The anchor of TIFF Cinematheque's summer program is a massive, daunting retrospective of Chinese cinema. It launches at the Lightbox this week with multiple special events, panels, conversations and filmmaker introductions for specific screenings.
The series opens tonight (Thursday, June 6) with Chen Kaige introducing his 1993 Peking Opera epic Farewell My Concubine. Keep in mind it's the three-hour festival cut, not the shortened version released in North America by Miramax.
Chen is the power player of the series' opening weekend. He takes part in a free panel with director Xie Fei, archivist Chen Biqiang and U of T's Bart Testa Friday (June 7) at 1 pm, then introduces a screening of The Yellow Earth at 5:30 pm and sits down for one of TIFF's In Conversation With sessions at 8 pm. He also introduces King Of The Children on Sunday (June 9) at noon.
Other highlights of the first week include a free screening of the early silents Labourer's Love, Romance Of The Western Chamber and Red Heroine on Saturday (June 8) at noon - all in archival 35mm prints - and a panel on the work of Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsaio-hsien Sunday (June 9) at noon.
The inclusion of a number of Taiwanese films - including Edward Yang's brilliant A Brighter Summer Day, which screens in August - seems to stretch the definition of "Chinese cinema," at least in political terms. But one could certainly argue that Taiwanese cinema, much like pre-1997 Hong Kong cinema, is an essential key to understanding the limitations imposed on "official" Chinese cinema.
Critic David Bordwell speaks on The Art Of The Martial Arts Film Monday (June 10) at 6:30 pm, and acclaimed cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Chungking Express) presents a live performance of his feature-turned-installation Away With Words at 10 pm. Bart Testa introduces a screening of Ann Hui's Boat People Tuesday (June 11) at 6 pm.
And you'll want to save some energy for Wednesday night (June 12), when Jackie Chan arrives to present Drunken Master and The Legend Of Drunken Master at 6 and 9 pm. He'll also introduce Police Story June 13 at 6 pm.
The series runs throughout the summer. We'll be offering much more coverage in future issues and in this Friday's web column. So keep an eye out.