Generation 40s – 四十世代

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港產片20年起跌

信報財經新聞
回歸20年自由講 電影
2017年6月24日

占飛

二戰以後,香港電影經歷幾番風雨,既有高峰,也有低谷。每次高峰過後,便是低谷。上世紀五十年代是第一個高峰,六十年代中陷入低谷。其低潮程度,比起今天說「香港電影已死」更嚴重。幸而鳳凰在浴火中重生,七十年代中至1993年,是港片的第二個高峰,亦是港片的最輝煌時代。

六十年代中的低谷源於內因,粵語片落後於時代,給國語片和荷里活片比下去。1993年的低谷,外因是荷里活和市場萎縮,一部《侏羅紀公園》便壓倒港風。香港只有六七百萬人口,市場小,過往港片昌盛,皆因有龐大的海外市場,包括台灣、韓國、大馬、新加坡、泰國等華僑聚居地。1993年,台灣投資港片急跌,韓、泰等地電影起飛,港片的外埠市場從此一去不復返。

八十年代以降,港片有4條院線。嘉禾、邵氏、德寶及新藝城幾間大公司,採用荷里活的影廠制度:有片場、自家院線,發行自行攝製的電影。為了滿足院線的要求,每年都拍攝幾十部電影。要保證票房,最穩健是拍類型片,是以在港片光輝時代,類型電影層出不窮,硬橋硬馬功夫片、諧趣功夫片、動作片、警匪片、黑社會片、喜劇片、武俠片、鬼片、殭屍片、恐怖片、奇幻片、災難片、文藝片、青春愛情片乃至情色片,大製作和小製作,百花齊放,觀眾目不暇給。

地產霸權

到1996年,4條院線縮為3條。放映的影片數量銳減三成,票房自然同步急跌,戲院被迫逢星期二減價至30元。港片墮落低谷,尚有一個基本的原因。昔日港英政府規定,每區必設戲院,提供娛樂給基層市民,由此奠定電影蓬勃的基礎。如今,一些新、舊市鎮連一間戲院都沒有,政府放之任之,還談什麼匡扶電影業呢?九十年代,地產興旺,地皮值錢,獨立戲院紛紛結業,小型戲院改設在商場內。1993年,全港有119間戲院,座位12萬餘。到2002年,只剩下60間戲院,座位5萬7千。到2011年,戲院尚有47間,但座位卻4萬不到。電影何來興旺的客觀條件呢?港片沒落,地產霸權難辭其咎!

不幸,九七年後,香港經濟災劫重重:亞洲金融風暴、地產泡沫爆破、負資產潮、沙士疫症等等,導致影廠制度崩潰,大公司不是結束就是冬眠,院線無法維持,港片幾乎陷入六十年代中的停產危機。一些資深導演和電影工作者,斯時北上拍片。徐克由千禧年開始已經植根神州,拍合拍片。

回歸20年,港片的起落可分成2個階段。1997至2003年,是第一階段。2003年至今,是第二階段。在第一階段,經濟雖然不景,仍然佳片紛呈,有不少創新風格的類型片。隨便數數:《香港製造》(1997)、《春光乍洩》(1997)、《去年煙花特別多》(1998)、《我是誰?》(1998)、《暗戰》(1999)、《細路祥》(1999)、《花樣年華》(2000)、《少林足球》(2001)、《麥兜故事》(2001)、《見鬼》(2002)、《無間道》三部曲(2002-2003)、《功夫》(2004)等等,均證明港片面對挑戰,電影圈仍然有足夠資源和人才拍出製作精緻、創意澎湃的作品。

紛紛北上

經過6年的小陽春,港片仍然無法中興,皆因海外資金減少、戲院減少、人才外流──袁家班去荷里活,成龍和成家班返內地,《功夫》之後,連周星馳都離港北上。本來,這不一定是壞事。資深電影人北上,新人才有揚名立萬的機會。可惜,港片新浪潮後的第二代和第三代電影人無法接班,至今仍然只有佳句,沒有佳篇;偶有佳作,水準欠穩。加上荷里活轉型,廣泛使用新科技(IMAX、3D)和電腦特效,配合互聯網風捲殘雲的搶奪了觀眾,小陽春終無法聚沙成塔。

2003年起,中國電影市場騰飛。CEPA落實,中港合拍片急增,由之前每年10部左右,2006年增至29部,幾近3倍。

香港電影人,無論台前幕後、大明星和小演員,紛紛北上掘金,掏空了本土影圈。正正是這個階段,新一代既無資源,也無本事接棒,只得少數資深電影人(如杜琪峯的「銀河映像」)留港苦苦支撐大局,難怪響起了「香港電影將死或已死」的聲音!

