Posts Tagged ‘Hou Hsiao’

Movie Reviews 440 – My Young Auntie (1981)

July 3, 2020

I have to admit that when I first picked up this DVD of My Young Auntie I thought that Michelle Yeoh was the star of this film. I realized my mistake as soon as the movie started, but my sorrow was relatively short lived. Part of the reason was that this was directed, written and starring Chia-Liang Liu who also helmed the classic The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, a film I now count on as one of my all time favorite martial arts movies. The other reason? Kara Hui, who is the star of this film can kick ass almost as well as Michelle.

While this film is another product from the legendary Shaw Brothers studio, it does depart in some ways from their earlier films, most notably the inclusion of several elaborate, flashy, dance scenes and a distinct catering to North American ideology and culture, sometimes mockingly, sometimes reverent.

An elderly dying patriarch of a family tries to divert his impending inheritance from falling into the hands of Yung-Sheng, one of his wicked brothers (hereafter referred to as “Uncle #3”), he can only legally pass on the deed of his fortunes to his favored nephew Yu Ching-Chuen (Chia-Liang Liu) by marrying his young devoted servant Tai-Nan (Hui) and having her passing it onto Ching-Chuen. She reluctantly agrees and upon the old man’s death travels to deliver the deed to the intended nephew.

Surprised, Ching-Chuen welcomes the young Tai-Nan into his humble home but has an ever greater surprise when arriving unannounced the next day is his bratty son “Charlie” Yu Tao (Hou Hsiao), who has returned from college for a break and clashes with the girl, misunderstanding who she is. Educated and adopting western style and demeanor, Tao brings Tai-Nan to the city where she is exposed to the sophisticated glamour and glitter of modern urban clothing and lifestyle. But even donning a gown and heels Tai-Nan shows that she can battle when confronted  teen goons. And her fighting prowess and pairing with Tao will be needed when Uncle #3 steals the deed to the dead man’s fortunes. The at odds pair must storm Yung-Sheng’s heavily guarded, booby trapped compound and the surprises waiting for the two once there.

While the usual tropes, battles displays of martial arts prowess (lots of trampoline aerials if that is particularly appealing) are there as expected, it’s the aforementioned unusual aspects that differentiate this film from other Shaw productions. One scene that even shocked me because it was so unexpected was Tao saying the F-word and giving ‘the finger’ to Tai-Nan. Not sure if this daring addition was something commonplace in later years, but it was certainly the first time I encountered it in this type of film. Director Chia-Liang Liu includes longtime colleague and star of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin Gordon “Chia-Hui” Liu in scenes, but surprisingly more for comedy relief and singing tunes than for combat.

As is often the case, the payoff is in the final battle and in this regard, Auntie delivers the goods, combining beauty with graceful force and speed all matched step for step by Tao. The deftness of their fighting is mirrored by their reluctance to admit they are falling for one another, although that plot angle is so minor it could have been excised altogether. While some of the slapstick is a bit on the heavy side, the handling of ageism and social evolution were welcome touches.

One thing viewers will have to contend with is the all too usual awful Chinglish subtitles that are not only incorrect, incomplete and misleading, but in some cases adding to the confusion of numbered ‘Uncles’. This may be an “Auntie” film, but the confusion of which uncle was which is the only thing that nearly had me crying “Uncle”.