My Young Auntie aka Cheung booi
R1 - America - Genius Products / Dragon Dynasty
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (4th July 2007).
The Film

What's the point of the masquerade party, anyway? Hong Kong movies are never known for their logic, but even in here cutting scenes wouldn't change much. All that's needed in this movie is reason to fight and I suppose throwing a masquerade party is reason enough. The movie is basically about Hui Ying-hung (or Kara Hui) and Liu Chia-liang (or Lau Kar-leung) trying to defend his uncle’s will from Mr. Liu's evil brother. The brother, you see, will take that land and assets and do bad things with it. Not only that, but the movie also has a B-story that's about as long as the main story. This part of the movie focuses on the trouble that Liu Chia-liang's young (and hip) son, Hsiao Ho causes Kara Hui, who's a traditional lady.

Mrs. Hui is known for playing tomboyish-but-still-cutesy roles, many times in Liu Chi-liang's movies ('Cat vs. Rat', 'Dirty Ho', 'Martial Club', for example). In 'My Young Auntie' and 'Lady is the Boss', however, she proved she could do something else, and (for the former movie) won the very first Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress. Indeed, she carries herself very well and owns the screen whenever she's in a scene, a tough thing to do when you share the frame with Liu Chia-liang, Liu Chia-hui (or Gordon Liu) and Johnny Wang.

With all these guys on screen, you better believe that the action is going to be great. It is, and won't disappoint anybody. With the last 40 minutes essentially being one big fight scene, action choreographers Liu Chia-liang, Hsiao Ho and Lee King-Chue show what they're made of. The scenes are wonderful, intricate and exciting. Fighting with bare hands, swords and whatnot is nothing new for these guys (all of these guys) so they show their expertise at every turn. It's great to watch.

The movie doesn't try to break new ground, though it does address the tradition vs. modernity issue so prevalent in Hong Kong movies. Actually, throughout the movie I was trying to figure out what time the movie takes place. It seems to oscillate between 1900 and 1960, so anachronisms aren't uncommon. I suppose the time period isn't the most important aspect of the movie. Reality, it seems, is quite subjective.

For those not familiar with old-school Hong Kong movies, this is a great introduction. It's not the best movie in anybody's filmography. 'Heroes of the East', 'The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter' and 'Legendary Weapons of China' are all better Liu Chi-liang movies. It's overall a very fun experience and anybody interested in Hong Kong movies should see it. Kara Hui may still be acting some decades later, with roles in 'Jiang Hu' and 'A Chinese Tall Story', but she'll always be Kara Hui, Liu Chia-liang's go-to actress for a cute, spunky girl to me.

Video

2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is absolutely amazing and it's a proper NTSC transfer, which makes me wonder why almost all the Celestial DVD have PAL-to-NTSC ports. If you're familiar with Celestial's DVDs, imagine that picture, but with a proper transfer. It's basically flawless and looks far too good for its age. The colours are bright and accurate, with no flickering. The contrast is very strong, and never gives way to bad compression. There's no noise or pixelation. There's a little bit of edge enhancement, but for the way the picture looks, this can be pretty much forgiven. This is a great looking picture.

Audio

In contrast to the IVL/Celestial DVDs, this DVD has the original Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track (as opposed to a blown up 5.1 track). It also has an English dub, in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The track is completely adequate for the movie (and if you're a purist, better than the IVL discs, because there are no newly-added sound effects). The dialogue, score and effects are very well mixed. The track even has some nice oomph in the low-frequency department. There are no pops or hiss, and things are very clear. It's a very nice track.
There are English, English (hard of hearing) and Spanish subtitles to help you out if you so wish them to help you out.

Extras

The Weinstein Company's hiring of Bey Logan for their Asian acquisitions may have been the smartest decision they have ever made (much to the dismay of Hong Kong Legends). This is essentially a Hong Kong Legends release, with interviews and a commentary, though at a disappointingly lower quality. It still a very nice step in the right direction for The Weinstein Company. It's region 1, and released in the US by Genius Products, as part of the Dragon Dynasty label.