撰文 : 占飛

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Theresa May must not let the EU hold Britain to ransom in Brexit talks

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-06-15
Grenville Cross says with Brussels likely to play hardball, the British prime minister should make it clear the UK has the will and strength to go it alone, as opportunities beckon beyond the euro zone

After Britain voted last June to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, the Lisbon Treaty’s departure mechanism, on March 29.

If divorce terms are not settled by March 29, 2019, Britain will exit without a deal. European Council president Donald Tusk says “there is no time to lose”.

Despite her election setback, May will oversee Britain’s strategy once formal talks begin on Monday. The negotiations will be tough and tortuous, and probably nasty. May must, however, stick to her guns, as the deal she secures will define Britain’s future.

Many Europeans, given the huge problems caused by open borders, the euro zone and the democratic deficit, now openly praise Brexit. Some in Europe will undoubtedly want to punish Britain for its audacity, and to deter others. The EU, traditionally intolerant of dissent, will play hardball in the talks.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has described how, after Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza government won a huge electoral mandate in 2015, the EU ruthlessly clamped down. Its central bank cut off emergency liquidity for private banks, bringing Greece to its knees. Syriza was forced to capitulate to EU demands, causing untold misery to ordinary Greeks and an unemployment rate of 23.5 per cent.

The EU cannot bully the UK in the same way, but Varoufakis nonetheless warns Britain against the EU’s negotiating net. He predicts a campaign of attrition by the EU, exploiting Britain’s political divisions. Although Varoufakis advises May “to avoid negotiation at all costs”, she must talk to the EU in good faith, while making clear Britain will not cave in to threats.

The European Commission claims Britain may have to pay as much as £85 billion (HK$845 billion) to leave the union. This is a bluff. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales has found that, taking into account rebates owed to the UK and the realisation of Britain’s investment in the European Investment Bank, the Brexit charge could be about £15 billion. Even this could not be legally enforced.

The EU, however, is desperate for British cash, and for good reason. It is hugely expensive, and wasteful.

Apart from its more than 32,000 civil servants, the EU is now expanding its fledgling foreign service, with offices around the world. The patience of European taxpayers will snap at some point but, in the meantime, the UK must not be held to ransom.

Moreover, Britain is not, as some suggest, dependent on EU trade. British exports to the EU have been falling since the euro zone was formed and now only account for 12 per cent of Britain’s economy.

The EU states, however, need to sell their products to Britain, and this will not change. The EU had a £60 billion trade surplus with the UK in 2015, and if it imposed tariffs it would be shooting itself in the foot.

The terror attacks in London and Manchester have highlighted the urgent need for the UK to secure its borders and control who enters, impossible under Europe’s open borders policy. Mass EU immigration has also placed huge strains on housing, social services and schools, and gravely affected the quality of life of ordinary Britons. If Brussels tries to prevent May from reducing immigration to manageable levels, she must be prepared to walk away. She should, however, seek the greatest possible access to the single market, through a new free-trade agreement.

If the EU tries intimidation, May must point out that they rely on British markets, intelligence and armed forces, and that everyone will benefit from an amicable separation. Britain, on course to be Europe’s largest economy by 2030, has always looked outwards, and its future lies in exploiting emerging markets.

At least 14 countries, including Australia, Brazil, China and India, want free-trade agreements with the UK. Once EU red tape is cut, the financial sector could save £12 billion a year, and it will be possible to export to millions more customers from the rising economies.

Although the prospect of breaking away from a dysfunctional political union is exhilarating, the price of separation must still be right. If the EU insists on intolerable terms, May must call it quits. The EU should understand that, if pushed, Britain has the determination and strength to go it alone.

