To his Hong Kong audience, Ho Fan had been known for his dual role as a master photographer and a famous erotic film director. The former, which won him numerous international accolades, was established early in his youth during the 1950s and 60s and for a time eclipsed by his work in the film industry since 1961 as actor and director. Despite having nearly 30 short and feature films under his belt over his 30-year career ranging from independent experimental works to commercial, lusty comedies, from erotica to melodramatic romances, as well as erotic films satirising modern relationships and melodramas in historical or contemporary rural settings exploring the conflicts between the spiritual and the sensual, and morality and individuality, Ho was often described by critics and audiences as a master director of erotic films, a label that scarcely does justice to his greater artistic pursuit and trajectory.
Retired from filmmaking in the 2000s, Ho’s art photography drawn international attention again with published monographs and exhibitions, and was praised highly for capturing scenes of Hong Kong and its sentiments, while his films did not receive the recognition they deserve. This has driven me to propose to the Reel to Reel Institute an expansive film retrospective in 2021 for those interested in exploring Ho’s artistic career and achievements. Welcomed with enthusiasm by the organisation, the proposal became ‘Rediscover and Restructure: Art and Sensuality in Ho Fan’s Cinema’, a programme in preparation led by Aki Kung and Lau Yam since last year coinciding with a research project on Ho Fan’s early experimental films by Dr. Timmy Chen from the Academy of Film at the Hong Kong Baptist University and a publication initiative by Sarah Greene, director of Blue Lotus Gallery which represents the photographer, in celebration of the 90th anniversary of his birth.
One might be underwhelmed viewing Ho Fan’s films through the same lens with which one views his photography, as quite a few in the critics community were. A way to better understand Ho’s transition from photography and fine art to film and popular entertainment, his ambitions, dedication and success as a filmmaker, and the setbacks and sacrifices along the way is to explore his films chronologically, starting from his independent experimental shorts and feature-length productions and move on to his 1972 commercial directorial debut Love and Blood before his films across genres from the 1970s to 90s. While with luck the long-lost 1970 independent feature Lost has been rediscovered, resources are still lacking for this effort. Films like the award-winning short Gulf (1966 in the UK) are missing and surviving prints of others are in poor condition. His major work Expensive Tastes (1982) is almost out of circulation since no digital copy is available. Not to mention the fact that there is little visual documentation and literature in existence and what a monumental task it is digging into the primary sources. Nonetheless, the study of Ho Fan’s films has begun again and will hopefully carry on.
Back in the mid-1960s, Ho Fan was an active member of the College Cine Club, a group of young cinephiles passionate about film appreciation and discussion, as well as making and publicly screening experimental short films. A few years more experienced than his peers in independent filmmaking — and with more to show for it — he became a good friend from whom we sought advice. Whenever he had a new film coming out, he would also ask me for my opinion and we would discuss the way forward, with the regulations on cinema loosen opening up a whole new world for us to navigate in the 1970s. 1978 and 1979 saw a new wave of talents beginning their careers in television bursting onto the scene. Their works inspired by western filmmaking and aesthetics criticising contemporary Hong Kong society were popular among younger audiences and appealed to the market with a more authentic than ever sense of urban living, aptly expressing in a modern tempo and visual language the confusion, frenzy, and rage common in social relationships. This worldly temperament can also be seen in Ho Fan’s films in the 1970s, with emphasis placed on the ‘sexual’ in urban human relationships — the confusion, turmoil and violence. His initial experiments in formal and sensorial beauty with the female form and sensual acts resulted in an audience that would only be satiated by lewd jokes, racy plots, rampage, provocation and eventually sexploitation. Ho’s name as a master director of erotic films came with the ball and chain of relentless societal and market pressure to conform. He knew better about himself than to succumb, and dedicated his work since the 1980s to reflecting on human desire, culminating in Yu Pui Tsuen in 1987 as he broke free from the constraints and expectations, achieving what he set out for.
