Carving a Name in Theatre & Film 高志森: 唯文艺创作能流芳百世

The movie industry is a challenging one especially in Hong Kong. Well known for the various family and comedy films he directed, Hong Kong’s Clifton Ko Chi-Sum shares with EZ on the challenges he faced in the making of his latest film and on his switch to theatre.

Ko is well known for his comedies ever since his very first feature, a supernatural comedy “The Happy Ghost” grossed over $17 million in 1984. Fast forward, he stopped filmmaking and shifted to theatre production and last year, he released his first feature film in 11 years. He made his silver screen comeback with a family drama, “Wonder Mama”, that focuses on the lives of women and men past their prime.

“I feel that there was never any focus on the lives of the older generation, if you notice, all movies are of the younger generation and for the younger generation,” Ko said of his decision to direct Wonder Mama. The feature film stars Petrina Fung Bo Bo as a middle-aged woman grappling with family and career issues while her parents divorced and her father takes on a younger spouse.

The making of the film was not an easy path as Ko felt that the lead actress role seemed made for Fung and it took a while for him to finally persuade her to take on the role. The film was also not within a popular genre and did not fit current trends for rom-coms, action films or supernatural films. This did not deter Ko from soldiering on to translate the lives of a family drama onto the silver screen.

“This movie is not about profits or making something to suit the market demand but something that I wanted to contribute back to the society, to show the people about the lives of those entering their golden years,” he said. The movie is based partly on a true story with a moral background emphasising on family values.

Ko lamented on the lack of meaningful films with strong values in recent years, particularly those that focuses on family and felt that there is a gap that the Wonder Mama filled perfectly. Wonder Mama was produced with a  $8 million budget, out of which, $1.6 million was financed by the government’s Film Development Fund. The film that debut last year was shown at several international film festivals such as the 2014 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, the 5th Beijing International Film Festival and the 2014 East Winds Film Festival in the UK.

The Wonder Mama is a not a far departure from Ko’s usual style which incorporated comedy with family-themed movies in the 1980s through to 1990s such as My Family (1986), It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World (1987), All’s Well End’s Well (1992) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1994), all top grossing films during that period of time. Ko also received a Golden Horse Award Best Director nomination from The Mad Phoenix (1997).

In 1995, Ko formed The Spring-Time group and spent most of his time directing stage productions in which he revived I Have a Date With Spring and The Mad Phoenix on stage several times and breaking box office records. “After the 1990s, the Hong Kong movie industry saw a drastic drop due to piracy issues and I decided to make the switch to theatre performances,” he said of his change from the silver screen to the stage. He felt that stage production offers more challenges to his directing skill but he enjoyed honing his stage production skills to perfection with his numerous productions.

“We must remember that on stage, we can’t shout “cut” or edit it later, it is live so everything has to be perfect and this is a challenge that I enjoyed facing,” he said. Currently, Ko believed the theatre industry in Hong Kong is at a very matured stage with more in the middle class appreciating stage shows. “The market in Beijing and Shanghai is also growing and it is a new market that we could target to continue to grow our production,” he said.

Rose_Poster_OP_v1-01_副本-683x1024.jpgKo was recently in Penang, Malaysia to introduce his latest production, “Wild Wild Rose”, to Penang and Malaysia. Wild Wild Rose is a musical adapted from the classic Mandarin movie of the same name produced by Cathay which was adapted from Bizet’s opera “Carmen”. Staring Perry Chiu and Zac Koo, the musical will feature popular songs from the movie such as Carmen and Madame Butterfly. “This musical will transport the audience back to the 1960s where music filled the nights,” Ko said.

He hoped the production was well received by the Penang audience and if it was a success, he may consider bringing more productions to Penang. As for any future endeavours, Ko said he will continue producing quality theatre productions to carve out a name for himself as a well-known director and producer. “Everyone knows Shakespeare and his plays long after he’s gone and this is why I continue working in this industry, to leave behind a name that someday everyone will remember,” he said.

说高志森与香港电影黄金时代是相互并存,这句话一点也不为过。在80-90年代初的香港,他作为编剧或导演与黄百鸣、许冠文等一代笑匠为电影市场联合打造无数经典喜剧,无论是1984年风靡一时的“开心鬼”系列,还是“鸡同鸭讲”、“富贵逼人”与“家有喜事”这些笑中带泪的写实性喜剧,皆缔造当年香港影史票房记录。

而这一切辉煌,却在90年代中旬戛然而止。香港电影由于猖狂的盗版问题进入了制作萧条期,曾经的“东方好莱坞”美誉一去不复返。

要知道,在舞台上,我们不能喊“CUT”或进行剪辑,它是生活,所有一切都需具备完美进程,这是一个强大的挑战,无论是对演员或者幕后主创人员。

说到这里,高志森略带时过境迁的感慨,当时他也因前景问题对电影业死心,转战舞台剧,果然上帝为他打开了另外一扇窗:他创作的舞台剧《南海十三郎》和《我和春天有个约会》取得口碑与票房双赢,并且衍生电影版本。

对于“新欢”舞台剧,高志森强调,在融入商业因素的同时,他也致力于提高观众的鉴赏水平,一张电影票和舞台剧票的区别不仅仅是价格,还有艺术表演的完善和难度。

“要知道,在舞台上,我们不能喊“CUT”或进行剪辑,它是生活,所有一切都需具备完美进程,这是一个强大的挑战,无论是对演员或者幕后主创人员。”他说。目前香港的舞台戏剧设置正处于非常成熟的阶段,当然,他不否认舞台剧的主流观众群为中产阶级。

他希望可以继续培养和扩展舞台剧的观众群,最关键的是中国北京和上海的市场也在不断增长,这是一个让人期待的全新市场。

纵然在舞台剧领域开拓了另一片天,但高志森对于旧爱(电影)创作却显得有点迟疑。直至2014-2015年,他毅然选择以探讨亲情的“妈咪侠”回归电影界。

“我会拍这部电影的原因是关于老年人家庭题材的社会写实片子太稀少,现在都是年轻化带浪漫色彩的商业电影,拍“妈咪侠”首次完全不考虑所谓利润、市场和商业空间。”

而这次他坚持久违银幕的冯宝宝演出电影中女主角-一个在家庭和事业上挣扎的中年妇女,她的老父母闹离婚了,父亲则娶了一个年轻的老婆,矛盾和纠葛就此展开。这部电影制作过程并非轻松,说服近年来几乎退隐状态的冯宝宝演出就是一大难关,齐聚一群老戏骨曾江与邵音音等,而且题材并非他最擅长的喜剧或轻喜剧,高志森后来还是成功一一克服。

“妈咪侠”先后亮相几个国际电影节:如2014年台北金马电影节、第五届北京国际电影节和2014年英国东风电影节,“妈咪侠”的制作费为800万港元,而香港政府主导的电影发展基金也参与制作融资近160万港元。冯宝宝也凭此片获得2015年美国加州独立电影节最佳女主角。

高志森在2015年携着他的舞台音乐剧新作“野玫瑰之恋”来到马来西亚槟城 ,这部由王天林所执导的经典华语电影“野玫瑰之恋”,而原型为Bizet’s的“卡门”歌剧。这部由焦媛与高皓正主演的音乐剧将采用电影中的经典歌曲,如卡门和蝴蝶夫人。 “这部音乐剧将把记忆观众拉回20世纪60年代,是一个弥漫经典音乐的夜晚。 ”

他希望这部音乐剧能打动槟城观众的心,如果反应良好,往后考虑为槟城观众带来更多剧作。至于今后的目标,高志森将继续制作高质量的戏剧作品,作为一个导演和制片人。

“文化与艺术是超越领域的世界语言,比方即使过了几个世纪,但每个人都知道莎士比亚和他的诗作与戏剧作品,而历史上许多的贵族国王,我们却未必记得清楚。这就是为什么我继续在这个领域努力与创作,希望有一天,大家会记住这么一个名字。 ”他说。

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