamus, President of Good Machine.) All cast and crew, except the two leading actors and two main crew members (cameraman Jong Lin, and production manager-second unit director Emily Liu Yi-Ming), were American. Pushing Hands won “Best Actor” (Lang Hsiung), “Best Supporting Actress” (Wang Lai), and a “Special Jury Prize” at the 1991 Golden Horse Awards, which helped drive the box-office of Pushing Hands to a height unimagined by the CMPC. Pushing Hands became the third-highest grossing Mandarin film of 1991 in Taipei. The story of the film centers on an aging Tai Chi master, forced to adjust his life while living with his son who is married to a Caucasian woman. The East-meets-West cultural conflict/dialectic central to Pushing Hands, would be a formula used again in Lee’s next film, The Wedding Banquet/Xiyan (1993), second in his “father trilogy.”
Following the success of Pushing Hands, the CMPC offered Lee a small budget to make The Wedding Banquet, a film it shunned in the 1980s because of its sensitive subject matter and sympathetic treatment of the homosexual relationship between two men, a Chinese and an American (see GAY AND LESBIAN FILMS). Lee cooperated with Good Machine once again, only this time James Schamus co-wrote the script and co-produced the film. The film is self-referential as Lee put many non-homosexual elements from his own experiences, including his own wedding and the relationship with his father, in this family melodrama/situation comedy. The Wedding Banquet was awarded a “Golden Bear” at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival and nominated for “Best Foreign Language Film” in the Academy Awards. Its very impressive success at the box office was even more surprising to everyone. The film was shown continuously for eight weeks in Taiwan, grossing NT$120 million (US$4.5 million). Total box-office in the global market was estimated at US$32 million, while its production budget was only US$ 750,000, meaning the revenue of The Wedding Banquet was nearly 43 times its cost, the best film investment in the world in 1993. Thus, the film opened the international market for Ang Lee. To Taiwan and Asian audiences, Lee’s films represent quality mainstream commercial productions. In the other international markets, his films belong to art cinema.
The tremendous success of The Wedding Banquet prompted Ang Lee, Good Machine, and the CMPC to work together once again on Eat Drink Man Woman/ Yin shi nan nu (1994), a story that mixes Chinese cooking with the relationship between a widower father and his three grown daughters. In Eat Drink Man Woman, Lee also tried for the first time to deal with multiple plotlines. Originally written by Wang Hui-Ling, who later would work again with James Schamus on the screenplay of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Wo hu cang long (2000), Eat Drink Man Woman also marks the first time Lee worked on a film project not initiated by himself. It was his third family drama and the last film in his “father trilogy.” The final script was co-written by Wang, Lee, and Schamus.
The film was an experiment for Ang Lee, who tried to balance the tastes of Asian audiences and international art cinema viewers. In a way, Lee was like characters in his previous films, needing to find a solution for the conflict in the East-West divide. The experiment failed in a way. (Lee would come back to such an experiment later with his Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.) While enthusiastically accepted in the West, including a nomination for “Best Foreign Language Film” in the Academy Awards, and a gross of more than US$7 million in the U.S. alone (the film cost US$1.5 million to make), Eat Drink Man Woman did not do as well as was expected in Taiwan, both theatrically and critically. Lee used a mixed local (Taiwanese) and American crew during production, which was the first time Lee made a film in his home country. Postproduction was done in New York. Such a combination of local and American crews, and the work flow of production, would become the norm in Lee’s following films.
The success of Eat Drink Man Woman, at least in the West if not in Taiwan, paved the way for Ang Lee’s English-language films, including Sense and Sensibility (1995), a period drama based on Jane Austin’s novel with a completely English cast; The Ice Storm (1997), an exploration of suburban culture in post-Watergate America; and Ride with the Devil (1999), which deals with the transformation and liberation of marginal ethnic groups during the Civil War in America.
Ang Lee had dreamed of making a martial arts wuxia pian ever since he was a child. In fact, after the success of Pushing Hands, Lee wanted to immediately make a wuxia film, Stealing Fists/Tou quan, about a disciple trying to steal kung fu skills from his master. The project was rejected by the CMPC, however.
After Lee established his status as a world-class film director, the transformation of China from a rigid dictatorship to a relatively open and semi-capitalistic country, as well as improvements in the infrastructure of the Chinese film industry, all contributed to making Lee’s dream of filming a wuxia pian in the People’s Republic of China a reality. Ang Lee wanted to elevate the level of wuxia pian, from pure action/sensation, to one that was culturally relevant and reflected genuine emotions. In other word, he wanted to make a martial arts film rich in humanity. To Lee, every martial arts move was an extension of the character’s personality. However, such an experiment was a big risk, as it challenged the audience’s preexisting concept of what a wuxia or kung fu film was supposed to be. It also created a problem between him and his experienced action director Yuen Wo-Ping, whose concept of martial arts movement and ways of presenting them on film were constantly challenged by Lee. The most astonishing fight scene, in the treetops of a bamboo forest, was an example in which actors were suspended from wires to appear flying through the air, a homage Lee paid to King Hu’s A Touch of Zen/Xia nu (1971).
The initial script was written by James Schamus (from a first draft written by Tsai Kuo-Jung/Cai Guorong), followed by the participation of Wang Hui-Ling. The story of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon focuses on the relationships between a kung fu master (Chow Yun-Fat) and two women, one he loves (Michelle Yeoh) and the other he is forced to fight against (Zhang Ziyi). It was financed by Lee’s own money, with an additional financial investment from Hsu Li-kong, former general manager of the CMPC, and Hong Kong producer- exhibitor Bill Kong. Preproduction and production in China took eight months. Postproduction was done in New York. Key creative personnel were from Hong Kong and the production crew from China.
Lee’s experiment in introducing wuxia to a mainstream Western audience paid off. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the most popular subtitled Mandarin film ever shown in the West and the highest-grossing foreign-language film ever released in the U.S. The budget was US$15 million, one of the highest for a Chinese film. Its NT$101 million (US$3 million) gross in Taiwan broke all records. Nearly 24 million tickets were sold in North America, creating US$128 million in box office revenue. The total box-office worldwide exceeded US$200 million, making it the champion of non-English film in the world in 2001 and one of the top non-English films of all time at the box office.
The film won four Oscars, including “Best Foreign Language Film,” “Best Cinematography” (Peter Pau), “Best Art Direction/Set Decoration” (Tim Yip), and “Best Music” (Tan Dun) at the 2001 Academy Awards. Lee was recipient of the Directors Guild of America “DGA Award” for outstanding directorial achievement in motion pictures. At the Hong Kong Film Awards, it won eight awards in the categories of “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” as well as “Best Supporting Actress” (Zhang Ziyi), “Best Cinematography,” “Best Action Choreography” (Yuen Wo-Ping), “Best Original Film Score” (Tan Dun), “Best Original Film Song,” and “Best Sound Design” (Eugene Gearty).
In Taiwan, however, it only won “Best Film” and five technical awards (editing, music, sound effects, visual effects, action direction) at the 2000 Golden Horse Awards. Commercially, the reception of the film in Hong Kong and China was much cooler. Lee was even accused of making a “fake” wuxia pian to please audience in the West. Nevertheless, such a “trend” was soon followed by Chinese directors, such as Zhang Yimou’s Hero/Yingxiong (2002) and House of Flying Daggers/Shi mian maifu (2004), and Chen Kaige’s The Promise/Wu ji (2005).
Ang Lee’s subsequent projects were two diverse American films: the big-budget Hulk (2003), costing US$150 million, and the low-budget Brokeback Mountain (2005), that cost less than one-tenth of Hulk. Hulk failed critically and commercially, while Brokeback Mountain won Lee “Best Director” at the 2006 Academy Awards, but lost out to Crash (Paul Haggis, 2004) as “Best Film,” hence creating a controversy.
In 2007 Ang Lee returned to making a film in Mandarin, Lust, Caution/Se jie, based on a novella by renowned Chinese novelist Eileen Chang/Zhang Ailing. The 157-minute film focuses on a Nationalist secret agent (Tang Wei) who is supposed to seduce and kill the puppet government’s Chief of Intelligence (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) during the Sino-Japanese War, but instead, falls in love with him. Lust, Caution is Lee’s first venture into the thriller/noir genre, written once again by the Wang Hui-Ling/James Schamus writing team. The film won the Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Film Festival. It also garnered seven awards at the Golden Horse the same year, including, “Best Film,” “Best Director,” “Best Actor” (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), “Best Adapted Screenplay,” “Best Makeup and Costume Design” (Pan Lai), “Best Original Film Score” (Alexandre Desplat), and “Best New Performer” (Tang Wei). It did not do well internationally, however. The international gross was only US$4.6 million, less than one-third of its budget, perhaps partially due to the severely restrictive “NC-17” rating it received in the U.S., as well as the historical background and subject matter which did not seem to interest non-Asian audiences. The “NC-17” rating was based on three love-making scenes between its two main characters, which was sensational news in Asian countries, due mainly to Tony Leung’s stardom and acting reputation.
After Lust, Caution, Ang Lee directed a comedy in the U.S., Taking Woodstock (2009). The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Lee’s latest film is an adventure drama, Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel’s best-seller about the magical adventures in the Pacific Ocean of an Indian boy and his animal friends. The film was mostly shot on a soundstage built specifically for making the film, out of an abandoned hangar in central Taiwan. The film is slated for international release in 2012.
Though proudly revered in Taiwan as its native son, Ang Lee was, in most instances, not considered a Taiwanese or Chinese director in books about Taiwan or Chinese cinema published in the West. Indeed, Ang Lee is a filmmaker who transcends national as well as film-genre boundaries. His first three films made him the most prominent director of the post-Taiwan New Cinema era (sometimes called the Second New Wave or Second Wave Taiwan Cinema directors), along with Tsai Ming-liang and some others. Ang Lee, like Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, and Tsai Ming-liang, helped gain international recognition for Taiwan cinema, and all of Chinese Cinema for that matter. Lee, however, moves just as easily, or perhaps more easily, in Western cinema as well.
Many people have contributed to Ang Lee’s success in Taiwan and the world. Among them, Hsu Li-kong was the producer who gave Lee his first chance as a director. However, the most significant is James Schamus who works with Lee, initially as producer and publicist, and later, as co-financier and (co)writer of all his recent films. It is fair to say that without Schamus there probably would be no Ang Lee, or at least not the Ang Lee as he is now – one of the most internationally respected and influential Chinese directors.
LEE, HSING (Li Xing, Li Zida) (1930- ). One of the most important directors in Taiwan cinema after World War II, Lee Hsing’s filmmaking career spans nearly four decades, from the late 1950s to mid-1980s. He led the trends of comedy in Taiwanese-dialect film, healthy realism film, Chiungyao film, and films depicting rural realities. Nearly all important figures in the second half of the 20th century are either his comrades, such as Li Han-hsiang, King Hu, Pai Ching-jui, and Sung Tsun-Shou, or his protégés, like Taiwan New Cinema directors Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wang Tung, Chang Yi and Liao Ching-Song. Since the end of the 1980s, Lee founded the Directors Guild of Taiwan, chaired the executive committee of the Golden Horse Awards, and became the highly respected leader of the Taiwan Film Industry. In recent years, Lee has devoted himself to promoting Taiwan films in Mainland China, and to cross-straight exchange programs between Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as between Taiwan and the Mainland.
Lee Hsing, whose real name is Li Zida, was born on 20 May 1930 in Shanghai. During his adolescence, Lee was deeply interested in theater. He also watched many movies, including popular Chinese films of left-wing filmmakers, such as The Spring River Flows East/Tears of the Yang-Tse/Yi jiang chun shui xiang dong liu (Cai Chusheng and Zheng Junli, 1947), Eight Thousand Li of Cloud and Moon/Baqian li lu yun he yue (Shi Dongshan, 1947), and The Lights of Ten Thousand Homes/Myriad of Lights/Wanjia denghuo (Shen Fu, 1948). In 1948, Lee was admitted to the Theater Section in the Department of Art Education, Soochow National College of Social Education (now Soochow University). After seeing Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town/Xiao cheng zhi chun (1948), Lee became determined to be involved in theater and filmmaking.
Due to the Chinese Civil War, his university education was delayed a half-year, during which time he worked in theater and watched many performances of stage plays by renowned actors. Later that year, Lee emigrated to Taiwan with his family, where he enrolled in the Education Department at Taiwan Provincial Teachers College (TPTC, now National Taiwan Normal University). Lee was active on campus as actor and director of Anton Chekhov and Xia Yan plays, which were produced by the college’s drama club. Lee also acted in a professional theater troupe and appeared in several films, where he took his stage name Lee Hsing. All the plays and films Lee was involved in at this stage of his life were, in essence, anti-communist.
After graduating from the TPTC, Lee was drafted and served in the army for a year. In 1954, Lee Hsing decided not to seek a career in teaching. Instead, he became an entertainment reporter for Independence Evening News, which was published by his father. Soon after, he became an actor and assistant in veteran Mandarin film director Tang Shao-hua’s film Remote Love/Life and Love of a Horse-Cart Driver/Mache fu zhi lian (1956). It was around this time that Taiwanese-dialect film became popular, and Lee was given the chance to direct. While most Taiwanese-dialect films were period dramas and Taiwanese Opera, Lee and his partners decided to try comedy. Based on Laurel and Hardy comedies, Lee codirected, with two other directors, his debut film, The Misadventures of Two Idiots/Brother Wang and Brother Liu Tour Taiwan/Wang ge liu ge you taiwan (1959), which was a box office hit. Lee made more than 10 sequels and similar comedies between 1959 and 1963, giving him camera experience and essential directing skills.
At the time, Taiwanese-dialect film budgets were small, and most film companies quickly disappeared. Therefore, a film director’s pay was unstable. For awhile, Lee, who was a new father, was not able to pay the rent and considered quitting films. Fortunately, Long Fang, head of Taiwan Film Studio, approached Lee in 1960 and commissioned him to make two documentary films, both of which were well received.
Lee actually wanted, more than anything, to work for the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), but it took no interest in him. He applied three times in eight years, and was turned down each time. Lee’s father decided to help his son realize his dream by establishing a film production company in 1961, Independent Pictures. Its debut film, Good Neighbors/Liang xiang hao (1962), was a copy of The Greatest Civil War on Earth/Nan bei he (Wang Tianlin, 1961) and two other films in the “North-South” trilogy produced by Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI) in Hong Kong. Good Neighbors using actors from Mandarin and Taiwanese-dialect films, creating comic effects from their differences in language and culture. The mixed-dialect film was well received in Taiwan, and Lee gained confidence in his directing abilities.
Lee’s first Mandarin film, Our Neighbor/Jie tou xiang wei (1963), obviously influenced by the realist films made in China in the 1930s and 1940s, is a story about small vices, gossip, misunderstandings, and the mutual caring support of tenants in a Taipei slum warren. Lee Hsing uses emotions of the underclass to express confidence in the goodness of human nature, to call for solidarity and mutual help, and to emphasize traditional ethics.
The artistic achievement of Our Neighbor caught the attention of the newly appointed CMPC General Manager Kung Hong, who invited Lee to be a director on its staff. Lee turned down the offer, but agreed to work for the CMPC. His initial film for it was the first healthy realism film, The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (1963), codirected with the company’s senior director, Li Chia. Through the love story of a girl who works cultivating oysters, the film depicts the hard-working life of oyster farmers/fishermen who have to fight the ocean to make a living. It was the first cinemascope color film completely made by the CMPC technicians and was both commercially and critically successful.
