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The Mad Phoenix
Chinese: 南海十三郎
Tse Kwan-Ho
Year: 1997
Director: Clifton Ko Chi-Sum
Writer: Raymond To Kwok-Wai
Cast: Tse Kwan-Ho, Poon Chan-Leung, So Yuk-Wah, Elaine Ng Yi-Lei, James Wong Jim, Candy Hau Woon-Ling
The Skinny: Multiple award nominee at the 1998 Golden Horse Awards, and deservedly so. An engaging, fascinating film encompassing character, politics and history.
by Kozo:

This fascinating, entertaining comedy-drama from Clifton Ko and Raymond To is one of 1997’s best films. The story concerns Kiang Yu-Kou (Cantonese Opera star Tse Kwan-Ho), a famous screenwriter whose obvious genius is also his curse. Right from the start, his intellectual superiority gives way to eccentric behavior as he pursues his first love, a journey which takes two years and leaves him nearly destitute. 

Returning to his hometown, he revisits his love of Cantonese Opera. Not content to merely watch, he begins to compose as well, even impressing an important actor. Despite his indomitable pride and a stubborn refusal to compromise, he rises to fame in pre-war China as the foremost playwright of Cantonese Opera. He gives himself a pen name: Mr. Thirteen, so named because he was the thirteenth son of his father.

His pride and hubris are his downfall though. His inability to change contrasts directly with the rapidly changing Chinese society, and soon he finds himself adrift as China changes hands from Japanese to Chinese to British, all within his lifetime. Allegory plays a large part here, as we’re meant to see Mr. Thirteen as a symbol of Hong Kong itself, lost among history’s machinations. Clifton Ko does a good job with the material, keeping things focused on the story and not letting the subtext get too overbearing. An entertaining and somewhat rare Hong Kong film. (Kozo 1997)


image courtesy of Mei Ah Laser Disc Co., Ltd. Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen