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Love Stories: We Revisit the Romantic Classics of the Hong Kong Film Industry

(HK) Romance. Starring Fashion blogger at Cindy Ko and her boyfriend Tim Chang. Photos by Cyrus Wong. Directed by Katie Kenny. Produced by Sarah Fung. Photo retouch by Pierre pang, Mike Hung and Phoebe Yeung.

By Katie Kenny, Sarah Fung, Sean Hebert | Feb 07, 2013

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  • Love Stories: We Revisit the Romantic Classics of the Hong Kong Film Industry
Hong Kong may be better known for its kung-fu flicks, slapstick comedies and triad shoot-em-ups, but in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we decided to honor the city’s romantic side by recreating a few famous scenes from Hong Kong-set films. The movies mentioned here range from Hollywood-produced cinematic classics from the 50s and 60s to raunchy sex comedies to fine art classics of modern cinema.

In the Mood for Love

Location: The alleyway connecting Wellington Street to Wo On Lane
Cindy wears: Lightning cheongsam with pink piping, $3,580; Black vintage bag, $1,280, Ranee K. Earrings, stylist’s own.
Tim wears: The navy Tiller suit, $14,100; Twill slim fit shirt, $1,700; Ledger skinny satin tie, $1,200, Thomas Pink. Sheet of A4 paper (impromptu pocket square), stylist’s own.

 “Feelings can creep up just like that. I thought I was in control.”

(2000) As fast-paced, loud and overcrowded as Hong Kong can be, the great Wong Kar-wai adeptly revealed to his audience a slower, quieter and indeed, rather lonely side of the city in his critically acclaimed “In The Mood for Love.” Set in the 1960s and starring Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, the story of hidden desire and restrained passion begins when journalist Chow Mo-wan (Leung) and secretary Su Li-zhen (Cheung) immigrate from Shanghai with their spouses and move into a cramped apartment complex. Left alone in a strange city while their spouses work, Mo-wan and Li-zhen become friends, and soon learn that their partners are having an affair. However, despite their growing attraction, they choose not to stoop to the level of their cheating spouses. Intricate details, from the set design to the cinematography to all 46 of Cheung’s cheongsams (she wore a different one in every scene but obviously some were cut from the final film), were carefully selected by the director to set the perfect mood for this restrained yet powerful love story.

Recreate It: The famous cafeteria scene (picture, left) was shot in the Café de Goldfinch (G/F., 13-15 Lan Fong Rd., Causeway Bay, 2577-7981), an old-school Hong Kong-style Western diner. The decoration put up by the film crew remains, so go and order an “In the Mood for Love” set menu, which consists of sizzling steak, borscht, and other kitsch dishes.


The World of Suzie Wong

Location: The Langham Place Hotel’s Chuan Infinity Room
Cindy wears: Short sky blue lace cheongsam, $4,380; Headband, $398, Ranee K. Shoes, model’s own.
Tim wears: Aslett suit, $14,100; Twill slim-fit shirt, Thomas Pink.

“You’re the most exasperating girl I’ve ever met.”

(1960) If you’ve spent any time in Wan Chai then you’re likely familiar with this melodramatic American romance story, at least in name. Shot partly on location in Kowloon and on Hong Kong Island, the story of an American artist (William Holden) becoming involved with the seedy prostitute underworld serves as a vivid time capsule for our city in the 1960s. The title character is portrayed by Nancy Kwan, who was called in to reshoot half the film after the original actress (France Nuyen) was dismissed. It seems her romantic involvement with Marlon Brando—and the rumors of his affair with another actress at the same time—led Nuyen to gain so much weight that she no longer fit into production costumes. The drama off-camera mirrored the mood on-screen, as the artist must decide between the prostitute-turned-painting-muse and the wealthy banker’s daughter, both of whom have fallen for him.

Recreate it: While you’ll likely have no problem navigating your way onto the Star Ferry—where Robert uttered that famed line after Suzie wrongfully accuses him of theft—there are a wealth of original filming locations for fans to uncover in Wan Chai and beyond on a walking tour. Visit Gwulo’s blog post, which includes an exhaustive list of locations and maps, and appreciate the cinematic history that unfolds before you.



Location: The Langham Place Hotel’s Chuan Infinity Room
Cindy wears: White embroidery top, $1,680, Ranee K.
Tim wears: Shirt, model’s own.

“Don't be afraid. We're going together.”

(1988) Directed by Stanley Kwan, this story about a pair of doomed lovers is all the more poignant after the death of both its leads—Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui—in 2003. Set in 1930s Hong Kong, the suave “12th Master” Chan Chen-pang (Cheung) meets Fleur the courtesan (Mui) in a bordello. Their passionate love affair is decried by Chan’s family, and after their love is forbidden, they vow to commit suicide and be together in the afterlife. However, while Fleur dies, Chan does not. Fleur’s spirit waits in hell for 50 years, before returning to earth to revisit her former lover, now an old man filled with regret. The film swept the film festivals in Asia and abroad, with wins for Mui’s performance at the Golden Horse Film Festival, the Asia Pacific Film Festival and the Hong Kong Film Awards, where it was also awarded best director, best original film score and best picture.

Recreate it: Many of the scenes set in modern-day Hong Kong are filmed in Shek Tong Tsui. Climb aboard a tram headed for Whitty Street and recreate the moment where the newspaper editor realizes he's talking to Fleur's ghost.


Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Location: Stanley Beach
Cindy wears: One piece swim suit, model’s own.
Tim wears: Swim trunks, model’s own.

“A great many mistakes are made in the name of loneliness.”

(1955) There’s something about William Holden and old Hollywood movies shot in Hong Kong. Holden stars again in this critically acclaimed tale as Mark Elliot, an American news correspondent who falls in love with the beautiful Eurasian widow Dr. Han Suyin (Jennifer Jones). Based on the real-life Han Suyin’s autobiography, the couple must deal with the disapproval of her traditional family and the city’s strict racial laws, and then must work through the consequences of Mark’s assignment to cover the Korean War. The film was given an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, and Jones was nominated for Best Actress, which she likely deserved—she and Holden reportedly could not stand one another while on set. Holden later wrote in his memoirs that Jones would chew garlic before their love-making scenes, complained constantly about her makeup, and once threw a peace offering of roses in his face. Diva!

Recreate it: While the beach scenes were shot at privately-owned Middle Island, Aberdeen Harbour’s romantic and historic pair of floating restaurants have been featured in countless films including this classic. Be sure to grab a table at Tai Pak, the Jumbo’s less glitzy sister restaurant, and imagine yourself in 1950s Hong Kong.
Shum Wan Pier Drive, Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen, 2553-9111.

Shop the Shoot

Want to pick up a sharp suit or a sultry cheongsam of your own? Pay these stores a visit:
Ranee K: 25 Aberdeen St., Central, 2108-4068.
Thomas Pink: Shop B67, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Rd. Central, 2155-9671.

Special thanks to the Langham Place Hotel for use of its suite: 555 Shanghai St., Mong Kok, 3552-3388.







Download HK Magazine’s awesome iPad app to see even more photos from our shoot, and other exclusive content.







(2010) Directed by local filmmaker Scud (aka Danny Cheng Wan-cheung), this brooding, explicit drama focuses on the love affair between Kafka (Byron Pang) and Daniel (Thomas Price), examining their sexual identities and their love through the prism of drug abuse. Though critics have decried Scud’s directorial style as pretentious and rather self-indulgent, the film was nonetheless nominated for a Teddy award at the Berlin Film Festival and was the closing film of the Hong Kong International Film Festival.
Recreate it: Remove all your clothes, cover yourself in silver body paint, buy a pair of wings from Pottinger Street, and build yourself a nest of twigs on the roof of someone’s penthouse.

Crossing Hennessy

(2010) Starring Jacky Cheung and mainland starlet Tang Wei, “Crossing Hennessy” is another lighthearted comedy depicting the lives of real Hongkongers. Bachelor Loy (Cheung) lives in Wan Chai with his mother, who keeps trying to set him up on dates. Oi Lin (Tang) works in a bathroom fittings shop with her aunt and uncle, who conspire with Loy’s mother to set them up. Despite their initial dislike of each other, they finally become friends. The parents mistake their friendship for romance, and misunderstandings ensue. This was Tang Wei’s first film role after being blacklisted in China for appearing in Ang Lee’s espionage drama, “Lust Caution.”

Recreate it: The café scenes were shot in the Honolulu Coffee Shop (176-178 Hennessy Rd., Wan Chai, 2575-1823).

