Tuesday 11 July 2017

The Current Cinema - OUR TIME WILL COME (4) - Tina Kaufman reports on Ann Hui's new film and career

Eddie Peng, Our Time Will Come
Ann Hui's Our Time Will Come is set in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong during WWII, is a surprising mix of spy thriller, affectionate neighbourhood portrait, and guerrilla activity, and it's exciting, unsentimental, and often funny. The director is a Hong Kong veteran with a filmography that has ranged across a number of genres, and although I haven't seen nearly as many of her films as I would like, I've always found her work warm, engaging, and often inspiring. This new film is unsentimental and yet oddly touching, even as its characters, thrown into unexpected and dangerous situations, have to come to terms with often violent and even deadly consequences.

Our Time Will Come revolves around a young teacher Lan Fong (Zhou Xun)and her mother (played by Hong Kong regular  Deanie Yip) and those they encounter as their neighbourhood and their lives  are changed drastically by the war.  Chinese guerrillas are attempting to evacuate dissident Chinese intellectuals, one of whom has been lodging with the Fongs; Japanese soldiers take over the streets, while the guerrillas roam the dark wooded hillsides.  Even as she tries to go about her everyday life, Lan is enticed into joining the local resistance group, carrying out secret deliveries and spreading propoganda material; eventually her mother becomes involved too.  Life is difficult, resources are scarce, and there are spies and allies everywhere; someone thought of as a friend may not be, but help may come from unexpected places. While death and killing become almost routine in what has become a hard and dangerous life for both mother and daughter, there is still love and friendship and camaraderie. Our Time Will Come demonstrates just how hard it is to live out your beliefs, but also that it is even harder not to, that doing nothing is not an option.

As Geoff remarked to me when we talked about this film's imminent release, it's time for a retrospective of an important if under-valued filmmaker who has been making very diverse, interesting and often surprising films for nearly 40 years. especially considering how consistent and prolific her work has been, and as she approaches 70.   I saw her second film, The Spooky Bunch (1980), when Adrienne McKibbins put on a program of films by women directors back in the early 80s, at the Paddington Town Hall Cinema (before it was the Chauvel), and somehow I saw Boat People soon after - it was round about this time I started going to see Hong Kong movies in Chinatown, and I certainly saw her The Romance of Book and Sword (1987) there.  I also saw The Swordsman (1990), but I've only just discovered that she worked on it uncredited.  Then somewhere I saw My American Grandson (1991), but I don't think I saw any of the films she made after that until July Rhapsody (1997).  I've seen her terrific 2006 film, The Postmodern Life of My Aunt, but much more recently, when a friend back from Hong Kong screened it at UTS.  And I saw the very moving A Simple Life (2011) when the SFF screened it, and in the last year or so I saw the absolutely lovely A Golden Era (2014).  But in between those films she's made many more - I'm going to have to try and track some down!

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