Grenville Cross SC was a backer of Vote Leave


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Make Britain great again, for the sake of Europe and the world

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-06-14
Jean-Pierre Lehmann says the glory days of empire may be long gone, but there is still time to rescue a Britain roiled by Brexit and a snap general election from its political and psychological rut

The continued ­decline of Britain will induce a ­decline of global civilisation. Illustration: Craig StephensWhen I am in Hong Kong, I usually stay in Causeway Bay. I often take a stroll in Victoria Park where invariably I pass in front of the majestically imposing statue of Queen Victoria. This ­allows me to reflect upon the remarkable rise of the British empire, of which Hong Kong was more than just a symbolic hub. In many ways, the history of Hong Kong, colonised following the first opium war, reflected the determination and brutality of British imperialism.

During my latest stay, teaching a course on Asia and globalisation, I read an extraordinary book: Nemesis: The First Iron Warship and Her World, by Adrian Marshall. It covers in meticulous detail the construction, command, crew and trajectory of the warship.

Architectural dynamics are ­explained, the commanders and crew are brought alive, and the narrative of its exploits is jaw-dropping stuff. While the British rulers, ­including, of course, Queen Victoria, may have thought they were bringing civilisation to Asia – or, at least free trade, which to the elite of Victorian times was synonymous with civilisation – the men on the empire-building ground acted with brutal savagery.

One of the most memorable lines goes: “[a] characteristic typical of many Victorian men [was] a genuine and open love of war”. It’s what got the national adrenaline going.

In the decades following the opium wars, a lot of water has flown under the British imperial bridge.

Hong Kong was “returned” to China 20 years ago. At present, what is left of the empire are Bermuda, Gibraltar and the Falklands.

The retention of these territories is allegedly ­because its inhabitants were offered a choice through a referendum. There was no referendum in Hong Kong. There may yet be another epilogue shortly: if Brexit does occur, Gibraltar may be ­absorbed by Spain.

Britain’s post-second-world-war exit from most of its colonies in Asia and Africa went reasonably smoothly, certainly when compared to France’s messy bellicose de-colonisation. But the famous pronouncement by American statesman Dean Acheson, president Harry Truman’s secretary of state from 1949 to 1953, that “Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role”, has remained resonant throughout the decades, and emphatically so in June 2017.

Acheson’s assessment applies especially to Britain’s attitudes and policies towards the European Union. I was living in the UK in 1975, when the referendum was held under Labour prime minister Harold Wilson on whether to join the then European Community; the result was an emphatic 67 per cent “yes”.

The debate, however, had been rancorous. A significant part of the population, including some who voted “yes”, felt uncomfortable being “European”. In the ensuing decades, Britain has tended to be a Euro naysayer – for example, by ­refusing to join the Schengen (borderless) Area – and, at best, a sideline player.

The EU itself has, in recent times, suffered from mediocre leadership, bureaucratic aloofness and a most uninspiring image, especially to young people.

Be that as it may, the main point about Brexit today is not whether it was justified, but that it has been so messy and murky. Boris Johnson, who in his Brexit campaign compared the EU (which deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012) to Hitler, was appointed foreign secretary. That is deplorable.

Indeed, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government can best be described as that of a mother hen leading a flock of headless chickens. To think that this is a country that ruled an erstwhile empire over which the sun never set. Morality aside, the efficacy of British rule was admirable, indeed quite amazing.

The most appropriate word to describe the British situation following last year’s referendum is “pathetic”. Following May’s “snap” election, she is more of a hybrid mother hen/lame duck. And soon she may be a dead duck. The Eurocrats and European political leaders are having great difficulty wiping the smirks off their faces.

Where Britain goes from here, whether Brexit will occur, or whether there will be “repent” followed by “return and remain”, and what role, if any, it will assume remains ­obscure.

Contemporary Britain brought a great deal to the planet, including in the worlds of the arts, academia, ­research, science, think tanks, ­humanitarian and charitable ­organisations, NGOs, entertainment, finance, business and industry – notably start-ups, the media, and as a model in many ways of progressiveness and tolerance.