While still working on The Oyster Girl, Lee was asked by Kung to direct the second healthy realism film, The Beautiful Duckling/Yangya renjia (1964), about the lives of duck farmers in a small village near Taipei. Once again, the film was a box-office winner as well as being critically acclaimed. It was considered the year's best film, and marked the beginning of starlet Tang Pao-yun/Tang Baoyun's rise to fame. The Beautiful Duckling won awards for “Best Supporting Actor” (Ou Wei), “Best Screenplay” (Chang Yung-hsiang), and “Best Art Direction” (Chou Chih-Liang/Chow Chi-Leung) at the 1964 Film Festival in Asia, and “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” “Best Actor” (Ko Hsiang-ting), and “Best Color Cinematography” (Lai Cheng-Ying) at the Golden Horse.
After two healthy realism films, Lee Hsing decided to make films adapted from Chiung Yao’s romantic novels, which became popular among adolescents and young adults. Four Loves/Wanjun biaomei (1964) and The Silent Wife/Yanu qingshen (1965) were among the earliest Chiungyao films, and their success set off a wave of Chiungyao film in Taiwan and Hong Kong lasting nearly 20 years. Four Loves tells of three boys, who are cousins, falling in love with the same girl, also a cousin, when she takes refuge in her aunt’s home after being orphaned. The film enhanced Tang Pao-yun’s screen image, and the child actors received praise, among them Tse Ling-Ling/Xie Lingling, who was awarded “Best Child Actor” at both the Film Festival in Asia and the Golden Horse Awards.
The Silent Wife tells the story of a mother and her daughter who are speech-impaired. Lee Hsing added disabilities education to the romantic story, thus enriching the otherwise conventional Chiungyao film. Wang Mochou, who rose to fame in The Oyster Girl, gave an impressive performance, winning her special awards also at the Film Festival in Asia and Golden Horse Awards. The film was also awarded “Best Screenplay” (Liu Yi) and “Best Cinematography” (Lai Cheng-Ying) in the Film Festival in Asia in 1966.
After The Silent Wife, Lee directed several serious dramas that were critically acclaimed, but commercial failures. The Monument of Virtue/Zhenjie paifang (1966) portrays the struggle of a widow to restrain her lust within traditional Chinese widowhood conventions. Ai Li won a special “new actor award” at 1966 Film Festival in Asia. The Road/Lu (1967), yet another healthy realism film, depicts the conflict between a father and his son, caused by the Chinese tradition of expecting a son to be “successful.” The Jade Goddess/Yu guanyin (1968), a CMPC film, starred Richard Chen Yao-chi, an actor/director who received a MFA filmmaking degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), as a sculptor of the Jade Guanyin (Bodhisattva, goddess of compassion). Based on a stage play, the film depicts the sculptor’s calamity when he falls in love and gets married to his cousin. It was awarded “Best Film” at the Film Festival in Asia.
Though all these films won awards in film festivals, they were nevertheless commercial flops, which caused Lee Hsing to lose confidence in his directing. He decided to make a popular genre film – a musical. Stardust/Qun xing hui (1969) was based on a popular novel and a real news event about an abused singer. The film was a box-office hit, and Lee entered his most successful decade in commercial filmmaking.
In 1969, to help Li Han-hsiang resolve his debts, Lee codirected an omnibus film Four Moods/Xi nu ai le (1970), with Li, King Hu, and Pai Ching-jui, in which each director was responsible for one segment. Lee directed the “Sadness” segment, which was based on stories in Strange Tales of Liaozhai. The film was praised for its resolution of complex ethical conflicts of hatred, cleverly contrasting strong and weak, as well as contradictions between men and women.
After Four Moods, Li Hsing and Pai Ching-jui left the CMPC in 1969 to found their own Ta Chung Motion Picture Company with the CMPC cinematographers Lai Cheng-ying and Lin Chan-ting, and Hu Cheng-ding, former manager of the the CMPC project development department. During this period, Lee directed musical film, family melodrama, and comedy, all commercially successful, which inspired him to turn a long-standing idea into a costume wenyi pian film, Autumn Execution/ Execution in Autumn/Qiu jue (1971). Autumn Execution explores the Chinese patriarchal tradition that attached enormous importance to the continuation of the family lineage. This “serious” film not only won praise from Taiwan’s arts and cultural communities, it was shown continuously at first-run theaters in Taipei for over two months. It is definitely the peak of Lee Hsing’s film career.
After proving that he was capable of making “art” films, Lee turned to making popular entertainment movies that catered to audience tastes. Love is an Elusive Wind/Feng cong nali lai (1972), starring Ou Wei as a cowboy and Tang Pao-yun as his beloved, was considered out of character for Lee Hsing, who at the time was just in the mood for having fun as director. It, however, did poorly theatrically.
Lee returned to making Chiungyao film. The record-breaking grosses of both The Young Ones/Cai yun fei (1973) and The Heart with Million Knots/Xin you qian qian jie (1973), indicated that the combination of Lee and writing partner Chang Yung-hsiang, as well as actors Chen Chen, Joan Lin Feng-Chiao, Chin Han, Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin, and Alan Tang Kwong-Wing were the best team for making Chiungyao films. In these films, Lee tells popular love stories with lovely images and beautiful songs. They were also very successful in Southeast Asia, making Chiung Yao and her novels popular there. Lee’s Chiungyao film period came to an end in 1977, when Chiung Yao founded a film production company to make her own Chiungyao film.
He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978) marked a return to realism for Lee Hsing, and another peak in his career. Based on a true story, the film portrays a handicapped boy who, despite his disability, goes to school everyday by crawling. With a strong will and desire to learn, the main character manages to enter the university and find true love. He Never Gives Up was not only the top-grossing film of 1978, it won five prizes at the 1978 Golden Horse Awards, including, “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” “Best Screenwriter” (Chang Yung-hsiang), “Best Actor” (Chin Han), and “Best Cinematography” (Chen Kun-Hou). It also won for “Best Director,” “Best Actor,” and “Best Actress” (Joan Lin Feng-Chiao) at the Film Festival in Asia.
Lee’s films after He Never Gives Up were mostly based on native Taiwanese stories, such as China, My Native Land/Yuan xiang ren (1980), from the autobiographical novel of native writer Chung Li-he/Zhong Lihe. Lee also combined native elements and love stories of young adults, together with popular campus folk songs, in The Story of a Small Town/Xiaocheng gushi (1979), Good Morning, Taipei/Zaoan taibei (1979), and Once Again with Love/Another Spring/ You jian chuntian (1981). These are accomplished films, and the first two won consecutively “Best Picture” awards at the Golden Horse.
Land of the Brave/Long de chuan ren (1981), Finding the Way/Xi yu chun feng (1984), and Lee’s final film, Story of the Heroic Pioneers/Heroic Pioneers/ Tangshan guo taiwan (1986), were all national policy film made respectively for the CMPC (owned by the KMT Party), China Film Studio (owned by the Ministry of National Defense), and Taiwan Film Studio (owned by the Taiwan Provincial Government). Land of the Brave, produced after the United States severed ties with the Nationalist government on Taiwan, advocated patriotism. Finding the Way was made to help the military propaganda department by diluting anti-Nationalist sentiment, and stopping the democracy movement on campus. Heroic Pioneers tried to propagate historical and kinship ties between Taiwan and the Mainland, and thus, was used to assist the “anti-Taiwan Independence” policy of the Nationalist government. The emergence of such national policy films was tied to the serious diplomatic predicament the Nationalist government encountered internationally, and the challenge of democratization that it was facing domestically.
The early 1980s was an era when the entertainment functions of film were gradually replaced by television and videotapes. The Taiwan film industry was also in transition, due to the rapid shift in film genres accepted by local audiences, which was probably stimulated by rampant copycat filmmaking and the vicious competition in making similar films. The CMPC produced an omnibus film in 1983, The Sandwich Man/Erzhi de da wanou, by three young directors – Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Tseng Chuang-hsiang/Zeng Zhuangxiang. By coincidence, Taiwan Film Studio also produced an omnibus film the same year, The Wheel of Life/Da lunhui, directed by Lee Hsing and veteran directors, Pai Ching-jui and King Hu. The Wheel of Life lost the competition at the box office, and positive criticism of The Sandwich Man marked a generational shift in Taiwan cinema. The emergence of Taiwan New Cinema marked the end of Lee Hsing’s film career as a director. Before bowing out, however, Lee gave his support to young filmmakers, and even produced Chang Yi’s Jade Love/Yu qing sao (1984). It would take 20 more years for Lee Hsing to produce another young director’s film, Dragon Eye Congee: A Dream of Love/Longyan zhou (Allen Chang Kou-fu/Zhang Guofu, 2005).
Lee reveals traditional family ethics and relationships in his films. He also likes to focus on native Taiwanese characters, using native landscapes and music. In a way, Lee Hsing is an inheritor, who passed on the traditions of Chinese films from 1930s and 1940s Shanghai to the new generations of Taiwan New Cinema and Second New Wave Cinema. Ang Lee, like Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chang Yi, Wang Tung, and Chen Kun-Hou before him, admitted that Lee’s 1960s films were nourishment for their own work, containing the roots of Chinese culture.
LEE, KANG-SHENG (1968- ). Tsai Ming-liang’s muse, and perhaps “alter-go,” Lee Kang-sheng, known to the world’s art cinema audience as “the” actor most often seen in Tsai’s films, was born in 1968 in Taipei to a family originally from Hunan Province, China. Lee was “discovered” by Tsai Ming-liang in 1991 at a video game parlor in Hsimenting, the entertainment district in central Taipei, when Tsai was casting for his television drama, The Kid/Xiaohai (1991). When Tsai directed his debut feature film for the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), he wrote a script based on Lee’s personality and history.
When they met, Lee had just failed the college entrance examination and needed to earn a living, probably as an insurance salesman or waiter. He spent most of his leisure time at the video game parlor. Tsai found in Lee Kang-sheng a young rebel full of obsessions, yet sad, confused, lonely, helpless, and withdrawn. In Rebels of the Neon God/Qinshaonian nuozha (1993), Lee plays exactly such a character, who hates yet worships/loves his opposite, played by Chen Chao-jung.
In Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994), Tsai Ming-liang’s second film, Lee plays a gay salesman who sells niches in a columbarium where people put their relative’s ashes. Though Lee never had acting training, he was nominated “Best Actor” for his restrained performance in Vive l’Amour, at the 1994 Golden Horse Awards, and won an acting award at the 1994 Festival des 3 Continents (Nantes Three Continents Festival) in France.
Lee appeared in all of Tsai Ming-liang’s subsequent films, almost all in the role of “Hsiao Kang,” Lee’s real nickname – The River/Heliu (1997), The Hole/Dong (1998), What Time Is It There?/Ni nabian jidian (2001), Goodbye, Dragon Inn/Bu san (2003), The Wayward Cloud/Tianbian yi duo yun (2005), I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone/Hei yanquan (2006), and Face/Visage/Lian (2009). He won “Special Mention” for The Wayward Cloud, at the 2005 Nantes Three Continents Festival.
Occasionally, Lee Kang-sheng appears in other directors’ films, including A Drifting Life/Chun hua meng lu (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1995), Sweet Degeneration/ Fang lang (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1997), Ordinary Heroes/Qianyan wanyu (Ann Hui, 1998), Sunny Doll/Qingtian wawa (Chen Yi-hsiung/Chen Yixiong, 2000), and A Way We Go/Ziyou menshen (Wang Tung, 2002). In most of these films, Lee plays similar types of character – melancholy, alone, shut-up inside himself, yet rebellious.
Lee Kang-seng’s debut film as a director was The Missing/Bu jian (2003), a simple film depicting a grandmother looking for her grandson, and a teenager for his grandfather. The film won “Best Film” at the 2004 Cinefan – Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema, “City of Athens” award at the 2004 Athens International Film Festival, “Best Cinematography” (Liao Pen-jung) at the 2003 Golden Horse, “New Currents” award at the 2003 Pusan International Film Festival, as well as the “Tiger,” “NETPAC,” and “KNF” awards at the 2004 Rotterdam International Film Festival.
Help Me Eros/Bang bang wo aishen (2007), Lee’s second feature as writer- director, focuses on a young man who sinks into drugs and sex. It was selected into competition at the 2007 Venice Film Festival and won “Best Feature” at the 2007 Gijón International Film Festival in Spain, “Special Jury Award” at the 2007 World Film Festival in Bangkok, and “Best Cinematography” (Liao Pen-jung) at the 2008 Asian Film Awards. Lee wrote and directed a short film in 2009, Rotation/Zi zhuan, starring Tsai Ming-liang and Lu Yi-Ching, for Public Television Service’s portmanteau film Taipei 24H/Taibei yixiang. The plotless, actionless film was shot in the coffee shop that Tsai, Lee, and Lu cofounded, in which Tsai and Lu reminiscence about one of the most talented modern dancers, Luo Man-Fei.
Lee Kang-seng and Tsai Ming-liang are also business partners, starting Home Green Films, the production company for almost all of Tsai’s and Lee’s films.
LEE, MARK PING-BIN (Li Bingbin) (1954- ). Internationally renowned cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bin has worked with master directors Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wong Kar-Wai, Ann Hui, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Jiang Wen, Tran Anh Hung, as well as international directors Yukisada Isao, Koreeda Hirokazu, Gilles Bourdos, and has also helped many young director shoot their first films, including Jay Chou, Wang Leehom, Xu Jinglei.
Born in 1954 in Fengshan, Kaohsiung (Gaoxiong) City, southern Taiwan, Lee’s father, a high-ranking military officer of the Nationalist army, died when Lee was four or five years old. Lee enjoyed going to the movies often, rather than studying, when he was a child. At age 10, Lee was sent to study and live at a special school for children of military personnel killed in action in Taipei, far from home. Lee was not a good student. He liked to play truant, forcing his mother to move to Taipei to take care of him and his two brothers.
Lee studied at Keelung (Jilong) Maritime Vocational High School. After graduation, he served in the navy as assistant engineer, responsible for fixing engines and power generators during the three-year compulsory military service, skills very useful in his career as cinematographer. After discharge from the military, Lee took part in a training program held by the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), majoring in cinematography. In 1977, he became assistant cameraman at the CMPC’s studios, working his way up for four years, until 1981, when Hong Kong director Taylor Wong Tai-Loi hired him to shoot a martial arts kung fu film, Return of the Deadly Blade/Feidao, youjian feidao. Thereafter, Lee worked with Taiwan New Cinema directors Chang Yi, on Kendo Kids/Zhujian shaonian (1983), and Tao Dechen, on Bicycle and I/Danche yu wo (1984). His breakthrough came when Wang Tung, the CMPC’s veteran art director, then a new director, hired him for Run Away/Ce ma ru lin (1984). The realistic cinematography in this realistic martial arts masterpiece impressed many, and won “Best Cinematography” at the 1984 Asia-Pacific Film Festival.
