Friday, September 13, 2013

SOUL: Profile of Actor Jimmy Wang Yu

Jimmy Wang Yu (aka, Jimmy Wong in TIFF's programme notes) won a Best Actor award at the 2013  Taipei Film Awards for his role in Chung Mong-Hong's Soul, a film about a young man who might be possessed, might have lost his soul or might be mentally ill and what his father, played by Wang, will do to protect him. In a way, the highly aestheticized violence hearkens back to Wang's early career.

Wang got his start in the stylized swordsman cinema (wuxia pien) of The Shaw Bros. Studio.  He became a superstar in Chang Cheh's The One-Armed Swordsman (1967). And followed it up with other Shaw Bros. films such as Chang Cheh's The Golden Swallow (1968) with Cheng Pei-Pei, the Queen of Wuxia Pien.

Wang also helped bring kung fu, aka, "open fist," cinema to the world with The Chinese Boxer (1969), ushering in the films of Bruce Lee, David Chiang and Ti Lung while revealing which martial art is the supreme. (It's kung fu. It's always kung fu).

The popularity of The One-Armed Swordsman led to innumerable One-Armed Wang Yu movies, but I have a particular fondness for his show-down with Shintaro Katsu in, Zatoichi Meets The One Armed Swordsman (1971), co-produced by Taiwan's Golden Harvest and Katsu.

He also co-starred with George Lazenby in the Australian/Hong Kong co-production, The Man From Hong Kong (1975) directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, director and Trailers From Hell commentator. This co-production didn't go so smoothly, and various members of the production reminisce not so fondly about Wang in the documentary about Australian genre film, Not Quite Hollywood (2008).

While he's made, directed, produced and/or written over eighty films, most of them were in the years between1960 and 1980. But he played the folk hero Wong Fei-Hung in Sammo Hung's Lunar New Year extravaganza, Millionaire's Express (1986) and had a role with Jackie Chan in the "ghost action nonsense comedy," aka, batshit amazing, Fantasy Mission Force (1983).  Most recently, Wang appeared in Wuxia/Dragon (2011) with Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Kara Hui (Rigor Mortis) and Let's Go! (2011) with Juno Mak (Rigor Mortis).

SOUL Screening Times:
Monday, Sept 9th, 6:15 PM SCOTIABANK 11
Tuesday, Sept 10th, 6:15 PM SCOTIABANK 3
Saturday, Sept 14th, 12:00 PM SCOTIABANK 10

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