September 5, 2003


"Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film" with guest Cheng Pei-Pei of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

DALLAS (SMU) - The Meadows School of the Arts at SMU will present "Heroic Grace: The Chinese Martial Arts Film," a festival of four feature films from the legendary Shaw Brothers Studio of Hong Kong, at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 and at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 27 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center auditorium, 3140 Dyer St. on the SMU campus. Distributed by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, "Heroic Grace" is the first major attempt in North America to examine the martial arts film as a central and enduring genre of Chinese cinema. Its showing at SMU is sponsored by the Meadows School's Division of Cinema-Television, the Asian Film Festival of Dallas and the USA Film Festival.

Each of the films will be presented in a newly struck 35mm print in its original widescreen format with new English subtitles. Several of these films have been out of circulation for over two decades or were previously available only in poorly-dubbed, pan-and-scan video formats.

Special guest of honor at the film festival will be legendary Hong Kong film actress Cheng Pei-Pei, star of the 1960s movies "Come Drink With Me" and "Golden Swallow." Western audiences became familiar with her talents as an actress and martial artist in 2000, when she played the villainous Jade Fox in Ang Lee's international blockbuster "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Ms. Cheng will be presented with an award for her extraordinary contributions to Asian cinema and will introduce her two films at the festival on Saturday. A biography of Ms. Cheng is attached.

Ticket prices are $7 per movie. A one-night pass is $12 ($10 for students and senior citizens), and a two-night pass is $20 ($15 for students and senior citizens). Tickets are available in advance from the Meadows Ticket Office at 214-768-2787, or may be purchased the night of the event at the Hughes-Trigg Student Center.


Note: All films are in Mandarin with English subtitles.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 26 7:30 p.m. - "The One-Armed Swordsman" (1967), directed by Chang Cheh, starring Wang Yu. Prototype of the macho martial arts films of the 1970s featuring a lone hero. Themes of male vengeance, bodily maiming and psychological trauma. Director Chang Cheh is often cited as the exponent of the "masculine" baroque in King Hu's "feminine" classicism. Running time: 111 minutes.

9:30 p.m. - "Blood Brothers" (1973), directed by Chang Cheh, starring Ti Lung and David Chiang. Distillation of Chang Cheh's favorite themes of masculine masochism and "heroic bloodshed," with a trio of stars the director made famous. One of the assistant directors was John Woo, who later cast the film's villain, Ti Lung, in his postmodern evocation of male gallantry, "A Better Tomorrow" (1986). Running time: 118 minutes.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 27 7:00 p.m. - Presentation of award to legendary actress Cheng Pei-Pei for her extraordinary contributions to Asian cinema, followed by "Come Drink With Me" (1966), directed by King Hu, starring Cheng Pei-Pei and Yue Hua. Martial arts debut of one of the genre's most influential directors. King Hu revivifies the figure of the female warrior (in drag) and imbues action sequences with the rhythms, poses and music of Beijing opera. Romantic exposition of Daoist and Confucianist standards of moral conduct. Running time: 94 minutes.

9:30 p.m. - "Golden Swallow" (1968), directed by Chang Cheh, starring Cheng Pei-Pei and Wang Yu. Sequel to "Come Drink With Me." Cheng Pei-Pei again plays the eponymous heroine, but director Chang Cheh reverses King Hu's "feminine" paradigm: '60s martial arts icon Wang Yu assumes center stage as a psychologically tormented swordsman. Running time: 108 minutes.


"I've always felt dance and martial arts are very similar--the ways in which you stretch your body, use your legs, there's something that's complementary about the disciplines." Cheng Pei-Pei

Cheng Pei-Pei was born in Shanghai. Trained in ballet since age 8, Ms. Cheng also studied jazz, modern, and traditional Chinese dance at the Nanguo Beijing Opera School. In 1963, one of Shaw Brothers' most astute producers, Mona Fong, signed the 17 year-old Pei-Pei to a contract with the legendary Hong Kong studio. After appearing in a few lavish costume epics in the early '60s, Ms. Cheng played the lead role of wandering swordswoman Golden Swallow in King Hu's "Come Drink With Me" in 1966. This release was a lynchpin in the studio's much-heralded New Action Century production policy of the mid-sixties, which revolutionized the martial arts genre and revitalized the action picture worldwide. With the spectacular box-office success of "Come Drink with Me" and the drastically different "One-Armed Swordsman," directed by Chang Cheh in 1967, the Shaw Brothers studio began a decade-long reinvention of the action movie. During this period, Cheng Pei-Pei was the martial arts genre's biggest female star, showcasing her astonishing talents in many films such as "Princess Iron Fan" (1966), "Thundering Sword" (1967), "The Jade Raksha" and "Golden Swallow" (both 1968), and "Flying Dagger" and "The Golden Sword" (both 1969). Her singing and dancing talents were on display in "Hong Kong Nocturne" (1967), a colorfully designed modern pop musical melodrama directed by the Shaws' preeminent musical genre stylist, Japanese director Inoue Umetsugu.

Shortly after making the transition to "empty-hand" kung fu action films in the early '70s in films such as "Lady Hermit" (1971) and "None But the Brave" (1973), Ms. Cheng married, retired from films, and moved to Los Angeles, where she taught ballet for several years and raised a family. Then, in the late 1980s, during the second Golden Age of Hong Kong cinema, she triumphantly returned to films in a wide range of roles, including the part of a Beijing Opera Academy teacher in Alex Law's "Painted Faces" (1988) and a comic role in Stephen Chow's "The Flirting Scholar" (1993). In 1994, she acted opposite '90s martial arts femme extraordinaire Michelle Yeoh in "Wing Chun," and western audiences finally became aware of her talents as an actress and martial artist in 2000, when she played the villainous Jade Fox in Ang Lee's international blockbuster, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Recently, Ms. Cheng has been featured as a grieving mother in Ching Siu-Tung's woman-centered action drama "Naked Weapon" (2003). In real life, she is the mother of actress Marsha Yuen Chi-Wai, who is a student of the Northern style of martial arts and who is scheduled to reprise her mother's role of Golden Swallow in a remake of "Come Drink With Me."