Hou Hsiao-hsien used Lee for his self-portrait film, A Time to Live and A Time to Die/Tongnian wangshi (1985), a subdued, restrained film shot mostly in low light or available light conditions. Afterwards, most of Hou’s films were shot by Mark Lee, who learned from the director how to capture “feelings,” “smells,” and “atmosphere.” Lee developed an unplanned, intuitive style of cinematography, a challenge for any cinematographer.
In 1987, at the age of 34, Lee married. He had acquired a good reputation after A Time to Live, A Time to Die and Dust in the Wind/Lian lian fengchen (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1986). In 1988, Lee was invited to shoot crime dramas in Hong Kong, such as Runaway Blues/Biao Cheng (David Lai Dai-Wai, 1989) and Hero of Tomorrow/Jianghu jieban ren (Poon Man-Kit, 1988). The CMPC was not pleased with his working in Hong Kong, however, prompting his resignation, thus starting Lee’s 10-year film career in Hong Kong. Most of the films Lee shot in there were fast-paced action and martial arts kung fu films. Through such experiences, Lee learned how to be quick, daring, and precise.
Lee’s film career spans more than 25 years, and includes more than 60 films. He has won many international awards, including “Technical Grand Prize” (shared with Christopher Doyle and William Chang) for In the Mood for Love/ Hua yang nian hua (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000) at the Cannes Film Festival, “Best Cinematography” for Dust in the Wind at the 1987 Festival des 3 Continents in Nantes, “Best Cinematography” for Norwegian Wood/Noruwei no mori (Tran Anh-Hung, 2010) at the 2011 Asian Film Awards, and many other awards in the People’s Republic of China and the United States.
In Taiwan, Lee has won five times at the Golden Horse Awards, for The Puppetmaster/Xi meng rensheng (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 1993), Summer Snow/Nuren sishi (Sylvia Chang, 1995), In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000), Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2001), and Three Times/The Best of Times/Zui hao de shiguang (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2005). Lee received three “Best Cinematography” prizes at the Hong Kong Film Awards, for Eighteen Springs/Ban sheng yuan (Ann Hui, 1997), In the Mood for Love, and After This Our Exile/Fu zi (Patrick Tam, 2006).
In 2008, the National Culture and Arts Foundation presented Mark Lee Ping-Bin with a “National Award for Arts,” one of the highest creative honors in Taiwan, a year after Lee’s mentor, Wang Tung, received the same award.
LEE, YOU-NING (Li Youning) (1951- ). Born in Taipei on 10 January 1951, director Lee You-ning grew up in a military dependents village. After graduating in 1975 from the Department of Educational Technology at Tamkang University, and completing the required two-year military service, Lee learned TV directing at the Chinese Television System (CTS). Subsequently, he went to the United States to study filmmaking at Columbia College in Hollywood, then communication technology and management in the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. While studying in the U.S., Lee worked as assistant column writer for a Taiwanese newspaper, and television program producer for a Taiwanese TV station. Lee returned to Taiwan in 1984, after finishing his studies in Los Angeles.
Lee You-ning’s first film, Elegy for a Killer/Shashou wange (1984), used a “stream of consciousness” style to represent the subjective view of a psycho killer. The film was a moderate success commercially and received mixed reviews from critics. His second film, Old Mo’s Second Spring/Lao mo de di er ge chuntian (1984), about the “marriage of convenience” between a veteran, who followed Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan in 1949, and an aboriginal woman, was awarded “Best Film” and “Best Original Screenplay” (Wu Nien-Jen) at the 1984 Golden Horse Awards, and was successful commercially.
Lee’s next film, Spring Outside of the Fence/Zhuliba wai de chuntian (1985), produced by former actress Hsu Feng’s Tomson Films, focused on life in a military dependents village, much like the one he grew up in. The Two of Us/Fuzi guanxi (1986), made for the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), was a Kramer vs. Kramer kind of story about the relationship between a failed, divorced father and a son he hardly knew. It was a box-office success, winning “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Wu Nien-Jen) at the 1986 Golden Horse. Cold/Nayinian women yiqi qu kan xue (1987) was a national policy film portraying and promoting nationalistic patriotism among youth after the American government severed diplomatic ties with the Nationalist government on Taiwan.
The Last Fall of Lao Ke/Lao ke de zuihou yi ge qiutian (1988) was based on a true story about a veteran-turned-bank robber and murderer. Trying not to sensationalize the story, the film was intentionally slow in tempo and difficult to watch. Lee’s other films included The Rules of the Game/Youshi guize (1989), a romantic melodrama; American Passport/Meiguo huzhao (1990); Wonder Seven/Qi jingang (1994); Formosa Sisters/Liulang wutai (1995); Red Letter/Ang Yee: Luuk chaai phan mangkawn/Hong zi (codirected with Nopporn Vatin, 2000), a CMPC coproduction with Thailand’s Five Star Productions; and Grandpa’s Home/Yeye de jia (2003).
In 1990, Lee became a television producer, and an adjunct professor teaching film directing and screenwriting in universities and workshops held by non-profit organizations or non-governmental organizations. He was appointed general secretary of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Executive Committee, 1992-1994 and 1996-1999. As manager of the CMPC’s Film Development Department between 1997 and 2001, Lee was producer or associate producer of many CMPC films made during that period, including Cop Agula/Tiaozi abula (1999), directed by Ang Lee’s younger brother Lee Khan; The Cabbie/Yunzhuanshou zhi lian (Chen Yiwen and Zhang Huakun, 2000); Lament of the Sand River/Shahe beige (Chang Chi-yung, 2000); Hidden Whisper/Xiao bai wu jinji (Vivian Chang, 2000); Shadow Magic/Xiyang jing (Ann Hu, 2000); An Ocean Too Deep/Shen shen taipingyang (Pan Guan-yuan, 2001); A Way We Go/Ziyou menshen (Wang Tung, 2001); A Pinwheel Without Wind/Tingche zan jie wen (Liu Te-kai, 2001); and Be My Valentine/Eryue shisi (Chou Yan-tse , 2002).
Lee You-ning directed a new film in 2011, Four Hands/Mian yin zi, mostly shot at a Chinese film studio. The story is about the tragic divide of the Taiwan Strait, between Chinese on the Mainland and their relatives in Taiwan who fled to Taiwan followed Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government, after it lost the Civil War with the Chinese Communists in 1949.
LI, CHIA (Li Jia) (1923-1994). Born on 23 September 1923 in Amoy/Xiamen, Fujian Province in China, Li Chia graduated from the Department of History at Xiamen University. He was a reporter, editor, and copy editor at a newspaper in Amoy before moving to Taiwan after the Nationalists took over in 1945. Li first worked at the Taiwan Provincial Agricultural Cooperatives in 1947, but by 1951, transferred to the Agricultural Education Film Studio (AEFS). The studio had been established in 1943 by the Nationalist government’s Ministry of Agriculture, and merged with the Taiwan Motion Picture Company (TMPC) in 1954 to become the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), controlled by the Kuomintang (KMT)/Nationalist Party. Li’s initial responsibility at the AEFS was writing scripts for documentary films to be used in agricultural education. He soon became supervising director of screenplays, and then director of production development at the newly established CMPC studio.
Beginning in 1955, the CMPC allowed Li and others to work for the flourishing privately-owned film companies that produced Taiwanese-dialect film. Li made more than a handful of such films, such as The Fickle Heart of a Beauty/Zhen jia meiren xin (1958), before being given a chance to direct a Mandarin film. Spring Tide at the Reclaimed Land/Haipu chunchao (1961), a romance used to propagate the achievements of Nationalist veterans who reclaimed land from the ocean, was Li Chia’s debut Mandarin film, which won him a chance to codirect with Lee Hsing the first healthy realism film made in the CMPC, The Oyster Girl/Ke nu (1963), which was successful domestically and won “Best Dramatic Feature” at the 1964 Film Festival in Asia.
Li Chia’s Orchids and My Love/Wo nu ruolan (1966), a melodramatic wenyi pian, won him “Best Director,” “Best Film,” and three other technical awards at the 1967 Golden Horse Awards. Later, Li’s The Evergreen Mountains/Gaoshan ching (1970) won “Excellent Film” and “Best Actor” (Ko Hsiang-Ting) Golden Horse awards.
Besides melodramatic wenyi pian, Li Chia was also known for his epic/war films, such as Fire Bulls/Huan wo heshan (codirected with Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui, 1966), a historical costume drama representing Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek’s determination to recover Mainland China; and Sergeant Hsiung/Da Motianling (1974), about a Nationalist army victory in battle with Communists in Northeast China (former Manchuria).
Li Chia was a director with the same status as Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui in the 1960s. He codirected with them once again in 1974, a portmanteau film, The Three Tales/Da san yuan, in which Li’s story concerned a boxer who found confidence in himself. Li codirected a military training drama with young female director Wang Ying, The Chinese Amazons/Nubing riji (1975), for the military-owned China Film Studio (CFS).
Li was also active in television series drama in the early- to mid-1970s, directing several popular martial arts serials. He also directed many wuxia films, such as Lost Samurai Sword/Yujian piao xiang (1977), based on famous wuxia writer Ku Lung’s novel and written for the screen by another famous writer, Ni Kuang; Pai yu ching/Bai yu jing, based on a second Ku Lung wuxia novel; Love and Sword/The Samurai/Yaoming di xiao fang (1979), adapted from a third wuxia novel by Ku Lung, and codirected with young director Yu Kan-ping, who wrote the screenplay of Pai yu ching for Li; and A Sword Named Revenge/Ming jian fengliu (1981), yet another wuxia pian based on a Ku Lung novel and again adapted by Ni Kuang.
One of Li Chia’s last films before retiring as a film director was Impending War/Zhanzheng qianxi (1984). The story depicts people’s anxiety caused by the Japanese invasion and Communist rebellion, as well as the difficult decisions faced by the general population in China during a time of dramatic turbulence in the 1920s and 1930s. This national policy film had a high budget, but was very unsuccessful at the box office.
The failures of Impending War and other national policy films in the mid-1980s marked the end of an era of government-affiliated studios making propaganda films, such studios included the CMPC, CFS, and Taiwan Film Studio (TFS), owned and operated by the Taiwan Provincial Government. At the same time, the CMPC started to implement its “newcomer policy,” fostering young novice directors who eventually created the Taiwan New Cinema movement in the mid-1980s.
The last stage in Li Chia’s career was primarily as a television series drama director. He died in Taipei of cardiopulmonary failure on 25 December 1994, at the age of 71. Before his death, Li was working on The Story of Langhong/Shao langhong (1992), which was completed by his protégé Yeh Hung-Wei.
LI, HAN-HSIANG (Li Hanxiang) (1926-1996). Director Li Han-hsiang was born in Jinxi County, Fentian (now Liaoning) Province in China. In 1946 Li enrolled in the National Peiping Academy of Arts, studying oil painting, where he was also active in theater performances. Because of his role in the student movement, Li was suspended and later expelled. He briefly studied at the Shanghai Experimental Drama School, before moving to Hong Kong in late 1947.
Li started his film career playing bit parts in productions of the Great China Film Company. In 1949 Li enrolled in the actors training class at Yung Hwa Motion Picture Studios, but was soon expelled again. He continued to perform small roles in Yung Hwa productions, before joining Great Wall Film Production Company and Grandview Studios, painting billboards, dressing sets, as well as acting in bit parts, and dubbing voices in foreign films. Li wrote the screenplay for Yan Jun’s Singing under the Moon/Cuicui (1953) and was assistant director.
Li’s directorial debut at age 30, Blood in Snow/Red Blood in the Snow/Xue li hong (1956), was a well-crafted film that earned him an invitation to join Shaw & Sons Ltd. When Shaw Brothers replaced Shaw & Sons, transforming into the foremost Hong Kong studio, Li became one of its finest directors. He directed 23 films for Shaw & Sons and Shaw Brothers, before establishing his own production company in 1963. Among these films, Diau Charn (1958), The Kingdom and the Beauty/Jiangshan meiren (1959) and The Love Eterne (1963) set off a wave of huangmei diao genre films in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The Love Eterne was based on one of the most admired Chinese folktales. The tragic love story played for 186 days in Taiwan movie theaters, breaking all records. It was estimated that the number of tickets sold equaled 90 percent of Taipei’s population. When the film’s lead actress, Ivy Ling Bo, came to thank the audience a half year after the film premiered in Taiwan, she was literally surrounded by a frenzied crowd that extended from the Taipei airport to the cinema. Taipei was described as “a city of madness” by the Hong Kong press.
In 1963, Li Han-hsiang established his own Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) in Hong Kong, and soon moved its operations to Taiwan under pressure from Shaw Brothers. GMP was established with financial backing from the Cathay Organisation, and the Union Film Company (Lianbang), a Taiwan film distributor of Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), Cathay Organisation’s subsidiary in Hong Kong. Lianbang sided with MP&GI because of a business dispute over the distribution right of The Love Eterne in Taiwan with Shaw Brothers.
Li brought with him to Taiwan some other directors, writers, film technicians, and a few actresses from Shaw Brothers. The GMP made many quality films in its five-year history in Taiwan. However, the company lost a lot of money due to Li’s lack of business and financial management abilities. Li’s financial situation deteriorated after a tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of MP&GI’s chairman and general manager, Loke Wan-tho, and the president of Lianbang, Hsia Weitang, as well as other delegates to the 11th Film Festival in Asia, held in Taipei in 1964.
After losing the two major supporters of the GMP, Li was less and less able to maintain a smooth cash flow, and had problems making ends meet. To make matters worse, Li borrowed money in 1966 to built soundstages and a backlot in suburban Taipei, in order to realize his grand scheme of establishing a film empire. Eventually, the GMP was not able to pull itself out of the financial morass, and Li lost both his film company and studio.
Afterward, Li stayed on in Taiwan working as a freelance director, developing and directing film projects for other film companies. His major works during this period included Storm over the Yangtse River/An Inch of Ground an Inch of Blood/Yicun shanhe yicun xie (1969) and The Story of Ti Ying/Tiying (1971), two popular films with political overtones that were produced by the military-operated China Film Studio.
In order to raise money to help Li out of his financial distress, directors Lee Hsing and Pai Ching-jui decided to produce a portmanteau film Four Moods/Xi nu ai le (1970). Lee Hsing, Li Han-hsiang, Pai Ching-jui and King Hu, considered the four major Taiwan directors at the time, were each to direct an episode expressing one of four moods – joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness – using actors and technicians from the Hong Kong and Taiwan film industries. Four Moods is considered an extraordinary film in Taiwan cinema history. Li directed the “Happiness” episode to look like a widescreen Chinese landscape painting, a visual masterpiece in which ghosts and humans, in separate ying and yang spaces, were positioned on the same plane. Foreground and background on the plane were used to switch between the states of null and full. Li’s aesthetics of poetry and painting contained symbolic meanings and philosophy of life.
However good their original intentions were, each of the directors of Four Mood tried his best to outshine the others, thus making the production costs too high to earn any significant profit meant to benefit Li Han-hsiang. Li was trapped in yet deeper water after being falsely accused of being a spy for the Mainland Chinese Communists. He was put under “island arrest” and prohibited from leaving Taiwan. Li was finally able to return to Hong Kong in 1971, using the pretense of working in Japan on a music score for the military-produced film, The Story of Ti Ying.