Let's start this out by talking about the audio commentary by film critics/scholars Elvis Mitchell and Andy Klein. The pair take a decidedly western view of the movie, which makes them seem a bit more ignorant than, say, Bey Logan or even Ric Meyers. They make a couple of huge mistakes, which only come because they simply don't know about Chinese culture and kung fu. They also don't seem to be as knowledgeable about Hong Kong cinema as the two other men I mentioned, which means they don't really talk much about the careers of anybody aside from Kara Hui and the director (they only mention star's Hsiao Hou's name a few times, and they don't even mention Johnnie Wang's name). They also seem to rely an awful lot on their knowledge of American musicals. The movie was obviously influenced by musicals, that's undeniable, but not to the extent, I believe, that these two make it out to be. Having said that, they do make a few interesting points about the movie's possible inspiration and roots. They also mention King Hu (they talk a bit about 'Come Drink with Me') and Chang Cheh (only his career, no specific movie) and their connection to the martial arts genre (though they don't even mention Tang Chia, Liu Chia-liang's choreographing partner). They also talk about the style (editing, camera work and such) and give out their own experiences with Hong Kong action movies. They mention the genre in reference to the rise of hip-hop, as well, which is pretty interesting. All in all it's a nice listen if and only if you don't know about Hong Kong movies. Otherwise, you've heard it before and it in more detail and with more insight.

A couple of Commentator Bios are available, if you need to know about the two men.

Next up is an Interview Gallery, with actress Kara Hui (13:05) and film critics/scholars David Chute and Andy Klein (7:35). Mrs. Hui talks about her first leading role. She gives out stories from the set, like having appendicitis, and talks about doing action everyday. The fencing scene is talked about, and you get to hear why she had to do 140 takes of one scene. She also talks about winning her award and how she felt about it. It's quite informative and a very nice listen. The two men are interviewed separately. Though Mr. Klein's comments are interesting to think about, I ultimately have to disagree with him on some points (such as his idea about Jackie Chan's action). Mr. Chute, for me, is a bit less controversial, and talks about musicals, as well. As with the commentary, this is a nice introduction for people who aren’t too familiar with the genre.

After that, you have a ridiculously big Trailer Gallery. There are basically two kinds of trailers in this section: 1-minute trailers originally made the Hong Kong releases, and the original trailers. There are four subsections, 'My Young Auntie Trailers', with the original Theatrical Trailer (4:19) and the Home Video Trailer (1:03). The original trailer is in horrible shape and just goes to show how much work went into restoring the movie. It's basically all fighting, as is the newer trailer, which is the same as the trailer in the Hong Kong release.

There's also 'Other Films from These Filmmakers', which is a good idea. Here you'll find trailers for ''Blood Brothers' (4:39), 'Buddha's Palm' (2:44), 'Dirty Ho' (1:12), 'Heroes of the East' (4:16), 'The Lady is the Boss' (1:11) and 'Mad Monkey Kung Fu' (4:01). Well, as with the previous and next batch of trailers, they're basically all action. They show off the very nice choreography in full force. 'Shaw Bros. Films Currently Available' are next, with 'One-Armed Swordsman' (4:02), 'King Boxer' (1:08), 'The 36th Chamber of Shaolin' (3:53), and something called 'The Shaw Bros. Collection' (1:34). Well, there's not much more I can add at this point. If you don't know what these are about, then go away. The last section is 'Dragon Dynasty Trailers' for the non-Shaw crowd. You have trailers for 'Born to Fight' (1:43), which has insane stuntwork, 'Infernal Affairs 3' (3:13) and Tsui Hark's great 'Seven Swords' (1:56). I got nothing to add.

The last thing is a Stills Gallery. These are nice pictures, though they're taken from the movie, and are no archival or promo pictures. They are also different from the galleries in the Hong Kong release.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: C+ Overall: B

 


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