[Last Films I Watch] He’s a Woman, She’s a Man (1994) and Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man (1996)

He s a Woman She s a Man poster

English Title: He’s a Woman, She’s a Man
Original Title: Gam chi yuk yip 金枝玉叶
Year: 1994
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Genre: Comedy
Director: Peter Chan 陈可辛
Writers:
Peter Chan 陈可辛
Clarence Hui 许愿
James Yuen 阮世生
Leslie Cheung 张国荣
Yuet-Jan Hui 许月珍
Chung Man Yee 奚仲文
Music:
Clarence Hui 许愿
Tsang-hei Tsui 赵增熹
Cinematography: Henry Chan 陈俊杰
Cast:
Leslie Cheung 张国荣
Anita Yuen 袁咏仪
Carina Lau 刘嘉玲
Jordan Chan 陈小春
Eric Tsang 曾志伟
Jerry Lamb 林晓峰
Kar-Ying Law 罗家英
Joe Cheung 张同祖
Lawrence Cheng 郑丹瑞
Rating: 6.7/10

Who s the Woman Who s the Man poster

English Title: Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?
Original Title: Gam chi yuk yip 2 金枝玉叶2
Year: 1996
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Genre: Comedy
Director: Peter Chan 陈可辛
Writer: Oi Wah Lam 林爱华
Music:
Tsang-hei Tsui 赵增熹
Peter Kam 金培达
Cinematography: Henry Chan 陈俊杰
Cast:
Leslie Cheung 张国荣
Anita Yuen 袁咏仪
Anita Mui 梅艳芳
Theresa Lee 李绮虹
Jordan Chan 陈小春
Eric Tsang 曾志伟
Carina Lau 刘嘉玲
Andy Chi-On Hui 许志安
Edmond Leung 梁汉文
Emil Chau 周华健
Moses Chan 陈豪
Ann Hui 许鞍华
Rating: 5.9/10

He’s a Woman, She’s a Man 1994

Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man 1996

A double bill of HK director Peter Chan’s sexuality topsy-turvy rom-coms, HE’S A WOMAN, SHE’S A MAN is made in 1994, stars Anita Yuen as Lam, an ordinary tomboy and Leslie Cheung as the pop music composer and producer Sam. Lam is a devoted groupie of the red-hot singer Rose (Lau), and as Rose’s boyfriend-and-producer, Sam and Rose becomes the apotheosis of a perfect match in Lam’s world.

Although a maxim wisely advices never ever get to know your idol in person, when knowing that there is a male-only talent contest organised by Sam, Lam decides to disguise herself as a boy to compete, after a strange combination of circumstances, she is hand-picked and offered a contract to be trained and polished as the next big thing. So now known as Lam Chi Wing, a boy’s name, she lives in with Sam in his apartment as his new disciple, meanwhile, she discovers that Sam and Rose’s relationship is actually under considerable strains.
Lam’s intrusion strikes up an odd chemistry with both Rose and Sam, to avert Rose’s aggression seduction, she has to admit “he” is gay, while in front of Sam, she must conceal her intensified feelings toward him because sabotaging Sam and Rose is the last thing she intends to do. However, the feelings are mutual, for Sam, he has a more serious struggle to cope with his sudden affection to a “man”, which bitingly correlates Leslie’s turbulent personal life in reality. But, at the end of the day, all shall be well, Sam shall have Lam, discarding any prejudice of sexuality, a quite uplifting happy-ending which unites them as a conventional one-man-one-woman couple.

The sequel, WHO’S THE WOMAN, WHO’S THE MAN arrives two years later after the original film’s huge success, accumulated 2 wins and 10 nominations in HONG KONG FILM AWARD, Antia Yuen was crowned again for BEST ACTRESS, and sets a recording of two consecutive wins in this category in the award’s history (her first win is for Tung-Shing Yee’s ENDLESS LOVE 1993), continues the story right after the finale of the first chapter, with Rose out of the main picture now, Sam and Lam tries out their cohabitation, which Sam finds it hard to adjust, while Lam’s career as a male rising star is going on smoothly, they live with the rumour of being a gay couple. However, a new interloper comes on board, a legendary singer Fan Fan (Mui), who has retired from the limelight 10 years ago, returns to HK and moves into the apartment downstairs, where Rose used to stay, this time, it is Lam’s turn to battle her lesbian ardour towards Fan Fan, a mature woman radiant with charisma, which makes Lam wonder, is Sam the right one for her? All the more, the plot gingers up the triangle-tangle with a slapdash one-night-stand between Sam and Fan Fan (under the influence of liquor after a masquerade party), and a cursory subplot of Fish (Jordan Chan), Lam’s best friend, who becomes infatuated with O (Lee), Fan Fan’s young assistant, an outward lesbian, and makes every attempt to coax her to have sex with him, nearly downgrade a well-intentioned comedy and a sincere relationship-introspection to a rowdy farce.

By retrospect, for most Chinese circa my generation, we become more susceptible to commemoration and grief while watching these two flicks, with respect to Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung, two gone-too-soon Hong Kong superstars, whom both we lose in 2003, Cheung committed suicide on April Fools’ Day, and Mui died of cancer on 30th December, they were good friends in real life too, watching their every gesture and expression on the screen is the best thing we can do to honour their talent and flair. Anita Mui’s unisex charm becomes a major drawing power in the sequal and Fan Fan’s character is basically based on her own life path.

Leslie and Anita Yuen bond magnificently, both deliver consummate skills of scintillating comedic bent and melodramatic compassion. Carina Lau as Rose, is also worthy of admiration, out of her sultry appeal, she excels in revealing a much mature characterisation of who she really are and what she really want, not just a comic fluff. While Eric Tsang’s rotund Auntie, an open gay friend of Sam, playfully nails the role as his relationship counsellor.

Both films take the androgyny and cross-dressing culture from Hollywood outputs (such as TOOTSIE 1982 and VICTOR VICTORIA 1982) as a pattern to transpose it with Hong Kong’s local pop soil, as avant-garde as it seems to be at that time, to advocate the notion of love is love, whether between the same-sex or opposite-sex, but when all is said and done, both choose a safer way to reach its shore, dare not to be too provocative in its narrative, this is what I call the inherent conservatism veiled under Hong Kong’s democratic veneer, there is no exception in the movie industry.

Oscar 1994 - He’s a Woman, She’s a Man 1994

Oscar 1996 - Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man

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