During his 8 years in Taiwan, Li Han-hsiang produced and directed many film classics, among the most important being Hsi Shih: Beauty of Beauties (1965) and The Winter (1969). Li was instrumental in promoting the development of Taiwan film genres, such as huangmei diao, historical costume drama, and spy drama.
The GMP had purchased the rights to adapt many Taiwanese popular romantic novels, and helped to create another film genre, wenyi pian. Among the wenyi pian films produced in Taiwan in the 1960s, those adapted from Chiung Yao were the most in demand. By the 1970s, the tremendous box-office success for films adapted from her romantic novels made Chiungyao film a unique genre of its own. Li was instrumental in promoting the genre in Taiwan.
After his dejected return to Hong Kong from Taiwan in 1971, Li Han-hsiang started “indulging in vices” and created yet another new genre, “cheating film.” His cheating trilogy about con games and everyday deceptions was a big hit, and Li received an invitation to rejoin Shaw Brothers. The profitability of his cheating films, fengyue films (erotic pictures or “softcore” sex films set in historical times), and warlord series, had won Li the trust of Sir Run Run Shaw, who approved him to direct The Empress Dowager/Qing guo qing cheng (1975) and The Last Tempest/Ying tai qi xie (1976), two historical epic dramas about the Qing imperial court.
Li began his plan to make films in China as early as 1979 and was finally able to realize his mainland projects in 1982. He directed The Burning of the Imperial Palace/Huo shao yuanmingyuan (1983) and Reign Behind a Curtain/Chui lian ting zheng (1983), another two historical drama epics that again dealt with the Qing Imperial Court of Empress Dowager Cixi. This time, however, Li shot the films at authentic locations in China, rather then on Hong Kong soundstages and studio backlots.
Li was also appointed a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a patriotic united front organization led by the Communist Party of China. Li’s collaboration with the Communist government infuriated the Nationalist government in Taiwan, which was still in a hostile state with the Mainland Chinese. The Nationalist branded him a filmmaker affiliated with “the communist bandits.” Li was prohibited from entering Taiwan, and his films banned from public screenings there. The ban was finally removed after Taiwan lifted Martial Law in 1987. He was invited by Lee Hsing to attend the 1993 Golden Horse Awards, returning to Taiwan for the first time since his grand failure at running the GMP.
In 1997, at the Golden Horse Awards ceremony, Li was awarded a Life Achievement Award posthumously, a year after his death in Beijing while shooting a 40-episode historic epic television series Fire Burns the Efang Palace/Huo shao efanggong (1997).
During his long career, Li proved that he was still a master at historical research and art direction. In his epic drama films, using luxurious sets and props, Li is surpassed by no one in his ability to represent nuances of traditional Chinese ways of life.
Many classics produced and/or directed by Li Han-hsiang in the 1960s and early 1970s are among his great contributions to Taiwan cinema. The talent and knowledge Li brought to Taiwan had elevated both the techniques and standards of Taiwanese filmmakers. He set up training programs for actors and promoted the star system, facilitating the vitality and prosperity of the Taiwan film industry in the 1960s. He also developed many new genres, which boosted the quantity and variety of Taiwan films. Therefore, it is fair to say that a significant part of the foundation for Taiwan’s golden era of cinema in the 1970s was laid in the 1960s by Li Han-hsiang and his Grand Motion Picture Company.
LI, SHU (Ri Sho, Li Songfeng) (1904-2003). Among all those involved in the filmmaking business during the Japanese colonial rule, Li Shu (Ri Sho in Japanese, or Li Songfeng, as sometimes called by his friends) was the only native Taiwanese cinematographer. Li was born and raised in Shinchiku (Hsinchu/Xinzhu) City in Northern Taiwan. Graduating from Hsinchu First Common School (Shinchiku daiichi kōgakkō) in 1917, he enrolled in the Taiwan Commerce and Industry School (Taiwan shōkō gakkō), founded the same year by the Taiwan branch of Tōyō Kyōkai (Eastern Society), an organization set up by the Japanese government to help manage its colonies of Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria.
After training four years at the vocational school, Li was admitted to Hsinchu Electric Light Company (Shinchiku dentō kaisha), and years later the Government-General Office’s Bureau of Colonial Production (Shokusankyoku), where he studied techniques of making movies by reading cinematography books in English and Japanese. He befriended and learned from Miura Masao, one of the cameramen from Japan proper hired by the Taiwan Education Society.
In order to put his new cinematography skills into practice, Li purchased a Universal 35mm film camera by mail order from Parker James Company in Chicago. Li was reported to be on the production team of God Is Merciless (1925), one of the earliest fiction films made in Taiwan by the Motion Pictures Department of Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō (Taiwan Daily News), a local newspaper with strong ties to the colonial government.
When the Taiwan Cinema Study Association was established in 1925, Li was appointed a member of the board of directors, and was the cameraman for its debut film, Whose Fault Is It? (1925), a short fiction film made totally by members of the Association. He shot his debut film with the help of Miura Masao, who served as its consultant. The box office failure of the film was a big blow to Li and his friends in the Taiwan Cinema Study Association.
The same year, Li Shu also established a distribution company, Far East Shadowplay/Jidong yingxi gongsi (1925-1937), with Li Weiyuan, a friend from his home town, and some others. Their intention was to first distribute films from China and Western countries, and later to produce, exhibit, and rent films, a goal he and his partners was never able to achieve.
Li Shu was one of the earliest Taiwan distributors of Chinese films from Shanghai. In 1925 he went to Shanghai to arrange film distribution deals as well as to study techniques of film printing at Shanghai’s Pathé Studio. Chinese films imported by Far East Shadowplay included My Younger Brother/Didi (Dan Duyu, 1924) and Connected by Water and Fire/Shui huo yuanyang (Cheng Bugao, 1925).
Three years after the failure of Whose Fault Is It?, Li and some co-workers from the Taiwan Cinema Study Association were commissioned to shoot location scenes to be used in rensageki dramas performed by Jiangyun-she, a theater troupe from Taoyuan in northern Taiwan. The films were used to express intense feelings such as sad near-death situations. Such visual effects garnered applause throughout Taiwan, boosting the morale of Li and his group. They quickly established Baida Film Productions in 1929, with financial support from new partners.
Their first film, Blood Stains, an action-romance directed by Zhang Sunqu (Chyo Sonkyo), one of the directors of Whose Fault Is It?, premiered in early 1930 in Eraku-za to local Taiwanese audiences, was very successful at the box office. This inspired Li and his associates to start ambitious film projects that would be distributed to China and Southeast Asia. Even though Li’s camera was rather simple and crude, his camerawork was considered not inferior to that of Shanghai cameramen. Baida began recruiting actors and actresses in March 1930. However, Baida was incapable of adapting to the new era of sound films and rising militarism. Baida Film Productions was eventually disbanded in 1934.
Notwithstanding the difficulties encountered by Baida Film Productions, Li Shu continued his career as a cameraman, making films for all types of occasions, even funerals. He was commissioned in 1930 by Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō to shoot newsreel footage of its correspondents, many branch offices and cityscapes near those branches. It was to be part of a documentary, A Film about a Newspaper/Shimbun eiga, compiled from footage shot by different cameramen during various stages of newspaper production and distribution. The documentary was made to celebrate completion of their new newspaper building.
Sound film was finally introduced to Taiwan in 1936 by the Taiwan Production Office of Kokusui Sound Film Productions, who came from Japan to produce an educational fiction film, Alas Shisangan. Li was in the camera crew. But after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in July 1937, there was no more camera work available. However, from May 1938 until the end of that year, Li was hired by Taiwan Film Industry Co., whose business mainly involved selling, renting, and maintaining 16mm and 35mm film equipment and supplies, as well as traveling exhibitions of films. In January 1939 Li transferred to a similar company, Nanhō Film Industry Co., in charge of cinematography and clerical work in its production department.
The Provisional Department of Information of the Government-General Office founded Taiwan Film Association (Tai’ei) in 1941, to regulate entertainment. This included all film activity, such as production, theatrical and non-theatrical distribution, and exhibition of both fiction and non-fiction films, island-wide, in Southern China, and in Southeast Asia. Li joined Tai’ei soon after it was established, as technician in charge of film lighting.
After Japan was defeated in the Pacific War, Taiwan was taken over by the Republic of China. The Propaganda Committee of the Taiwan Provincial Administrative Executive Office in the Nationalist government dispatched Bai Ke to take over Tai’ei in October 1945. Li Shu, and a few other Taiwanese who worked for Tai’ei, were retained in their original positions in the new organization based at Tai’ei’s facility, which would later be called Taiwan Film Studio, in which Li was hired as a technician in the film laborarory.
In 1953 Li left Taiwan Film Studio and established a shop in Ximenting, central Taipei, to run a film equipment rental business leasing cameras, lenses, and lighting equipments, as well as processing films. Three years later, when Taiwanese-dialect film became popular, Li was a cinematographer once again. Taohua Takes a Ferry/Taohua Guodu (Kuo Po-Lin/Guo Bolin, 1956) was one of the few films with Li’s camerawork that are still available. Afterward, Li Shu was active in the film circle for a while. He died in 2003 at the age of 99.
LIANBANG. See UNION FILM COMPANY.
LIAO, CHING-SONG (Liao Qingsong) (1950- ). Nicknamed “caretaker of Taiwan New Cinema,” Liao Ching-Song/Liao Ching-Sung is an editor, director, writer, and producer, who was involved in most of the important Taiwan New Cinema (TNC) films and all of the post-Taiwan New Cinema films of Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wan Jen, and Peggy Chiao Hsiung-Ping.
Liao was born in Taipei’s Monga/Mengjia area. His home was close to a movie theater, where he frequently went to see movies “free,” since his neighbor was the projectionist. After watching a movie, Liao often told the story in the evening to his grandfather and children in the neighborhood. Thus, Liao’s interest in storytelling and films began when he was still in elementary school. After the death of his father, however, Liao withdrew from social communication, indulging in his own fantasy world. When he studied at Taipei Cheng Kung Senior High School, he became an enthusiastic cineaste, reading film books and drawing storyboards of the American TV war series Combat! (1962), rather than preparing for his college entrance exam. Consequently, Liao failed the exam and did not take it again, nor did he find a job. Instead, Liao attended the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC)’s film technicians training class in 1973 to learn the techniques of film editing.
After graduating the same year as the top student in the training class, Liao was hired by the CMPC. His first job was assistant editor of a blockbuster film, Everlasting Glory/Ying lie qianqiu (Ting Shan-hsi, 1976). By the next film, also a blockbuster national policy film directed by Ting, Eight Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/Babai zhuangshi (1977), Liao was promoted to co-editor. He edited three films directed by Lee Hsing, He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978), My Native Land/Yuan xiang ren (1980), and Land of the Brave/ Long de chuan ren (1981), as well as a dozen other traditional commercial films, before teaming up with Hou Hsiao-hsien and Chen Kun-Hou. Liao edited Hou’s three pre-TNC films, Cute Girl/Lovable You/Jiushi liuliu de ta (1980), Cheerful Wind/Play While You Play/Fenger ti ta cai (1981), and The Green, Green Grass of Home/Zai na hepan qingcao qing (1982).
The technique of film editing at the CMPC changed abruptly in the 1970s, from editing with upright Moviola to flatbed editing in 1976. When the CMPC and an Australian production company coproduced Attack Force Z/Z zi tegongdui in 1981 (directed by Tim Burstall, with Mel Gibson, John Philip Law, Sam Neill, and Taiwan star Sylvia Chang), Liao learned the techniques of editing sync sound from the Australian editor.
When the CMPC began its “newcomer policy,” hiring young, inexperienced directors to make the omnibus film, In Our Time/Guangyin de gushi (1982), Liao was the editor. Since then, Liao was editor of nearly all the films of the new directors. He participated in their films from preproduction, through editing, sound editing/mixing, color timing, and final printing, thus becoming a good friend and “caretaker” of these young directors.
During the Taiwan New Cinema period, Liao edited more than 10 films a year. Through interacting with them, he learned film aesthetics, and began studying many aspects of humanities, such as philosophy and literature. To Liao, editing became not only a profession, but an art.
Liao Ching-Song’s concept of editing experienced a ground-breaking change when Hou Hsiao-hsien made The Boys from Fengkuei/Fenggui lai de ren (1983), in which traditional, linear narrative logic was replaced by collage-style “jumping” emotional narrative logic.
Due to profession burnout from working too hard on editing too many films, Liao left the position as editor in 1984, when Hou was preparing his self-portrait film, A Time to Live and A Time to Die/Tongnian wangshi (1985). Though he tried to develop a new career in business, Liao could not resist Wan Jen’s invitation to cowrite Super Citizen/Chaoji shimin (1984). Liao went back to the CMPC only a year after his resignation. He became writer-director of Be My Lovely Child Again/Qidai ni zhangda (1987) and When the Ocean is Blue/Haishui zheng lan (1988), his only films as writer-director. In 2001, Liao codirected with Wan Jen Sacrificial Victims/Da xuanmin (aka Angel/Tianshi or guilei tianshi) (2002), which exposes the secrets of political maneuvering and election campaigns as well as the duplicity of political figures.
Liao’s working relationship with Hou Hsiao-hsien was, and is still, like wrestling, constantly fighting with each other to get the best out of a film. Sometimes the result was surprisingly good, while other times it was disappointing to Liao, although most often not to Ho. To Liao, A City of Sadness/ Beiqing chengshi (1989) was a pleasant surprise; The Puppetmaster/Xi meng rensheng (1993) a disappointment; Good Men, Good Women/Hao nan hao nu (1995) miserable; Goodbye, South Goodbye/Nanguo zaijian, nanguo (1996), an unexpected amazing success; and Flowers of Shanghai/Hai shang hua (1998), eye-opening.
Liao Ching-Song started producing with Wan Jen’s Super Citizen Ko/Chaoji da guomin (1994). Four years later, he began producing (as well as editing) Hou’s films, including Flowers of Shanghai, Millennium Mambo/Qianxi manpo (2001), Café Lumière/Kōhī jikō/Kafei shiguang (2003), Three Times/The Best of Times/Zui hao de shiguang (2005), and The Voyage of the Red Balloon/Le voyage du ballon rouge/Hong qiqiu (2007).
In the 2000s, Liao both produced and edited films by Taiwanese and Chinese young directors, including Somewhere Over Dreamland/Menghuan buluo (Cheng Wen-Tang, 2003), Reflections/Ailisi de jinzih (Yao Hung-i, 2005), and Judge/ Touxi (Liu Jie, 2009). He also helped Kawaguchi Hirofumi produce the Japanese director’s debut film, Rail Truck/Torocco (2010), a Japanese film shot in Taiwan.
In addition, Liao edited other young Taiwanese and Chinese directors’ films, such as Blue Gate Crossing/Lanse damen (Yee Chih-yen, 2002), Liao’s first encounter with post-Second New Wave directors; Love at 7-Eleven/7-Eleven zhi lian (Teng Yung-Shing, 2003), Drifters/Er di (Wang Xiaoshuai, 2003), Karmic Mahjong/Xiezhan daodi (Wang Guangli, 2006), Rain Dogs/Taiyang yue (Ho Yuhang, 2006), Courthouse on Horseback/Mabei shang de fating (Liu Jie, 2006), The Road in the Air/Danche shang lu (Isaac Li Zhi-Chiang, 2006), Island Etude/ Lianxi qu (Chen Huai-en, 2006), The Most Distant Course/Zui yaoyuan de juli (Lin Jing-Jie, 2007), God Man Dog/Liulang shen gou ren (Chen Singing, 2007), Orz Boyz/Jiong nanhai (Yang Ya-che, 2008), Detour to Paradise/Qilu tiantang (Rich Lee, 2008), Beautiful Crazy/Luan qingchun (Lee Chi-Yuan, 2008), Deep in the Clouds (Liu Jie and Ni Cai, 2010), One Day/You yi tian (Hou Chi-jan, 2010), and My Blind Uncle (George Hsin, 2010).
The many varied films that Liao Ching-Song has edited, written, and/or produced have won countless awards in film festivals around the world. In the 2002 Golden Horse Awards, he was the recipient of the “Best Taiwanese Film Professional of the Year” award. The National Culture and Arts Foundation presented Liao in 2007 the prestigious National Award for the Arts, in recognition of all his achievements as an artist.
LIAO, HSIANG-HSIUNG (Liao Xiangxiong) (1933- ). Born in the Japanese concession in Shanghai in 1933, director Liao Hsiang-hsiung was considered to be of Japanese nationality until 1945, when Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. Liao moved to Taiwan with his family after World War II and began learning Mandarin. He entered the National Taiwan Teachers’ College (NTTC, now National Taiwan Normal University) in the early 1950s. After graduation, Liao briefly worked in the NTTC’s audiovisual department before he was sent by the government to study broadcasting at Japan’s public radio station, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) in 1959. Two years later, Liao was hired by San Francisco State University to edit Chinese-language textbooks, where he also received his MA degree in Radio-TV-Film after concurrently studying for three years in the graduate school.
After Liao Hsiang-hsiung returned from the United States in October 1964, he worked for four years at the Experimental Educational Television Broadcasting Station, owned and operated by the Ministry of Education, before he finally got a chance to direct his first feature film, General Kuan/Wusheng guangong (1969), a costume drama. With a feature under his arm, Liao was hired by Kung Hong, general manager of the Nationalist-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), as a contract director. His three-year, six-picture contract was completed in two years. The six films he made in 1970 and 1971 for the CMPC were mostly romantic costume dramas and romantic comedy, such as Love Can Forgive and Forget/Zhen jia qianjin (1971), which won Judy Ongg/Weng Qianyu an award for “Best Actress” at the 1972 Golden Horse Awards.
After leaving the CMPC before his three-year contract expired, Liao was hired by Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) as head of its programming department, then by Chinese Television Service (CTS) which employed him as programming consultant for five years. In 1980, Liao was appointed Director of Taiwan Film Studio (TFS). In his nearly five-year tenure at the TFS, Liao produced several feature films, including a portmanteau film, The Wheel of Life/Da lunhui (1983), codirected by older masters King Hu, Lee Hsing, and Pai Ching-jui, which failed badly at the box office, marking the emergence of Taiwan New Cinema.
Liao Hsiang-hsiung became director of the Department of Motion Picture Affairs (DMPA) in the Government Information Office (GIO) in 1987. As the only director of the DMPA who actually came from the film indusry, Liao was able to propose effective measures to help the industry, which began a two-decade downturn in the late 1980s. Such measures included starting the Domestic Film Guidance Fund, the exchange of films between Mainland China and Taiwan, and the lifting of restrictions so Taiwan productions could shoot on location in China.
Liao was assigned to a GIO post in Japan in 1989. After his five-year diplomatic service abroad, he was appointed general manager of a telecommunications company owned and operated by the Kuomintang Party (KMT), which started a satellite television channel in 1994 under Liao’s two-year leadership. In 1996, in preparation for Taiwan’s first democratic presidential election, Liao was assigned a post in the KMT as assistant publicity officer. He remained in the position for six years, until retiring in 2002.
During his 10-year career as a film director, Liao made at least 22 features, many of them romantic comedy films, but including melodramatic wenyi pian, thriller, and huangmei diao film as well. New West Chamber/Xin xi xiang ji (aka The Romance of the West Chamber) (1979), starring Judy Ongg, Ko Chun-hsiung, and renowned Taiwanese Opera singer Yang Li-hua, was Liao’s only huangmei diao film, and is considered the last such film made in Taiwan.
LIN, BRIGITTE CHING-HSIA (Lin Qingxia) (1954- ). Acting in over 100 films during a 20-year film career, Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia (aka Lam Ching-ha/Venus Lin) was a superstar in both Taiwan and Hong Kong from the mid-1970s to mid-1990s. Lin was born on 3 November 1954 in Sanchung/Sanchong, near Taipei City. Her father was originally a soldier from China’s Shandong Province, who moved to Taiwan in 1949 when the Nationalists lost the Civil War there. While still a 17-year-old student at Ginling (Jinling) Girls’ High School in 1972, Lin was “discovered” by a talent scout on a street in Ximenting, an entertainment district in central Taipei.
Lin was introduced to director Sung Tsun-Shou, who was casting his Chiungyao film Outside the Window/Chuangwai (1973), based on Chiung Yao’s autobiographical novel of the same title. After persuading her parents, Lin starred in the film based on the novel of an author she adored. Though her debut performance was quite accomplished, it was never appreciated by the general audience in Taiwan, because the film was banned from showing in Taiwan until 2008 due to a copyright dispute between the filmmakers and the novelist. However, the film was very successful in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
The following year, Lin starred in Liu Chia-Chang’s wenyi pian, Gone with the Cloud/Yun piao piao (1974). The excellent box-office for this film prompted producers to try and sign a contract with her, but she was reluctant to be tied down and remained a freelance actor throughout her career. Lin appeared in 50 such romantic films. On average, Lin made five to six films per year during what she termed “unhappy Taiwan period” (1973-1984), and at her peak, 12 films in one year.
In those years, Brigitte Lin was most memorable for her roles in many Chiungyao films. She and Joan Lin Feng-Chiao, Chin Han and Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin appeared regularly as couples in Chiungyao films during the mid-1970s, consolidating Chiung Yao’s “empire.” Thus, at the time, they were called the “double Lins and double Chins.” In fact, when Chiung Yao founded a production company, Super Star Motion Picture Company, to make her own Chiungyao film in 1977, Brigitte Lin was her top choice to star in the films. Lin was in nine of the 13 Super Star productions. Nevertheless, Lin’s triangular romantic affairs with Charlie Chin and Chin Han finally forced her to move to Los Angeles, where she made Love Massacre/Ai sha (1981), a thriller directed by Hong Kong New Wave director Patrick Tam Ka-Ming. This was a turning point in her career. After that, she was able to play more mature roles.
Before Love Massacre, besides the romantic films, Lin had occasionally appeared in other types of films, including Sung Tsun-Shou’s Ghost in the Mirror/Gujing youhun (1974), a costumed ghost movie, Richard Chen Yao-chi’s Taiwanese screwball comedy Run Lover Run/Aiqing changpao (1975), and national policy film such as Ting Shan-hsi’s Eight-Hundred Heroes/800 Heroes/ Babai zhuangshi (1977) and The Magnificent 72/Bixue huang hua (1980). The most important work of Lin during this period, however, was Li Han-hsiang’s film based on a classic Ching dynasty novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber/ Jinyu liangyuan honglou meng (1977), in which she played the leading male role, Chia Pao-yu/Jia Baoyu. The tradition of females playing males was not unusual in Chinese Opera, and Lin was happy to get rid of her “romantic feminine look.” The film foreshadowed Brigitte Lin’s gender-bending roles in Hong Kong director Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues/Daoma dan (1986) and Swordsman II/Xiao ao jianghu zhi Dongfang Bu Bai (1992, produced by Tsui Hark, directed by Ching Siu-tung and Stanley Tong).
Before moving to Hong Kong, Lin appeared in three of Chu Yen-ping’s rather iconoclastic, mixed-genre, “boundary crossing” films – Golden Queen’s Commando/Hongfen bingtuan (1982), Pink Force Commando/Hongfen youxia (1982), and Fantasy Force Mission/Dragon Attack/Mini tegong dui (1982) – playing weird and absurd roles. Lin was obviously trying different genres, in an attempt to change her limiting superstar persona and find more challenging roles for herself. In 1983, she played a distinctive role in Tsui Hark’s Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountains/Xin shushan jianxia. This experience, and her good working relationship with Tsui Hark, attracted Brigitte Lin to relocate to Hong Kong in 1984.
However, it took her awhile before she could get a satisfying role in Hong Kong. Like Maggie Cheung in Jacky Chan’s Police Story/Jingcha gushi (1985), Lin’s characters were also merely decorative. Her other disappointing roles included Ringo Lam’s The Other Side of Gentleman/Junzi haoqiu (1984) and Karl Maka’s The Thirty Million Rush/Hengcai san qianwan (1987). It was Tsui Hark’s Peking Opera Blues and Swordman II that finally offered the breakthrough roles that Lin was searching for, transforming her into a martial arts “movie goddess.”
In 1991, Lin Ching-Hsia accepted Taiwan film/theater writer-director Stan Lai’s invitation to perform in his play, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land/Anlian taohua yuan, first on stage and a year later as a film. It was her last appearance in any Taiwanese film. Three years later, Lin got married and retired from acting. Among all the films she appeared in before retirement, Brigitte Lin’s performance in Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time/Dong xie xi du (1994) and Chungking Express/ Chongqing senlin (1994) were the most memorable.
LIN CHAN-TING (Lin Zanting) (1930- ). Famed cinematographer Lin Chan-ting/ Lin Tsan-Ting was born on 22 March 1930 in Shengan, Taichung/Taizhong, in central Taiwan. After graduating from Taiwan Provincial Taichung First Senior High School in 1949, Lin became an apprentice in cinematography at the Agricultural Education Film Studio (AEFS) in Taichung. He was a camera assistant for Awakening from a Nightmare/Emeng chuxing (Tsung You/Zong You, 1950), the first anti-communist propaganda feature film made there. In 1954, when the AEFS merged with Taiwan Motion Picture Company (TMPC) to become Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), Lin was promoted from apprentice to the position of technician, but still worked as a camera assistant.
At the time, CMPC did not make more than two films annually. Therefore, when Taiwanese-dialect film became popular in 1956, the CMPC allowed Lin Chan-ting and other technicians in the cinematography and editing departments, as well as directors and writers, to also work for private companies on their Taiwanese-dialect films. Thus, Lin made his first film as cameraman for a Taiwanese-dialect film, Love at Crossroads/Aiqing shizilu (Lu Su-shang, 1957). Lin shot many such films, until he was drafted into two-year compulsory military service, between 1958 and 1960. After discharge from the army, Lin continued as cameraman for Taiwanese-dialect films. He was a technician in the cinematography department in both The Great Wall/Shin shikōtei/Qin shi huang (1962, directed by Tanaka Shigeo, starring Katsu Shintarō), a CMPC-Daiei Studios coproduction, and Rainbow Over Kinmen Strait/Kimumontō ni kakeru hashi/Jinmenwan fengyun (1962, directed by Matsuo Akinori, starring Ishihara Yūjirō), a CMPC-Nikkatsu coproduction. To prepare the CMPC technicians for the two coproductions, the Japanese film companies trained Lin and other technicians for a short period in Japan, on the technology of color cinematography.
Lin became officially a cameraman in the CMPC in 1964. His first color Mandarin film was Bloodshed on Wedding Day/Xinhun da xiean (Wang Yin, 1965), a thriller. Lin won “Best Color Cinematography” in 1968 for Lonely Seventeen/Jimo de shiqi sui (Pai Ching-jui, 1967) at both the 1968 Golden Horse Awards and 1968 Film Festival in Asia, for his use of moving camera and color. Subsequently, Lin Chan-ting became cinematographer for most of Pai Ching-jui’s features. Lin won his second Golden Horse for “Best Color Cinematography” in 1973 for Love Begins Here/Ai de tiandi (Liu Chia-Chang, 1973), and again in 1975 for Girl Friend/Nu pengyou (Pai Ching-jui, 1974), and yet another in 1976 for Victory/Meihua (Liu Chia-Chang, 1975). He won his second “Best Cinematography” award at the Film Festival in Asia in 1974 for Falling Snow Flakes/Xuehua pianpian (Liu Chia-Chang, 1974), a takeoff on Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965).
Liu Chia-Chang, whose films relied heavily on beautiful songs and excellent cinematography, counted on Lin Chan-ting’s camerawork. Other young directors of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Richard Chen Yao-chi and Wan Jen, also depended on Lin’s expertise in cinematography.
After Lin retired from the CMPC in early 1980s, he established Yifeng Studio to produce commercials/advertising films. He was also Taiwan producer for the commercials/advertising films of Dentsu Inc., Japan’s largest advertising agency.
Lin was president of ROC Cinematographers Association between 1994 and 1999.
Throughout Lin Chan-ting’s career as cinematographer, he made more than 130 feature films.
LIN CHENG-SHENG (Lin Zhengsheng) (1959- ). One of the prominent directors in the Second New Wave/Second Wave Taiwan Cinema, Lin Cheng-sheng is famous for his legendary ascent from bread baker to internationally renowned filmmaker.
Lin was born to a farming family in 1959, in Guanshan, a small town in rural Southeastern Taiwan. Lin’s father had been prevented by Lin’s grandfather from attending Japanese-run school, leading to lifelong resentment about the “snuffing out” of a brighter future, and constant quarreling between the father and grandfather. Lin’s mother died when he was very young, so his older sister had to drop out of elementary school to take care of him. Lin’s father wanted him to attend vocational school, instead of an academic high school, against his son’s will. Lin attended neither school and, at age 16, ran away to Taipei, where he became an apprentice at a bakery, working there on and off for 10 years.
After Lin Cheng-sheng completed the required military service, as much as he did not want to, he felt he had no option other than going back to baking. Whenever he was tired of the work, Lin would go home to Guanshan, and when things deteriorated, even steal money from his father.
Such a miserable life was unexpectedly changed by a sign announcing a film writing-directing workshop. Lin attended it and learned the basics of film aesthetics and screenwriting. He met his future wife, Ko Shu-ching/Ke Shuqing, in the workshop, and they made the acquaintance of Hsu Li-kong, director of the Film Library. Hsu later became the general manager of Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), and thus, was in a position to help Lin realize his dream of being a film director.
After finishing the training courses in the workshop, Lin and Ko married when they both were 29. Lin concentrated on writing screenplays, occasionally working as a hired hand at an orchard run by friends in Lishan, deep in the mountains in central Taiwan. Eventually, the couple rented an orchard to grow apples. They unfortunately lost their investment, which prompted Lin to buy a video camera and made a feature documentary on the lives of fruit farmers in Lishan. Old Chou, Old Wang, A-Hai and Their Four Farm Hands/Lao zhou lao wang ahai han ta de si ge gongren (1990) won top prize in the China Times Express Awards.
Next, Lin shot another documentary on video, Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (1991), tracing the life of a neighbor’s daughter who loved to sing, from adolescence to adulthood. Lin’s third short video documentary, Peacock Land of A-Feng and A-Yen/Afeng ayan de kongqiao di (1992), was about the farmers’ relationship to the land in Lishan. Both films again won awards at the same competition held by the China Times Express, an evening newspaper published by the China Times, a prestigious newspaper in Taiwan. Lin’s style of documentaries was straightforward and unpretentious, something one also finds in Lin’s feature films.