Just as his protagonists, Ho was incessantly tempted on his artistic journey, as apparent in his decision to make Hidden Desire (1991), Temptation Summary (1990) and Temptation Summary II (1991) before moving to the United States. However, with Yu Pui Tsuen and The Sichuan Concubines (1994) later in his career, one may notice his aesthetic pursuit turning from self-expression to introspection and towards a return to the way of nature reclaiming his inner peace and true purpose.
|Date||Time||Programme (Broadway Cinematheque)|
|22/10 (Fri)||19:30||The Miserable Girl ^|
|23/10 (Sat)||15:50||The Notorious Frame-up ^|
|23/10 (Sat)||17:45||Seminar: Ho Fan’s Narrative Strategies and Film Style|
|23/10 (Sat)||19:35||Hidden Desire|
|24/10 (Sun)||15:00||The Sichuan Concubines ^|
|24/10 (Sun)||17:25||L’Air Du Temps *|
|Date||Time||Programme (JC Cube, Tai Kwun)|
|3/11 (Wed)||19:45||Lost ^|
|6/11 (Sat)||14:30||Yu Pui Tsuen ^|
|6/11 (Sat)||16:30||Seminar: Ho Fan’s Early Experimental Works|
Address: 3 Public Square Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon
HK$68 Children, seniors, students and bc VIP member
HK$20 Seminar on ‘Ho Fan’s Narrative Strategies and Film Style’
The charge of seminar can be waived when purchasing tickets of two or more different screenings with this seminar in the same transaction. This offer is applicable for screenings at Broadway Cinematheque and tickets purchased at the cinema box office only.
Ways to Purchase
Available at the cinema box office and self-service ticketing machine
Internet Booking: www.cinema.com.hk
Telephone Booking: 2388 3188
For online and telephone bookings, a handling charge of HK$8 (Mondays to Fridays) or HK$10 (weekends and public holidays) per ticket will be levied. All handling charges collected are non-refundable.
Address: 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
HK$68 Senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder, full-time students
HK$20 Seminar on ‘Ho Fan’s Early Experimental Works’
HK$20 will be deducted from the total amount when purchasing tickets of one or more screenings with this seminar in the same transaction. This offer is applicable for screenings at Tai Kwun and tickets purchased at URBTIX.
Ways to Purchase
Available at URBTIX outlets
Internet Booking: www.urbtix.hk
Credit Card Telephone Booking: 2111 5999
Mobile App: My URBTIX (Android / iPhone)
Handling charges for Internet, mobile ticketing app or telephone booking is HK$8 per ticket, with HK$5 delivery charge per transaction for local delivery by regular mail. All handling charges collected are non-refundable.
Ticketing Enquiries: 3761 6661 (10am–8pm Daily)
Tel: 6403 0720
All programmes are subject to change, updated information will be available on our website.
The Categories of some of the films in the programme are not yet rated by the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration at the time this programme is being announced. If any films are classified as Category III, notice will be posted online.
All tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable unless for any alteration or cancellation of screenings by the presenter, and ticket holders under 18 years of age who buy tickets before the announcement of a film is classified as Category III, ticket holders may get a refund during the assigned period. Please refer to our website for refund procedures.
Programming Team: Aki Kung, Lau Yam, Janis Law, Gladys Lau
Programme Consultant: Law Kar
Translators: Erica Leung, Francisco Lo
Design: Be Woks~
Dr. Timmy Chen
The Family of Mr. Ho Fan
Ms. Sarah Greene / Blue Lotus Gallery Hong Kong
Mr. Jim Lau
Ms. Helen Lui
Dr. Wang Chun-Chi
Ms. Yuen Tsz Ying
Celestial Pictures Limited
Entertaining Power Company Limited
Hong Kong Film Archive, Leisure and Cultural Services Department
My Way Film Company Limited
© 2021 Reel to Reel Institute Limited
All rights reserved. The publication, reproduction, extraction or transmission of all or part of the programme, in any way without the prior consent of Reel to Reel Institute, is prohibited.
Date & Time: 23.10.2021 (Sat) 17:45
Venue: House 2, Broadway Cinematheque
Speakers: Lau Yam, Aki Kung
For Ho Fan’s nearly 30 cinematic works, the programme was able to cover only a few. The seminar will introduce some of his major films which are not included this time, such as Love and Blood (1972), Girl with the Long Hair (1975), Innocent Lust (1977), Expensive Tastes (1982) and Taipei, My Love (aka Two for the Road, 1980 in Taiwan), for the uniqueness of their narrative strategies and film style. The speakers will also share the challenges in searching for the screening materials.