He’s a Woman, She’s a Man

(1994) This unconventional, touching comedy saw Anita Yuen in her award-winning role as Wing, an awkward, tomboyish young woman who lives in a dingy apartment in Kowloon City. She idolizes the Cantopop superstar Rose (Carina Lau) and her music producer boyfriend Sam (Leslie Cheung), so when Sam announces an open casting call for male protégés, Wing disguises herself as a boy (with the help of her longtime friend, played by Jordan Chan) and enters the contest. As the best of a talentless bunch, Sam takes on Wing and moves her into his mansion. As Sam and Rose’s relationship starts to fall apart, the naïve young cross-dresser tries desperately to reconcile them in order to maintain her vision of them as a dream couple. In doing so, she finds herself starting to fall in love with Sam—but in an added twist, Sam starts to fall for her too, despite thinking that she’s a man. Filled with hilarious send-ups of Hong Kong idol culture, this sweet, often-overlooked film is well worth a visit.

Love in a Puff

(2010) This raunchy rom-com scored itself a Category III rating for its explicit jokes, but it was nonetheless one of the most popular local films of 2010. Written by Pang Ho-cheung and Heiward Mak, it starred Miriam Yeung as Cherie the cosmetics salesgirl, and Shawn Yue as Jimmy, an ad salesman, who meet in a Causeway Bay alley on their cigarette breaks. Critics praised the film for its realistic depiction of real Hongkongers and their relationships.
Recreate it: Lurk around in a Causeway Bay alley somewhere.

Sex and Zen

(1991) This Category III box-office smash from director Michael Mak tells the erotic story of the sex-obsessed Mei Yeung-sheung (Lawrence Ng); a scholar in imperial China who winds up married to the virginal Chau-yin (Amy Yip Chi-mei). Frustrated with his frigid wife, Mei pursues a thief in order to learn how to break into homes and sleep with other men’s wives (as one does). The thief refuses to assist on account of Mei’s endowment issues, and so a doctor is brought in and a twenty-inch horse penis is added to the plotline. Naturally, wife seduction and revenge infidelity occur. Also compelling is the fact that Ng, perhaps best known for playing a kindhearted doctor on TVB's "Healing Hearts," recently mentioned in an interview that he was blackmailed into making the film at a desperate time in his career, and is embarrassed by its success and some of the soft-core scenes he shot with Yip.

Recreate it: Should you decide to recreate some, ahem "key scenes," why not check yourself into a love hotel? Try the ones in Kowloon Tong for some retro “glamour.” Corinne Hotel, 30-32 Cumberland Rd., Kowloon Tong, 2336-7074.

Comrades: Almost a Love Story

(1996) This hopelessly romantic hit stars Maggie Cheung and Leon Lai at the height of their fame. It follows the story of two immigrants from mainland China—Xiaojun (Lai), who comes to Hong Kong dreaming of riches so that he can return home and marry his fiancé, while Chiao (Cheung) is trying to raise funds to build her mother a house. Using a delivery bike as the mode of transport for their get-rich-quick scheme, the fast friends do whatever they can to survive in their new and sometimes unwelcoming city. Things get complicated, however, when the two find comfort in each other on New Year’s Eve.  

Recreate it: The 70-year-old Kung Sheung Bicycle Co. (G/F, 39D Battery St., Jordan, 2710-8079, stocked Phoenix brand traditional road bikes (the kind the couriers use) up until a couple of years ago—pay them a visit and see if they’ve got anything similar. Then all you have to do is pedal down the middle of Chater Road with a buddy perched on the back.

Want More Scenes?

Phil Edward Kenny is a Hong Kong movie buff and the owner of the excellent blog Hong Kong (& Macau) Film Stuff, which identifies shooting locations for local movies. Although action flicks are his forte, he suggests some lesser-known locales for (quasi) romantic movie scenes.

Shek O Health Centre
“King of Comedy”—where Cecilia Cheung wraps her legs around Stephen Chow—whaddya mean that's not romantic!!!?
140 Shek O Village, Shek O, 2809-4564.

Felix at The Peninsula Hotel
Where Jackie Chan takes Shu Qi for dinner in “Gorgeous.”
28/F, The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2920-2888.

Chinese YMCA
Where Andy Lau chats up Cecilia Cheung in “Running on Karma.”
51 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan, 2803-7715,

Shatin Inn
Chow Yun-fat takes Sylvia Chang to reminisce (and argue) about their past relationship in "All About Ah Long."
Tai Po Rd., Tai Wai, 2691-1425.

Swimming Pool at Dragon Garden
Where James Bond meets Chew Me in ”The Man with the Golden Gun.”
32-42 Castle Peak Rd., Tsing Lung Tau,

Barker Road Peak Tram Stop
The end scene in “Soldier of Fortune” when Susan Hayward returns to Clark Gable and meets him at the tram stop, with its nice view over the harbor.
Barker Rd., The Peak.


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