The Nationalist government declared 1993 “Cinema Year,” to help rescue the dying Taiwan film industry. A competition for short narrative film grants was started, and Lin’s proposal was selected. Lin’s first narrative film, Family Heirloom/Chuan jia bao (1994), was based on his own family. The short would become the blueprint for his debut feature-length narrative film, A Drifting Life/Chun hua meng lu (1995), which received a NT$4 million (US$150,000) government grant from the Government Information Office’s Domestic Film Guidance Fund, and was partially financed by the CMPC.
A Drifting Life is set in eastern Taiwan, where the tragic lives of a man and three generations of women unfold, as the four seasons change. Emotionally falling apart after his beloved wife dies in childbirth, the man (Lee Kang-seng) takes to the road, leaving his daughter and new-born son with his mother. He drifts around, working from place to place, and only comes home occasionally to visit his family. The film, reminiscent of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s early Taiwan New Cinema works, was also rooted in Lin’s memories of childhood and imaginings of his mother. It moves slowly, showing life as it is. A Drifting Life won a “Silver Award” at the 1996 Tokyo Film Festival’s Young Cinema Competition. It was invited to Section Parallèle (International Critics’ Week) at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, winning “Special Mention Prize of the Ecumenical Jury,” and also received “Special Jury Award” at the Fribourg Film Festival in Switzerland.
Lin’s second narrative feature, Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (1996), unrelated to his 1991 documentary feature of the same title, was coproduced by the CMPC and Zoom Hunt International Productions, founded by Hsu Li-kong after he left the CMPC in 1996. It portrays the relationship between two young women selling tickets in a Taipei movie theater box office. The film, one of the earliest Taiwan films to deal with lesbian romance in a sympathetic manner (see GAY AND LESBIAN FILMS), won both leading actresses, René Liu and newcomer Tseng Jing, “Best Actress Awards” at the 1997 Tokyo Film Festival, and screened in the Directors’ Fortnight at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival. The film established Lin’s presence on the international film festival circuit.
With Lin’s consecutive successes in the Tokyo Film Festival, his next film, also produced by Hsu Li-kong, attracted investment from Japanese public television station Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation, NHK). Sweet Degeneration/Fang lang (1997) tells the story of a directionless young man, troubled by the forbidden love between him and his older sister. Lin drew on his own life, once again, to construct the main character. The film was selected into competition at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival.
Set against a background of power transition from Japanese colonial rule to the Nationalist takeover of Taiwan, Lin’s next film, March of Happiness/Tianma cha fang (1999), incorporates the “Taiwan New Drama Movement” (see ERAKU-ZA; LIN TUAN-CHIU) and the “228 Incident” (in which the Nationalist army violently suppressed protesters and innocent bystanders, causing more than 20,000 deaths and casualties). The film, a (melo)dramatic, tragic love story, was actually adapted from a television drama series with the same title, commissioned by Formosa TV, owned and operated by a relatively small group who support the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). March of Happiness was selected to screen in “Un Certain Regard” at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. It was fairly well received in Taiwan, but was not successful with critics locally or internationally.
Betelnut Beauty/Ai ni ai wo (2000), a France-Taiwan coproduction, was the second film in producer Peggy Chiao’s “Tale of Three Cities” project, which included Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai’s Beijing Bicycle/Shiqi sui de danche (2001), as well as Taiwan directors Yee Chih-yen’s Blue Gate Crossing/Lanse damen (2002) and Hsu Hsiao-ming’s Love of May/Wuyue zhi lian (2004). Praised for its “fluid, almost jazz-like approach to film grammar,” the film was awarded the “Silver Bear for Best Director” and the “Piper Hidsieck New Talent Award” for the best young actress (Angelica Lee Sinje) at the 2001 Berlinale.
Following the great success of Betelnut Beauty, Lin did not go straight into making another film. Instead, he did a TV movie for Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS), The Man Who Lives in the Hotel/Yige zhu fandian de nanren (2001), about a lonely real estate broker who aspires to own a small island in the Caribbean, called “Crusoe,” in order to start a new life. Two years later, it was remade into Lin’s next feature film, Robinson’s Crusoe/Lubinxun piaoliu ji (2003), which was once again selected by “Un Certain Regard” at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. The film was praised for its astute precision of the performances, subtle script, and understated mise-en-scène.
The Moon Also Rises/Yueguang xia wo jide (2004), currently Lin’s most recent narrative feature film, is a family drama set in the mid-1960s, in which a divorced mother’s (Yang Kuei-Mei) tattered, desolate heart and passion is reawakened when she intercepts and secretly reads love letters sent to her daughter by a boyfriend teaching on an offshore island. Lin continues his style of using calm, contemplative images and carefully constructed domestic scenes, to contrast with intertwined complex political, social, and moral issues, and human relationships. The film received the “Best Screenplay” award and a special award for actress Yang Kuei-Mei at the 2005 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Yang also won for “Best Actress” and Lin for “Best Adapted Screenplay” at the 2004 Golden Horse Awards.
Lin Cheng-sheng resumed making documentaries after 2005. Our Children/ Women de haizi (2007) explores the differences in quality between rural and urban schools. My Ocean/Haiyang lianxi qu (2008) follows the making of a 14-seat traditional Tao Aboriginal boat, then the historic voyage of these tribesmen, rowing the boat that was handmade from 60 indigenous wooden planks, from their home on Taiwan’s offshore Lanyu Island (Orchid Island), northward along Taiwan’s east coast, and their arrival in Taipei. Lin’s next documentary, Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars/Yi shan yi shan liang jing jing (2010) explores the lives of four mothers and their children with autism.
Before directing his debut narrative feature film in 1996, Lin Cheng-sheng acted in a dark comedy, Tropical Fish/Redai yu (Chen Yu-Hsun, 1995), playing an unsophisticated kidnapper. Short and pot-bellied, Lin has an earthy appearance, making him the choice of many directors to play Taiwanese rural characters. In Buddha Bless America/Tai ping tian guo (Wu Nien-Jen, 1996), Lin was cast as a villager who was caught in the middle of a conflict caused by the misunderstanding between fellow villagers and the United States army that was carrying out a military exercise there. In Yours and Mine/Wo de shenjingbing (Wang Shau-Di, 1997), Lin plays an unkempt man with wild frizzy hair, who doubts his sexual abilities. Even though he was praised for his talent in acting, Lin said that, actually, he was just playing himself, and wouldn’t seek an acting career.
Lin’s legendary baker-to-director story will no doubt follow him throughout his life. Despite humble upbringing, however, Lin’s films prove that he is a talented filmmaker with his own unique style. That being said, most of his films since 2000 have failed at the box office. Unfortunately, Lin, unlike Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang, does not have a large contingent of cineasts following him in Europe, so his work is not very marketable in art cinemas. Consequently, it has been difficult for him to find financial backing for new projects. That may explain why he has not made any narrative feature film since 2004.
LIN, CHING-CHIEH (Lin Qingjie) (1944- ). Famous for his 1980s “campus film” about high school students, writer-director Lin Ching-chieh was born on 6 January 1944 in Chiao Hsi/Jiaoxi, Yilan County, northeastern Taiwan. After graduating from Provincial Yilan Senior High School, Lin enrolled in the Department of Fine Arts at National Taiwan Normal University. He was a high school teacher for a short time, before switching his career from teaching to filmmaking in 1967.
Lin began his film career as scriptwriter and second assistant director for directors Jiang Lang (aka Cheng Yi-nan/Cheng Sheng-fu), Chen Hung-Min, Lee Hsing (The Jade Goddess/Yu guanyin, 1968), Richard Chen Yao-chi (on his first feature, A Test of Love/San duo hua, 1970), and first assistant director for martial arts wuxia pian The Great Duel/One-Armed vs. the Red Devil/Guijianchou juedou dubeidao wang (Fu Ching-hua, 1971), among others.
Lin cowrote the screenplays for Taiwan-dialect film, such as I Hate You Deeply/Hen ni ru gu (Kuo Ching-Chiang, 1967), a tear-jerker melodrama, and for Mandarin films, including the kung fu fantasy To Subdue Evil/Duel of Karate/ Tie tui jiang mo (Fu Ching-hua and Yang Ching-Chen, 1971), wenyi pian melodrama Love Forever/Hai shi shan meng (Hsu Chin-liang, 1975), science fiction fantasy Mars Men/Huoxing ren (Chen Hung-Min, 1976), etc. He also wrote scripts for several Taiwanese-dialect television drama series.
Lin’s directorial debut film, A Problematic Student/Yi ge wenti xuesheng (1980), was based on a novel about student gangs. The success of A Problematic Student encouraged Lin to establish his own production company, where he made three more such “campus film” in 1981 – Student Days/Xuesheng zhi ai, Co-ed Classes/Nan nu he ban, and Classmates/Tong ban tongxue, the last two written by Wu Nien-Jen, who won “Best Original Screenplay” for Classmates at the 1981 Golden Horse Awards. Classmates was also nominated for “Best Feature Film,” “Best Director,” and “Best Actor,” while Student Days was nominated for “Best Original Screenplay” (Lin Ching-chieh).
Between 1980 and 1990, Lin directed 22 features, 14 of them “campus films,” the rest mainly wenyi pian and comedy. Lin also made serious films about social issues, such as Missing Persons/Shizong renkou (1987), about human trafficking and underage prostitution among the aboriginal tribes, and Crazy Lotto Game/Fengkuang dajiale (1986), a satire about the general population’s madness for playing lotto games. Lin also made a tear-jerker music film for Hong Kong’s Cinema City Enterprise, Cabaret Tears/Send in the Clowns/Taishang taixia (cowritten by Hou Hsiao-hsien and Wu Nien-Jen, 1983), which was made following the success of Yu Kan-ping’s Papa, Can You Hear Me Sing?/Da cuo che (1983).
In the mid-1980s, Lin cowrote screenplays for two films based on renowned writer Kenneth Pai Hsien-yung’s novels –The Last Night of Madame Chin/Jin daban de zuihou yiye (Pai Ching-jui, 1984), and Love, Lone Flower/Gu lian hua (produced by John Woo, 1985), which he also directed for Cinema City Enterprise and Long Shong International Film Company. He also wrote and directed a film adapted from a novel of nativist novelist Wang Tuo of the same title, Aunt Chin-shui/Jinshui shen (1987).
With the downturn of Taiwan cinema starting from late 1980s, Lin’s film career stopped for almost a decade. He went to Mainland China, settling in Amoy/Xiamen in 1992. In 1999, Lin returned to Taiwan to make a TV drama series, A Boat on the Vast Ocean, produced by Public Television Service. The series, based on an autobiography which had previously been made into an award-winning film, He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978) by Lee Hsing, was nominated as “Best Series Drama” at the 2000 Golden Bell Television Awards. However, it cost Lin NT$10 million (US$280,000), due to going over-budget and a penalty for delivering the program late.
Lin Ching-chieh is now mostly based in Xiamen, China. He resumed directing feature films in 2001, with a youth romance, Devoted to You/The Story of First Love/Bai fen bai ai ni, shot in Xiamen. Currently, he has plans to make another romantic film about youth – three love stories of a young girl, also shot in Xiamen. In recent years, Lin has been producing TV drama series for Chinese television, as well. In 2007, he made the series, Teacher, You’re Wrong/Laoshi cuo le, produced by China Central Television (CCTV), a love story about a family divided by the Taiwan Strait.
LIN FU-DI (1934- ). Experienced in every aspect of filmmaking, not only producing and directing, Lin Fu-Di was born on 21 August 1934 in rural Putze, Chiayi/Jiayi County in central Taiwan. At first an art teacher in middle-school after graduating from Taiwan Provincial Tainan Normal School, in 1958 he was attracted to the making of Taiwanese-dialect films, which began to flourish in the mid-1950s.
Lin worked as a script supervisor, makeup artist, set decorator, still photographer, lighting technician, and camera assistant, before becoming a producer who invested all his money to make a Taiwanese-dialect film. Unfortunately, the film came out in 1959, during the sudden decline of Taiwanese-dialect film, costing him his entire investment. Afterward, he became manager of a movie theater in Shuangxi, a small town in eastern Taipei County (now New Taipei City). Lin acquired his film knowledge during this time. In 1961, he was invited to write a screenplay by his friend who founded a film company that made Taiwanese-dialect film. Lin started learning the craft of screenplay writing and became assistant director for renowned Taiwanese-dialect film director Shao Luo-hui.
Lin Fu-Di’s directorial debut film, Twelve Astrologies/Shier xingxiang (1961), copied the Japanese film Eight Brave Brothers/Satomi hakken-den (Uchida Kokichi, 1959), with all his actors coming from Taiwanese Opera. The film was a great hit. Subsequently Lin made over 50 such films within three years, mostly melodramatic wenyi pian about romance or family drama, the most well-known being Golden Demon/Konjiki yasha/Jinse yecha (1964), Lovable Man/Ke’ai de ren (1964), City of Sadness/Beiqing chengshi (1964) (not Hou Hsiao-hsien’s classic film of the same title), Hometown in the Dusk/Huanghun de guxiang (1965), and Filial Daughter’s Desire/Xiaonu de yuanwang (1965).
Lin Fu-Di began directing Mandarin film in 1964. His first such film, The Oath/Haishi shanmeng (1964), starring famous Mandarin film actress Chiao Chiao and famous star of Taiwanese-dialect film Yang Ming (aka Tsai Yang-Ming), impressed director Li Han-hsiang so much that Li invited Lin to join his Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) in 1966. Lin signed a three-year contract, directing five films for the GMP – Lady in the Tower/Tali de nuren (1967), a wenyi pian based on the novel of Wumingshi (meaning “anonymous”); three Chiungyao films: The Whirl/Chuang li chuang wai (1967), The Distant Smiling Mountains/Deep in the Mountains/Yuan shan han xiao (1967), and Female Radish Grass/Nuluocao (1968); and one based on folk legend, Black Bull and White Snake/Hei nu yu bai se (1969). All these films were assignments, made with very tight budgets and short schedules.
After leaving the Grand Motion Picture Company, Lin made several martial arts films, including The Last Day of Hsin Yang/They Died for the Princess/Xue sheng/Guo guan (1968), a wuxia pian based on Kurosawa Akira’s The Hidden Fortress/Kakushi-toride no sanakunin (1958). In 1970, Lin worked for Cathay Organisation, including a wuxia pian, Mission to Die/Xuelu xielu/Sheng long jian xia (1970), and a wenyi pian, The Apartment/Wo ai shasha (1970). Next, he wrote and directed a wuxia pian for Shaw Brothers, The Imperial Swordsman/Da’nei gaoshou (1972). When Li Han-hsiang left Taiwan and returned to Hong Kong in the early 1970s, Lin helped Li make his “cheating film,” such as The Legend of Cheating/The World of Cheater/Pianshu qitan (1971), and Cheat to Cheat/ Pianshu qi zhong qi (1973). After Li rejoined Shaw Brothers, Lin Fu-Di began making films in Hong Kong and Taiwan, wherever he was needed.
