I had never heard of this title prior to seeing the announcement of its release. It just looked like such an odd title for a martial arts flick, when compared to what I am used to from Shaw Brothers films. Perhaps that is my lack of in-depth familiarity with their catalog, but it does not lessen my interest in seeing whatever I can â€” that, and the fact that Dragon Dynasty has been doing a bang-up job on their releases thus far. Now that I have had the pleasure of watching, I wish I had been introduced sooner! My Young Auntie (Cheung booi) is a combination of many genres of film and styles of kung fu with an end result being a movie that is very entertaining.
The story follows two distinct threads, and is not all that hard to follow; this is not a movie you watch for deep story. It starts with the introduction of Yuen Dai Nan (Kara Hui). The story is set up in a flashback where the dying elder of the Yuen family fears that his evil brother will lay claim to his estate, so in order to fend off that possibility, he marries the considerably younger Dai Nan, who had been taken in by the family some years earlier. This would ensure that the estate would fall to her; she was given further instructions to pass the deed to his estate over to another relative, Yuen Ching-Chuen (played by director Lau Kar-Leung). This is the bookending story, with Dai Nan taking the deeds to Yuen Ching-Chuen, while the evil brother plots to steal them back for himself.
The middle section of My Young Auntie deals with the culture clash as Dai Nan crosses paths with Charlie Ah-Tso, Ching-Chuen’s Westernized son. Charlie and his group of friends set out to embarrass his Auntie, and this leads to fights between the two, as well as elaborate set-ups as she finds herself in a vastly different world than the one she had grown up in. Take, for example, a shopping trip to Canton. This finds Dai Nan seeking to fit in by getting dolled up in an evening gown and high heels. She is clearly not comfortable in the getup, and it eventually leads to a big fight. This fills the middle hour of the film, as the goofy Charlie takes Dai Nan around, including to a costume party which features him as Robin Hood and her as Marie Antoinette (or some equivalent). The movie closes with an elongated fight sequence as evil uncle and his bodyguards come face to face with Ching-Chuen, his brothers, son, and Dai Nan.
I know that is a pretty slim account of the story, but it really is rather skinny by any account. That is not necessarily a bad thing. My Young Auntie floats along on an atmosphere of high energy, great fight sequences, laugh-out-loud humor, and one of the biggest genre mash-ups I have ever witnessed. There are elements of drama, action, comedy, musical, thriller, and swashbuckler all coming together in this unique film. There is no way to really pigeonhole this movie, though it would best fit in the comedy realm, but even that would be selling the movie short with regard to its spectacular fight sequences.
Watching My Young Auntie, I could not help but smile at some of the antics, and actually feel concern during some of the fights that move beyond the showcase of skill and actually become a life and death matter for the characters. Also, all of this would be nothing without Kara Hui, a ray of light throughout. Besides being completely lovely, her skills are quite impressive for a relatively amateur actress without a martial arts background (her training was primarily in dance). Hui also has the gravity to carry the movie. To her credit, she won the Best Actress award at the 1982 Hong Kong Film Awards.
On a side note, if you watch closely, you will see the Master Killer himself, Gordon Liu, in a cameo as one of Charlie’s friends, wearing a very bad wig. It was certainly different seeing him outside of the more serious roles he is generally associated with (such as 36th Chamber of Shaolin).
Audio/Video. Both are very good, much better than you would have seen on any of its television presentations! The colors are good, if a bit faded, and the audio tracks are nice and clear for both the Mandarin and English dub tracks. Considering the care that appears to have gone into these releases, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the best U.S. presentation of this film.
Extras. Once again, Dragon Dynasty has included some very nice extras.
* Interview with Kara Hui. This is a recent interview with Kara about her memories of working on the film. It runs for about 15 minutes and goes into how hard it was, filming and training in kung fu between takes, her dance background, and how she had to film a fight after returning from an appendectomy. She is quite personable and the interview is informative.
* Interview with Film Scholars David Chute and Andy Klein. Runs for about seven minutes and offers up some nice background on the film.
* Commentary with Andy Klein and Elvis Mitchell. The two deliver a good commentary track that offers a lot of information on the film as well as the various genre mash ups. Definitely worth a listen.
* Stills Gallery.
* Trailer Gallery.
Bottom line. This is a very good film that delivers on many different levels. Sure, the plot is thin, but the culture clash and genre variety never fail to entertain and surprise. In particular, the film’s numerous fights are varied and very impressive. This ranks as a must-see martial arts film.