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April 2023: Bullets Over Summer
Running is the art, not so much of going somewhere fast, but of pacing yourself. Running, which Francis Ng’s Mike does a lot of in Bullets Over Summer, can also keep you alive. Running a small Blu-ray label has been very rewarding, but it’s not without it hiccups, we’ve found out. Case in point: we haven’t sent out one of these in a few months. But we’re back now, happy to announce our first release of 2023 — a year which will also bring more underrated millenial Hong Kong thrills, Filipino breakouts and classics alike, and an underseen masterpiece from Japan’s zaniest iconoclast.
I can’t quite pinpoint when Pearl and I caught a screening of Bullets over Summer here in Hong Kong, but when we did, it blew us away, and we knew we had to work on it. It revealed another side to Wilson Yip’s work — an “independent spirit” for lack of a better term— that offered a much-needed counterpoint to the successful SPL: Kill Zone (2005) and the Ip Man series (2008-2019). It had us do a deep dive into his early works, and here we are.
More in the booklet (which also includes an archival interview with Yip):
Following a stint at Cinema City, first as a courier then as an assistant director, his early efforts ranged from the lurid (1995’s Daze Raper and the horror anthologies 1:00AM and Midnight Zone) to the acclaimed (1996’s Mongkok Story, a Hong Kong Critic’s Society Best Screenplay winner) to the mundane (1997’s Teaching Sucks, a tepid workplace comedy starring DJ Jan Lamb and Anthony Wong as fumbling high school teachers). The turning point for Yip came at the dawn of the millennium with three career-defining works produced by Joe Ma and co-written with TVB alumnus Matt Chow: Bio Zombie (1998), Bullets Over Summer (1999), and Juliet in Love (2000). Highlighting Yip’s versatility and ability to move from genre to genre with ease, the films also showcased a palpable eagerness to move past “insufficient budgets” and toward more ambitious filmmaking […] pushing the envelope, the loose trilogy presents inventive spins on formula […].
Bullets Over Summer, is warm, effusive, and consistently inventive. It sees Yip take his first steps towards action cinema — his would-be genre of choice — in a pleasingly circuitous manner that has become, we hope, the through-line of our curatorial efforts. Come for x, stay for y — here, a typical Hong Kong cop movie subverted by a warm sitcom premise about finding your chosen family (yet not without bullets). Released in in 1999, before 2000’s Yip’s Juliet in Love, it also retains the era’s effortless cool that made the lot of us fall in love with Hong Kong cinema, dropping a Chungking Express reference here, or sharing crew with Fruit Chan’s landmark Made in Hong Kong.
In case you missed it (Or, How I make up for a few “lost” newslestters):
We took a trip to Manila and Jason Tan Liwang profiled us for CNN Philippines.
Masashi Yamamoto’s Robinson’s Garden (1987) and What’s Up Connection (1990), which we released in August and October of last year, respectively, have been screening on North America, most recently as part of Alamo Brooklyn’s Weird Wednesday. Next screening is in Ithaca at the Cornell Cinema. We’re thrilled with the response, and let us know if you want to see more of our films in cinemas!
Our stacked edition of Yeo Joon Han’s cult festival hit Sell Out (2008) — a supernatural musical comedy doubling as a satire of corporate Kuala Lumpur! — is down to 376 Limited Slipcover editions. It includes a CD as if we’re actually releasing this in 2008, and the new art came courtesy of Benoit Tardif, a bona fide Montréal legend and master of tongue-in-cheek corporate illustration whose portfolio include Joe Beef and NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. Iykyk.
Leslie Cheung — who stars as Sing, an ambitious out-of-work filmmaker working on his first softcore porno for Triad financiers in the delightfully meta Viva Erotica (1996) — left us 20 years ago. We visited his star on the Avenue of Stars.
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