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Autumn Moon (1992) Directed by: Clara Law

Teenage girl Wai (Li Pui-Wai) and Tokio (Japanese actor Masatoshi Nagase) share an autumn's tale, not a love story but a story of emotions. From Wai's point of view it's about daring or choosing to show emotions towards the school boy she's in love before immigrating to Canada where her parents are waiting. A fear is also to lose a big emotional anchor in the form of her grandmother, who is going to be left behind for practical reasons. Tokio is at the other end of the spectrum, having experienced so many emotions that he's now numb and completely disillusioned...

Much featured can be recognized from previous Clara Law movies but Autumn Moon is a different beast nonetheless. Law and partner Eddie Fong this time again explores issues surrounding immigration but shot within an art house style, utilizing voiceover of self contemplation, long uninterrupted takes and slow pace. But what's important to point out that it's never painfully slow nor is the film abstract. Law shoots in her natural static ways, mixing video and film, adding a subtlety not previously visible in her work but she proves to be very adept in communicating through that narrative choice. Adept is also her direction of leads Li Pui-Wai and Masatoshi Nagase, both mainly using rough English delivery but not in any way does that hinder the emotions, intentions and journeys they both have to embody. Li reportedly never starred in a film again which is a shame because she's a definite natural talent.

The Category III rating is due to a few scenes of fairly graphic sex but Autumn Moon represents a rare example where it's definitely part of the storytelling. Tony Cheung's cinematography is simple but beautiful without being intruding and comedian Tats Lau switches to composer with very atmospheric results.

Avengers From Hell (1981) Directed by: Lee Pooi-Kuen

Three ghost stories in one, the titles Avengers From Hell pretty much fits all the tales on display here from Shaw Brothers. Never released on dvd or vcd by Celestial/IVL, it's an attempt that won't be highly missed. First up, Alex Man is the cop who sees a woman in a mansion that's been abandoned for long and she's been dead 30 years. Involving his girlfriend, Man's Sunny may in fact have more to do with the past tragedy than he first thought. Second up to bat, Phillip Chan is businessman Jack who have no qualms about sleeping around despite a good life, wife and pending fatherhood. Pending fatherhood times two though as his Phillipino fling Jenny tells him she's pregnant. After accidentally killing her, home is not secure anymore as Jenny turns up to have her revenge. Finally, Lau Hak-Suen finds a pair of glasses who used to belong to his dead next door neighbour. He receives luck in gambling from wearing them though, just as long as he shares his winnings...

There's sporadic eerie imagery in in particular the first two stories and the short format is always a good opportunity to practice telling stories that should not be stretched out. But nothing really flies here, despite the second adding exploitation and increased supernatural elements. When the third story goes all out on the gambling circuit to channel the local residents favourite past time, matters are extremely boring and start mattering little even sporadically.

The Avenging Eagle (1978) Directed by: Sun Chung

Detailing the break and the igniting of consciousness of Chik Ming Sing (Ti Lung), one of the Eagles of The Iron Boat Gang trained by Yoh Xi Hung (Ku Feng who is bringing an evil aura but an evil aura with depth), he's got blood on his hands and owes the world a huge debt but together with Cheuk Yi Fan (Alexander Fu Sheng) he takes on his former assassin brothers and ultimately his Godfather. Sun Chung brings sufficient depth for a very valid morality tale despite not lingering on too many beats. A very good thing as this is Shaw Brothers with depth, efficiency which is then wrapped in a darkness, regal design and creative weapons action choreographed by Tong Gai & Wong Pau-Gei.

The Avenging Quartet (1993) Directed by: Stanley Siu

Kickass poster art, the uniting of fighting, shooting females Moon Lee, Cynthia Khan, Yukari Oshima and Nishiwaki Michiko sets up potentially classic material but in the end The Avenging Quartet ranks as one of the most forgettable that came out of the genre-boom. To his credit, director Stanley Siu doesn't seem to possess the worst eye for visuals and story driven cinema. He does grow tired of trying eventually and just mixes up action and useless comedy (co-star Chin Ka-Lok as wacky cop being responsible for that tangent) that sacrifices the actual small story at hand. Saving grace would've of course been action of the highest order but without much flow or excitement, what seems to be a lot going in is in fact very little and standard. An attention grabbing violent and gory final reel doesn't make the last parts of the film boring but they don't mean anything on any level.