Though British imperialism may have been imbued with racist ideology and practice, as well as abuse of human rights, and while xenophobia keeps lurking in some of the more insalubrious corners of Britain – notably the tabloid press – many former colonials have ­assumed some of the highest positions among the British elite. To cite only the most glaring contemporary example: the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is of Pakistani origin.

Whether these assets can be preserved in the kind of unknown political universe Britain seems headed for – one that might be termed a ­“banana monarchy” – remains to be seen. One must hope, not just for the sake of Britain, but also that of Europe and indeed the world, that somehow it will get out of this political and psychological rut into which it has fallen.

Britain, whether “Great” or not, has a lot to offer. The continued ­decline of Britain will induce a ­decline of global civilisation.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann is emeritus professor at IMD, founder of The Evian Group, and visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong


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A little lesson in climbing Everest for Hong Kong’s armchair critics

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-06-02

Yonden Lhatoo offers a reality check to those who are judging Ada Tsang, the city’s first woman to climb the world’s highest mountain, for failing to help a dying man

Ignorance is bliss, but in the rush these days to “insta-google-tweet-face” uninformed opinions, it can be detestable too.

A case in point is the recent, completely unnecessary debate over the “selfish” conduct of the first Hong Kong woman to climb Mount Everest. Back home this week after conquering the world’s highest peak, Ada Tsang Yin-hung was called out by the city’s armchair adventurers and critics for walking past dying climbers during her ascent instead of helping them.

They pounced upon her recollection of coming across a man sitting in the snow with glazed eyes, sans Sherpa guide or oxygen cylinder, on the way up. He was dead on her way down.

“Seeing a man like this, any conscientious person would immediately give up conquering the peak and save others first,” wrote one Facebook user – obviously an expert on moral conduct and responsibility while battling exhaustion, hypothermia and the elements 8,000 metres above sea level in one of the harshest places on the planet.

“How could she justify the behaviour of leaving others to die for her own glory?” wrote another.

I hate to break it to them, but this is Mount Everest we’re talking about. It’s not like offering your Pocari Sweat to an out-of-shape fellow hiker on a weekend stroll up Tai Mo Shan, the hillock that, at a whopping 957 metres, passes for a mountain in this part of the world.

Tsang’s Sherpa guide told her that the climber they “abandoned” on the way up had suffered serious frostbite and an oxygen bottle would not have saved him. She was right to listen. When you’re on the slopes of Mount Everest, you follow your Sherpa chaperone’s advice if you intend to come down alive.

Of the hundreds of climbers who have died on Everest, it is estimated that more than 100 bodies are still stuck there. As shocking as it may seem to people who have never been there, corpses are clearly visible on the way to the summit – familiar fixtures frozen in ice and snow for years because it’s simply too difficult or dangerous to retrieve them.

The altitude Tsang was climbing at is known as the “death zone” in mountaineering terms. Most humans can barely breathe or think straight at such extreme heights and cold temperatures, let alone rescue anyone. It’s all about survival and self-preservation. Unless you’re Leslie Binns, a British war veteran who reportedly gave up his own bid for the summit last year to help save an Indian woman who had collapsed on the way down. Some are more capable of greatness than others, I suppose.

Now, putting Tsang’s achievement into perspective, she wasn’t even born when Japanese climber Junko Tabei became the first woman in the world to conquer Everest in 1975.

Nearly 400 women have been to the top since then, some of them multiple times. Considering that no woman from this city had been able to join their ranks until now, let’s give credit where it’s due and hail Tsang’s accomplishment, not disparage it.

For those who might be wondering who died and made me an expert, I come from an extended family of Everest summiteers, though I’ve never been interested in making the pilgrimage to that mountain myself, even if it’s there.

I did my fair share of climbing in the Himalayas in my younger days, driven mostly by peer pressure, but I was a middling mountaineer at best and sensibly swapped my ice axe for a pen.

I decided a long time ago that any pleasure I derived from standing on a high mountain top was not worth the pain and misery of getting up there with a frozen posterior, glory be damned.

So, well done, Ada Tsang.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the year of Briton Leslie Binns’ heroics on Mount Everest. He helped save a woman last year, not last week.