An Interview with Composer Henry Lai

HENRY 1

In the twenty year since his film music debut in 1994, Henry Lai Wan Man has secured a firm spot on the short A-list of Chinese film composers, next to fixtures like Chan Kwong Wing or Peter Kam. A four-time Hong Kong Film Awards nominee, his talents have been sought by some of the most high-profile directors in China and Hong Kong, including Dante Lam, Daniel Lee, Mabel Cheung, Alex Law, Gordon Chan, Felix Chong and Alan Mak. And rightly so : his scores show a great versatility, an ability to adapt to different genres and to integrate illustrious musical influences (Ennio Morricone, John Barry, Hans Zimmer…) while never forsaking his own style.

For a primer of Henry Lai’s talents you can listen to his rousing, heroic theme for 14 Blades, the wistful and folkloric “Paddy Field Song” from The Lost Bladesmanthe heartbreaking lament for Nick Cheung’s character in The Beast Stalker, the driving investigation theme from The Four, the triumphant Russian-flavoured training music in Star Runner, the tense, pulsating action music from The Sniper, the touching, delicate score for Echoes of the Rainbow, the Morricone-inspired music in A Fighter’s Blues, the ominous main titles cue from Fire of Conscience, the gripping percussive music (one of Lai’s specialties) of White Vengeance, or the gloriously epic main theme of Three Kingdoms : Resurrection of the Dragon.

(more…)

Advertisements

THE SOONG SISTERS (1997) review

tumblr_ni8z9gQbg71qzogw6o1_500

Mabel Cheung’s The Soong Sisters, though a bit forgotten nowadays, was a momentous project and an awards magnet at the time of its making and release, coming out in the year of Hong Kong’s retrocession to China and raking in Hong Kong Film Awards (or nominations) for most of its key players. It cast three of the most high-profile Asian actresses at the time as the titular sisters : daughters of catholic missionary, printing magnate and political activist and revolutionary Charlie Soong (Jiang Wen), himself a figure worthy of a 4-hour film, they each married a major figure of that infinitely troubled and transformative time in China’s history. Elder sister Ai-Ling (Michelle Yeoh) married H. H. Kung (Niu Zhenhua), one of the biggest fortunes in China and the future minister of industry, commerce and finance in the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) government. Then her sister Ching-Ling (Maggie Cheung) wedded the revolutionary saint and first president and founding father of the Republic of China, Sun Yat Sen (Winston Chao), a union that estranged her from her outraged father, himself a close friend of Dr. Sun. And finally, youngest sister Mai-Ling got married to Sun Yat Sen’s ally and successor as head of the Kuomintang and as president of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-Shek (Wu Hsing-Kuo). Each of these marriages took a toll on the family’s unity, but more importantly, the Soong sisters were much more than simply wives of powerful men. They were powerful women whose choices and sacrifices helped shape China’s history. Think of them as 20th-century women general of the Yang family.

(more…)