Lin Fu-Di is a versatile director who can make wenyi pian, wuxia pian, kung fu film, comedy, and romance. He even directed one episode in Hsu Feng’s “Kung Fu Kids Series,” Young Dragons: Kung Fu Kids III/Hao xiao zi disanji kuer liulang ji (1987), written by Tsai Ming-liang. He was summoned by Li Han-hsiang in 1990 to help with Li’s two soft-porn films, The Golden Lotus: Love and Desire/Jinping fengyue (1991) and Madame Bamboo/Zhu furen (1991). The films were made in Korea for a Korean company, Jin Gao Run Film Company, and were co-directed by Lin, Li, Hsia Tsu-Hui, and Liu Kuo-hsiung. Lin’s last film, Sun of Ejection/A Sun Without Angles/Quejiao de taiyang (1990), was a biographical film about a handicapped singer nicknamed Aji Zai (real name Lin Ching-chi/Lin Qingji). In a way, this film is very much like a Taiwanese-dialect film, with which Lin Fu-Di began his film career.
Lin Fu-Di was also a respected director of television drama series since the late 1970s. Several of his famous series, such as Never-Ending Memory/Jiuqing mianmian (1981), A-Lang (1982), The Stars Know My Heart/Xingxing zhi wo xin (1984), and Grass Scholar/Caodi zhuangyuan (1991), had very high ratings and won many awards. The Stars Know My Heart was also broadcast in China, where it was also very popular. These TV dramas, in Taiwanese-dialect, Hakka, and Mandarin, were very similar to Taiwanese-dialect films popular from the 1960s, in their directing style and acting method. It seems that Lin made two full circles in his life, from Taiwanese-dialect film to Mandarin film and back to Taiwanese- dialect film, as well as from Taiwan to Hong Kong and then back to Taiwan.
LIN, JOAN FENG-CHIAO (Lin Fong-chiao, Lin Fengjiao) (1953- ). Born on 30 June 1953 to a poor family in Taiwan, actress and movie star Joan Lin Feng- Chiao/Lin Fong-chiao/Lin Fengjiao made over 100 films in her 10-year film career between 1972 and 1982 that ended abruptly when she (secretly) married Jackie Chan and gave birth to a son, Jacee Chan (aka Fang Zuming).
As the eldest daughter in a large family, Lin Feng-Chiao quit school when she was 12 to help with family chores. At 19, director Wang Hsing-Lei cast her to replace Chen Chen in Hero of the Waterfront/Hero of Chiu Chow/Chaozhou nu han (1973). Her performances in that film and several other kung fu films did not attract much attention. Lin appeared in a handful of romantic wenyi pian in the following years. However, it was not until Lee Hsing cast her in Land of the Undaunted/Wu to wu min (1975) that she improved her acting and transformed her image, becoming one of the famed “double Lins and double Chins,” a powerhouse group of stars that included Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia, Chin Han, and Charlie Chin Hsiang-Lin, renowned for their wenyi pian roles, especially in Chiungyao films. In these films, Lin Feng-Chiao’s characters were restrained, gentle young ladies from average families. The only exception was her masochistic career-breakthrough role in Sung Tsun-Shou’s Ask My Love from God/Ci qing ke wen tian (1978), in which Lin played a stubborn and depressed woman.
Lin Feng-Chiao won the Best Actress Award at the 1978 Asia Film Festival for her performance in Lee Hsing’s He Never Gives Up/Wangyang zhong de yi tiao chuan (1978) and Best Actress at the 1979 Golden Horse Awards for The Story of a Small Town/Xiao cheng gushi (Lee Hsing, 1979).
LIN TUAN-CHIU (Lin Tuanqiu) (1920-1998). Writer-director of Taiwan theater (1940s and 1950s) and Taiwanese-dialect film, Lin Tuan-Chiu was born on October 6 1920 in Tōen gai (today’s Taoyuan City) to a wealthy family. His father ran a transportation and marketing service for coal mines.
In 1938, Lin dropped out of Shinchiku (Hsinchu/Xinzhu) High School and switched to the Affiliated High School of Nihon University in Japan. Later, he was admitted into the Department of Politics and Economics at Meiji University, became interested in theater, and started to write plays. After graduating in 1942, Lin joined the writing-directing department of the Mourin Rouge/Mūran rūju Theater Troupe in Shinjuku, Tokyo. He was sent briefly to help with film production at Toho Pictures, where he got first-hand experience in professional filmmaking. By the end of 1942, Lin staged his debut work, Village in the Deep Mountains/Okuyama no sha, making him the first playwright in Japan to come from Japan’s colony of Taiwan.
Between 1941 and 1943, whenever he returned home to visit his family, Lin Tuan-Chiu would participate in activities of the Futabakai Theater Troupe in Tōen. After he finally settled down in Taiwan in 1943, he founded a theater troupe, Public Welfare Theater Study Association/Kōsei engeki kenkyū kai, with Chang Wen-huan and other friends. They continued the “Taiwan New Drama Movement,” which had been disrupted by the outbreak of the Second Sino- Japanese War. Lin, in charge of the writing-directing, was able to successfully stage several plays in Taipei’s Eraku-za theater in September 1943. Capon/Yan ji, which tried to raise Taiwanese consciousness during World War II, was a milestone in the development of Taiwan theater, becoming a classic.
After the end of the war, Lin established another theater troupe called Human Theater/Renjuzuo/Hito geki za, staging several plays, including Medical Ethics and Crime. Lin ended his theater activity and returned to run his family’s businesses after the “228 Incident” occurred in 1947. However, 10 years later, Taiwan-dialect film became popular. Disappointed at the low quality of these films, Lin started a film company, Yufeng Pictures, to produce serious, high-quality Taiwanese-dialect film. To achieve this goal, he established a Hushan Studio and built a soundstage in the mountainous area near Yingge in Taipei County (now New Taipei City). The soundstage, said to be the largest in Taiwan at the time, was able to complete a film entirely in-house, from preproduction to postproduction. Lin ran the studio like a school, training film talent, such as renowned 1960s actor Ling Yun of Shaw Brothers and actress Chang Mei-Yao.
Unfortunately, the founding of Yufeng Pictures was ill-timed. Just when Lin Tuan-Chiu started to make films, the market for Taiwanese-dialect films crashed. In spite of this downturn, in 1959 Lin directed Brother Asan Running for Election/ Asan ge chu ma and A Sigh for Prostitutes/Tan yanhua, rigorously serious works. The next year, Lin’s An Intricate Love Affair/Cuo lian, with its penetrating psychological portrayal of the characters, was even considered a masterpiece in Taiwanese-dialect film. The poor box-office of these films forced Lin to discontinue film production.
A few years later in 1965, when Taiwanese-dialect cinema was blooming once again, Yufeng’s talent had already dissipated. Lin Tuan-Chiu had no choice but to find new creative talent and crew in order to make Heartbreaking Night on the 13th of May/Wuyue shisan shangxin ye and Six Suspects/Liu ge xianyifan. Lin’s productions were renowned for their delicate camera movement and careful framing, qualities rarely seen in films directed by other Taiwanese-dialect directors.
By this time, the Censorship Board made it difficult for such filmmakers to pass inspection, due to the government’s “national language” policy promoting Mandarin film and discouraging Taiwanese-dialect films (see CENSORSHIP). The non-film media environment in the mid-1960s was also not favorable to the development of Taiwanese-dialect film, as Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) had been inaugurated in 1962 and a second television station was on its way. This led to the exit of Lin from filmmaking, and he became involved in manufacturing the rest of his life. Lin Tuan-Chiu died on 4 April 1998 at the age of 79.
LIU, CHIA-CHANG (Liu Jiachang) (1941- ). Liu Chia-Chang was born in Harbin/Haerbin, Northeast China in 1941. His family moved with him to Incheon, South Korea, while he was still a child. Liu came to Taiwan in 1962 as an overseas student, to study in the Department of Political Science at National Chengchi University. However, he soon dropped out of school to sing popular songs in English at night clubs. Liu married actress Chiang Ching/Jiang Qing in 1966 (the couple divorced in 1970), and started writing popular songs and film music. In 1968, he wrote his first screenplay, and started to make low-budget independent films as writer, director, actor, and composer.
After completing Late Autumn/Wan qiu in 1972, Liu could not find any theater in Taipei to screen the film, because martial arts wuxia pian was at its height. Liu eventually had to rent a movie house and publicize the film himself. To everyone’s surprise, the box-office was quite successful, thus making him an instant celebrity.
Liu’s films in this period were cheaply made on location, with a very low shooting ratio, many long takes, and many empty scenery shots to accompany songs. Liu was not good at drama, so he simplified stories and diluted conflicts, emphasizing only sensational plots. Suffice it to say that his films were primarily made to sell vinyl records of his songs. They were made like large-scale music films, with songs leading the narrative, and images shot to accompany lyrics. Such films in the “Liu” style, despite attacks from film critics, were popular among young audiences in the 1970s.
Liu also copied from foreign films. For example, One Family/Yi jia ren (1973) took after Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen, 1954), Moon River/Yun he (1974) imitated Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953), Chun Chun’s Love/Chunchun de ai (1974) copied Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970), Falling Snow Flakes/Xuehua pian pian (1974) mimiced Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965), and A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangbu junhun (1979) is a takeoff on The Long Gray Line (John Ford, 1955).
After a few years of hardship as an independent filmmaker, Liu was admitted into major film studios, such as Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) and Union Film Company (Lianbang). His films for Lianbang included I will Always Be With You/You wo jiu you ni (1971), which was publicized as a film shot in three days, Gone With the Cloud/Yun piao piao (1974), Moon River/Yun he (1974), Misty Drizzle/Yan yu (1975), and The September Song/Feng hong ceng ceng (1975). Gone With the Cloud, starring Brigitte Lin, came immediately after her appearance in Outside the Window/Chuangwai (Sung Tsun-Shou, 1973). It became Lin’s first film in Taiwan, after Outside the Window was banned from screening in Taiwan by court order when Chiung Yao won a lawsuit against director Sung and his partners. Liu’s Moon River was a big budget film, supported by Lianbang, with four male stars (Charlie Chin, Yue Yang, Ku Ming-Lun, Qiu Yanliang) and four female stars (Brigitte Lin, Chen Chen, Judy Ongg, Hu Jin).
Liu’s first film at the CMPC, Love Begins Here/Ai de tiandi (1973), starring Judy Ongg/Weng Qianyu, took only 16 days to shoot. It included 10 beautiful songs, which were already very popular before the film was even distributed. The low-budget film earned a lot of money for the CMPC, pleasing its new general manager Mei Chang-Ling. As a favorite director of Mei during his tenure as head of the CMPC, Liu was given the chance to make high-budget national policy films, such as Victory/Meihua (1976) and A Teacher of Great Soldiers/Huangpu junhun (1979). Victory won for “Best Film,” “Best Screenplay” (Deng Yukun), “Best Cinematography” (Lin Chan-ting), “Best Music” (Liu Chia-Chang), and “Best Sound Effects” (Hsin Chiang-sheng) at the 1976 Golden Horse Awards. A Teacher of Great Soldiers was awarded “Best Actor” (Ko Chun-hsiung) at the 1979 Golden Horse.
Liu and actress Chen Chen became a couple in the mid-1970s, making several films together, such as Sunset in Beijing/Riluo Beijing cheng (1977) and Autumn Memories/Feng lin xiao yu (1978). After the suicide of the film’s lead actor, Ku Ming-Lun, Liu and his wife Chen Chen emigrated to the United States. In the mid-1990s, the couple moved their non-film business first back to Taiwan and then, after 2000, to Mainland China.
LIU PI-CHIA (1967). Director Richard Chen Yao-chi’s MFA thesis film in the University of California at Los Angeles’ graduate filmmaking program, Liu Pi-Chia/Liu Bijia is the first modernist documentary film made in Taiwan using the style of “observational cinema,” popular in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Before Liu Pi-chia, such films in Taiwan were usually made following the style of 1930s and 1940s British documentaries, i.e., real events were reenacted according to a pre-written script, and the story told by voice-over narration accompanied by music.
In the spirit of Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922), Chen tried to find in Taiwan a straightforward, kind, unsophisticated Chinese farmer similar to Nanook. With help from the Veterans Affairs Commission (VAC) of the government’s Executive Yuan, Chen searched throughout Taiwan to find a veteran’s story suitable for his documentary. He finally chose Liu Pi-chia, a member of the VAC’s farmland development team working near Cikasuan (Papaya) River in Hualien, eastern Taiwan.
No synchronous sound equipment was available in Taiwan in the 1960s, so Chen used a 16mm non-sync camera to reveal his subject’s daily life, recording the sounds of events, ambience, and interviewing Liu on separate tapes. In the interviews, Liu reminisced about his diaspora experience coming from China to Taiwan, his current life, and working conditions. He spoke of yearning for his family left behind on the Mainland, unable to even contact them due to civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan and the Chinese Communists of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Accompanying Liu’s words on the soundtrack, we see the moving images of Liu clearing rocks from a riverbed, gazing at faraway dark clouds and listening to the distant thunder with fellow veterans during their short work break, sitting alone on a train to a nearby city to deposit money from his small pay, eating a meal that brings back memories of his hometown on the Mainland, returning home after work and getting ready for the next workday. The film allows us to glimpse into the simple, yet emotional story of an average Chinese farmer in the diaspora to Taiwan caused by a war beyond his comprehension.
The documentary film was shown for the first time in December 1967, along with director Chen’s other short films – an animated short, Houyi (1963?), an experimental narrative film, Years Gone, Years Come/Nian qu nian lai (1963?), and another documentary, To the Mountain/Shangshan (1964?), a record of four young college students searching for the meaning of life. The event was sponsored by a literature journal, with assistance from the Taipei office of the United States Information Service (USIS) and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Taipei. Many college and university students, as well as young artists and writers, attended the four screenings.
Since the completion of Liu Pi-chia, Chen did not show the film to Liu, nor did he ever contact him. Twenty years later, Hu Tai-li, an anthropologist and ethnographic filmmaker, found Liu on her field study trip. She eventually made Stone Dreams/Shitou meng (2004), a documentary on Liu and his family, as well as other veterans’ life in Hualien. In a way, Stone Dreams is a sequel to Chen’s documentary, filling in the background that was missed as well as introducing new development in Liu’s life since the making of Liu Pi-chia.
Chen’s two cinéma vérité documentaries impressed and influenced other young filmmakers, such as Chuang Ling, who used a similar style in the late 1960s to make several personal documentaries. The effect of such influence, however, was limited, due to the scarcity of resources for making independent documentary films in the 1960s and 1970s. Later, Chen made several documentary films for educational/informational purposes, including one about Chinese festivals, for the Ministry of Transportation’s Tourism Bureau, and several others for the “Faces of Change” series, produced by American Universities Field Staff, Inc. Chen Yao-chi then concentrated on directing fiction films, becoming one of the major Taiwan directors in the 1970s.
LIU, RENÉ RUOYING (1969- ). Singer, writer and actress René Liu Ruoying was born on 1 June 1969 in Taipei. Her family, originally from Liling City, Hunan Province, China, moved with Chiang Kai-shek’s army to Taiwan in 1949. Liu’s grandfather was a general and former acting minister of defense in the Nationalist army, and a member of the Central Advisory Committee of the Nationalist Party. Liu’s father was captain of a navy warship.