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Avenging Trio (1989, Cheung Gik-Laam)

The children of assassinated parents pursue the heist-path as well while the police (led by Gordon Liu) is working on the case. Low budget and very anonymous in feel type of time. Mainly because of a very flat frame and unknown leads (Liu and Leung Kar-Yan are barely supporting actors here) but the very familiar broad comedic AND violent frame that often represents the uniqueness of Hong Kong cinema is an underwhelming one here. Annoyingly broad and unimpressive action-wise too, there's a couple of flashes of gritty gunplay and fight-action but such temporary noise does not save the movie.

Awakening (1994) Directed by: Cha Chuen-Yee

Part of what arguably is a 1990s roll for creative director Cha Chuen-Yee (writer Rico Chung played a crucial part too), ending up being best utilized in the satirical Once Upon A Time in Triad Society in 1996. Awakening plays with more manic tools and certainly can be argued to belong to a large, distinguished family of Hong Kong movies being all over the place. But few have the vision Chuen-Yee has in Awakening. Feng Shui master Liu Sheng Ming (Anthony Wong) gets in the eyeline of vengeance desiring Lam Cho Wen (Simon Yam). Dissatisfied with Liu's services prior that apparently meant the loss of his wife and kid, Cho Wen, in magical and sneaky ways, goes about destroying the life of the master...

On a minute budget, Cha Chuen-Yee goes to work by involving his camera heavily and in quite clever ways talking of transitions alone. Certainly eccentric, quirky, broad and disgusting, the plate of Awakening manages to cohere ALMOST all throughout and it even dips into a serious re-examination of lives of the characters (the awakening of the title). With elements in interaction between Anthony and Simon involving the latter combing Wong's hair, wanting to lick his finger clean of germs and the appearance of a white horse on the streets of Hong Kong, these out there elements can't be argued against logically as Cho Wen is countering with magic of his own while trying to expose Liu as a fraud. Even targeting his wife Dicky (Anita Lee) who Liu constantly neglects and shoots down, here enters the fairly successful awakening. It's basic drama but within a rather extreme frame, it manages to resonate. Anthony going insane at points and engaging in the "Double Practice" (it is indeed sexual) with various clients (including the mysterious Fei Fei, played by Carman Lee and her appearance means Hong Kong now has their own moment also present in a famous Forest Whitaker movie...), the mix doesn't always cohere but it's still a thorough pleasure to see Cha Chuen-Yee engaging his cast in this emotional insanity. Also with James Wong.

Axing Of The Coffin (1969) Directed by: Fu Ching-Wa

Also known as Chuang Tzu Tests His Wife, swordplay in the Wuxia style tradition isn't the primary focus here despite early signs seemingly cementing that fact. Blending in layered character depth with an eventual more ghostly angle, debut director Fu Ching-Wa showcases some novice strengths while unfortunately letting the film go about its business in far too boring ways in other areas. General Tieng is murdered by ninjas sent out by the people behind Duke Hsuan Ch'i (Tung Lam), unbeknownst to the Duke however (bringing in the point of main rulers being the ones scheming less compared to the people around them). Left surviving is Tieng's daughter Szu Chin (Sam Suet-Jan - Lady 9 Flower) as she is rescued by Chang Chou (Cho Kin). The two flee, fall in love but Ch'i Chuan wants to win over the love of Szu Chin and take revenge against Chang Chou who scarred his face...

Featuring only a small array of crudely staged fight scenes (this is still 1969 folks), what Axing Of The Coffin tells of is pretty much the tragedy of its female character Szu Chin. As she actually eventually loses her love Chang Chou, she's a character having difficulties surviving loneliness and will embark on new marriage as long as rituals concerning the burial of Chang Chou and the aftermath is handled correctly. It makes for an interesting sympathetic/unsympathetic character portrayal but it's wrapped in far too stagy direction (it really does feel like a filmed play more often than not). Getting more mileage out of a later spooky reel, director Fu Ching-Wa displays noble stylish and technical desire for his Taiwan cinema. Transitions into dreams are accompanied by effects not commonly seen at the time and there's even basic composite work done for a very atmospheric, latter reel terror ride as the titular coffin takes center stage.

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