René Liu graduated from Fushing Primary School, Taipei Jen Ai Junior High School, and the Gifted Music Class at Kuang Jen Catholic High School, all prestigious schools in the Taipei area. Later, Liu studied in the Music Department at California State University, Fullerton, with a vocal major and piano minor. After graduation, Liu joined popular singer Bobby Chen Sheng’s New Paradise Studio as his assistant, where she learned writing and singing popular music. In 1995, she became a contract singer at Rock Records.
Her talent in acting was discovered by Sylvia Chang, who recommended Liu to critic-turned-director Chen Kuo-fu, who cast her as leading actress in The Peony Pavilion/Wo de meili yu aichou (1995). She was also the leading actress in Shiao Yu/Shaonu xiao yu (Sylvia Chang, 1995), written by Ang Lee, that was originally to be directed by him. Her performance in Shiao Yu won René Liu “Best Actress” at the 1995 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. She won the award again three years later for The Personals/Zheng hun qishi (Chen Kuo-fu, 1998).
Liu appeared in other internationally acclaimed films directed by Taiwanese and Chinese directors in the late 1990s, including, Nanjing 1937 (Wu Ziniu, 1996), Accidental Legend/Fei tian (Wang Shau-Di, 1996), Tonight Nobody Goes Home/Jintian bu huijia (Sylvia Chang, 1996), Red Persimmon/Hong shihzih (Wang Tung, 1997), Murmur of Youth/Meili zai changge (Lin Cheng-sheng, 1997), the last winning René Liu and newcomer Tseng Jing “Best Actress Awards” at the 1997 Tokyo Film Festival. Many of these films were produced by Hsu Li-kong, who cast her in his directorial debut film, Fleeing by Night/Ye ben (2000, codirected with Yin Chi), and the popular television drama series he produced, April Rhapsody/Renjian siyue tian (Ding Ya-min, 2000). Subsequently, Liu appeared in Ding Ya-min’s debut film Migratory Bird/Hou niao (2001), also produced by Hsu.
After René Liu starred in Chen Kuo-fu’s thriller/horror movie, Double Vision/ Shuang tong (2002), and Sylvia Chang’s romantic comedy, 20.30.40 (2004), she switched the base of her career from Taiwan to China and Hong Kong. She appeared in a phenomenal number of recent films, including the China blockbuster, A World Without Thieves/Tianxia wu zei (Feng Xiaogang, 2004), and the Hong Kong-China coproductions, Happy Birthday/Shengri kuaile (Jingle Ma Choh-Shing, 2007), Matrimony/Xinzhong you gui (Teng Hua-Tao, 2007), Kidnap/ Bang jia (Law Chi-Leung, 2007), Run Papa Run/Yi ge hao baba (Sylvia Chang, 2008), Hot Summer Days/Quan cheng re lian (Tony Chan and Shya Wing, 2010) and its sequel, Love in Space/Quan qiu relian (Tony Chan and Shya Wing, 2011), Mr. and Mrs. Single/Yin hun nan nu (Patrick Kong Pak-Leung, 2011), Speed Angel/Sai che (Jingle Ma Choh-Shing, 2011), as well as Starry, Starry Night/Xing kong (Tom Lin Shu-Yu, 2011), among others.
In addition, Liu is a writer. Happy Birthday was adapted by Sylvia Chang, et al, from Liu’s short story of the same title. Currently, Liu has a column in the Sunday afternoon supplement of Apple Daily in Hong Kong.
René Liu is also active in theater performance. Between 2003 and 2005, she worked with Hong Kong director Edward Lam in Eighteen Springs/Ban sheng yuan, coproduced by the National Theatre Company of China and Hong Kong’s experimental theatre group Zuni Icosahedron. In 2011, Lam and Liu worked together again on the critically acclaimed The Doppelgänger/Zai xixiang – hongniang de yi xiang shihie.
LIU, XIYANG. See BUDDHA’S PUPILS; TAIWAN CINEMA STUDY ASSOCIATION; TANAKA, EDWARD (EDDIE) KINSHI.
THE LOVE ETERNE (1963). The Love Eterne (Eternal Love/Liang shanbo yu zhu yingtai) is a huangmei diao genre film directed by Shaw Brothers’ ace director Li Han-hsiang, with help from directors/screenwriters Chu Mu/Zhu Mu, Tien Feng/Tian Feng, King Hu, Liu Yishi and Sung Tsun-Shou. At the time, a similar project by director Yan Jun was already in production for Motion Pictures and General Investment Co. Ltd. (MP&GI), chief rival of Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong. Run Run Shaw, president of Shaw Brothers, ordered Li to make a comparable film to compete with the MP&GI project. Principal photography of Li’s film took only two weeks, and Shaw Brothers was able to release its film in Taiwan ahead of MP&GI’s. Though produced in such a rush, Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne is by no means simple or crude. It was Li’s third huangmei diao film, and his most successful one. The film showed in Taipei theaters consecutively for 186 days, with 725,000 tickets sold at the box office, which amounted to 90 percent of the population of Taipei at the time, ending up with a record-breaking box-office of NT$8 million (about US$200,000 at the time).
The film based on a celebrated Chinese folk legend, now part of the Chinese intangible cultural heritage, is the sad love story between a poor young scholar and a girl from a rich family. The couple is prevented from being together because of the mismatch in their family backgrounds. Liang Shanbo, the young scholar, dies of despair. When Zhu Yingtai, the rich girl, is forced by her family to marry a rich man, she goes to visit the tomb of Liang Shanbo. The tomb suddenly breaks open into a large pit and Zhu Yingtai jumps into it. The couple transform into a pair of butterflies and fly away together into the sky.
The story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai had already been put into songs in various Chinese Operas, as well as adapted into several films. In 1953, Shanghai Film Studio adapted Shaoxing Opera Liang zhu ai shi (Sad History of Liang and Zhu) into the first color Chinese Opera film, Liang Zhu (directed by Sang Hu and Huang Sha). In 1963, MP&GI asked Yan Chun/Yen Jun to adapt the Shaoxing Opera into a huangmei diao film, which elicited the Shaw Brothers’ competing version, Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne, the same year. Twenty-eight years later, Chinese director Lau Gwok-Kuen directed Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai (1991). Hong Kong director Tsui Hark made The Lovers/Liang zhu in 1994, and Jingle Ma Choh-Shing made Butterfly Lovers/Sword Butterfly/Jian die in 2008. A feature animation, The Butterfly Lovers: Leon and Joel, was produced by Taiwan’s Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC) in 2003.
In Li Han-hsiang’s The Love Eterne, Ivy Ling Po played the cross-dressing role of Liang Shanbo and Betty Loh Tih the role of Zhu Yingtai. Ivy Ling Po was so attractive to both men and women in Taiwan that when she arrived for publicity of the film, Taipei turned into what the Hong Kong press called “a city of madness.” Hundreds of thousands gathered in the streets to see their idol pass by. The film was not only successful commercially, its artistic achievements were also recognized. In 1963, The Love Eterne won “Best Color Cinematography,” “Best Music,” “Best Sound Recording,” and “Best Art Design” awards at the 1963 Film Festival in Asia. At the Golden Horse Awards, it also claimed “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” “Best Actress” (Betty Loh Tih), “Best Music” (Zhou Lanping), “Best Editing” (Jiang Xinglong) awards, and a Special Acting award for Ivy Ling Po.
Ivy Ling Po continued making several huangmei diao films for Shaw Brothers, even though she had been tempted to leave with Li Han-hsiang when he decided to found his own production company in 1963. She finally moved to Taiwan in 1973 with her husband, director and actor Chin Han (not to be confused with Taiwan actor Chin Han), when her contract with Shaw Brothers expired. Betty Loh Tih, though recognized for her acting in The Love Eterne, could not deal with emotional problems caused by romantic affairs and committed suicide at age 31. Li Han-hsiang established Grand Motion Picture Company (GMP) in 1963, with the support of Shaw Brothers’ rival MP&GI, starting operations in Taiwan, where he produced several additional huangmei diao films. The success of Li’s films prompted a wave of huangmei diao films in Taiwan during the 1960s and 1970s.
LU, HSIAO-FEN (Lu Xiaofen, Chang Shu-fen) (1956- ). Queen bee of violent female revenge film, a sub-genre of violent sexploitation movies in the 1970s, Lu Hsiao-Fen (real name Chang Shu-fen) was born on 9 October 1956 to a miner’s family in Ruifang, Taipei County (now New Taipei City). She started her entertainment career in 1977, as a singer performing in Taipei cabarets, and signed a contract with Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV). She won the championship in a 1979 singing contest, held by Chinese Television System (CTS). A year later, she became a company actor at Yung Sheng Motion Pictures Company.
Lu’s debut film, On the Society File of Shanghai/Shanghai shehui dangan (Wang Chu-chin/Wang Jujin, 1981), was about a girl persecuted during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The film exploited her body, showing her stabbing herself on the breasts with a knife. Lu Hsiao-Fen, thus, became an overnight sensation on the level of the other sexploitation film stars at the time, such as Lu Yifeng, Lu Yichan, and Yang Hui-Shan.
Lu starred in more than a half-dozen such crime/gangster action film (self- proclaimed as “social realist films”), including The Lady Avenger/Fengkuang nu shaxing (female director Yang Chia-yun, 1981), The Anger/Shi jie (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1982), Pink Thief/Nu ze (Yueh Chien-feng, 1982), Exposed to Danger/ Leng yan sha ji/Titianxingdao zhi shaji (Yang Chia-yun, 1982), Girl With a Gun/ Shengyong nu shaxing (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1982), Kill for Love/Chiqing nuzi (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1982), and Temptation/You huo (Richard Chen Yao-chi, 1983).
Lu Hsiao-Fen’s film career made a drastic turn for the better when she starred in Wang Tung’s A Flower in the Raining Night/A Flower in the Rainy Night/Kan hai de rihzih (1983), with a script by nativist writer Huang Chun-ming, based on his novel of the same name. Lu plays a prostitute who yearns for a family of her own, after accidentally becoming pregnant. Her performance won her “Best Actress” at the 1983 Golden Horse Awards.
Subsequently, Lu explored different types of roles, such as waitress (The First Stitch/Huanghua guinan/Zai shi nan, directed by Tsai Yang-Ming, 1984), housewife (The Pawned Wife/Dian qi, directed by Wang Chu-chin, 1985), and taxi dancer who partners with men for a fee (Dancers/Wu nu, directed by Tsai Yang-Ming, 1985). Lu was cast in two Hong Kong-made English-speaking martial arts films in the late 1980s – Official Exterminator: Kill for Love/Ninja Knight Brothers of Blood (aka Ninja Killer) (Godfrey Ho, 1987) and American Commando 3: Savage Temptation (Lee Chiu, 1988).
Lu’s breakthrough role was in Osmanthus Alley/Guihua xiang (Chen Kun-Hou, 1987). She plays a woman in traditional Chinese society who is determined to surmount all obstacles in her life – poverty, family power struggles, sexual desire, or fate. She was awarded “Best Actress” at the 1988 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. Lu played a similar role (although with completely different consequences) in her following film, Spring Swallow/Wanchun qingshi (Richard Chen Yao-Chi, 1989), as a woman in the 1910s who gives up her quest for true love and accepts the traditional role as wife and mother. Once again, she won “Best Actress” at the 1989 Asia-Pacific Film Festival. In Hong Kong director Ann Hui’s autobiographical film, Song of the Exile/Ke tu qiu hen (1990), Lu plays the role of Ann’s mother, a Japanese woman married to a Chinese man, who moves to Macau. (Hong Kong star Maggie Cheung plays her daughter.)
Lu starred in another melodramatic film by Richard Chen, Autumn Moon/Ming yue ji shi yuan (1990). Afterward, she reduced her acting by choice, appearing only in one film, 18/Shiba (1993), directed by Ho Ping, who had previously used her in his debut film, The Digger/Yinjian xiangma (1988). She was nominated as “Best Actress” at the 1993 Golden Horse Awards for 18. Subsequently, Lu stopped her film acting, and chose to study theater in the United States in mid-1990s. However, she appeared in several television drama series. Her most recent films were Top Gear/Xiao cu zhan jiang (Chin Ao-hsun, 1999), a youth-action film, and Forever Young/Jinsheng you yue (Chang Yao-hsuan, 2000), a romance.
LU, YI-CHING (Lu Yijing, Lu Xiaoling) (1960?- ). Actress Lu Yi-Ching (real name Lu Hsiao-Ling/Lu Xiaoling) was originally owner of a coffee shop. At age 30, she was “discovered” by Tsai Ming-liang, who invited her for a cameo role in his television drama My Name is Mary/Wo de yingwen mingzi jiao mali (1990). Subsequently, Lu became one of Tsai’s regular cast members in his television dramas and films.
When Tsai was given a chance to direct his debut film, Rebels of the Neon God/Qinshaonian nuozha (1993), Lu played Lee Kang-sheng’s mother/Miao Tien’s wife. From then on, Lu played almost the same role in most of Tsai’ films, including Vive l’Amour/Aiqing wansui (1994), The River/Heliu (1997), What Time Is It There?/Ni nabian jidian (2001), The Wayward Cloud/Tianbian yi duo yun (2005), and Face/Visage/Lian (2009). Together with Tsai, and Lee, another actor in Tsai’s ensemble, she opened her second coffee shop, TSAILEELU.
Besides working with Tsai Ming-liang, Lu appeared in many films of both veteran and novice directors, such as Hill of No Return/Silent Mountain/Wu yan de shanqiu (Wang Tung,1992), My Whispering Plan/Sharen jihua (Chu You-ning, 2002), Blue Cha Cha/Shen hai (Cheng Wen-Tang, 2005), Reflections/Ailisi de jingzi (Yao Hung-i, 2005), Heirloom/Zhai bian (Leste Chen, 2005), Summer’s Tail/Xiatian de weiba (Cheng Wen-Tang, 2007), Blood Brothers/Tiantang kou (Alexi Tan, 2007), Drifting Flowers/Piao lang qingchun (Zero Chou, 2008), Winds of September/Jiu jiang feng (Tom Lin Shu-Yu, 2008), Good Will Evil/Xiong mei (Lin Yu-Fen and Wang Ming-Chan, 2008), A Place of One’s Own/Yi xi zhi di (Lou Yi-An, 2009), Ghosted/Aimei (Monika Treut, 2009), Monga/Mengjia (Doze Niu, 2010), and Blowfish/Hetun (Chi Y. Lee, 2011).
Even though Lu Yi-Ching never had any formal acting training, her performances were recognized with various awards, including “Best Supporting Actress” at the 2001 Asia-Pacific Film Festival, for What Time Is It There?, and “Best Actress” at the 2003 Golden Bell Television Awards, for her performance in a single-episode television drama, Hard to Breath/Yongli huxi (Hsu Chao-jen, 2003). She also received “Best Actress” awards in 2004 for The Missing/Bu jian (Lee Kang-sheng, 2003) at “Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema,” as well as in “Rome: Asian Film Festival.” In 2006, Lu won “Best Supporting Actress” for Blue Cha Cha at the Asian-Pacific Film Festival. Lu was nominated four times in the Golden Horse Awards – Best Supporting Actress, for What Time Is It There?; Best Actress, for The Missing; Best Supporting Actress for Blue Cha Cha; and Best Supporting Actress, for A Place of One’s Own.