My Young Auntie ★★★★½

Emphasis on the "Young", as the central conflict isn't the fact that Lau Kar-leung's new 2nd Auntie knows kung fu, but that she's so much younger than he is. The film isn't about so much about gender but generational conflict. Kara Hui as the Auntie embodies both as she is both young in age (the same age as Lau's son, played by Hsiao Hou) and old in spirit. A stickler for tradition, both in manners, speech and dress, she's as flustered by the modern big city, with its foreign influences, zany antics and Anglophilia as the older folks (she's beautifully confounded all through the middle section of the film, lost in time and space (she's costumed not just in modern dress (and wow that dress!), but in a European masquerade as well - a jumble of Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers surround her.). The fact that she knows how to fight is taken as a given and she's not shy about asserting herself (her role as the "senior" member of the family practically demands she take charge and all others defer to her). The incongruity is that she and Hsiao Hou are so young and headstrong, assuming their elders aren't up to the task of defending the family honor (they have to steal the MacGuffin back from an evil uncle, played by the perpetual villain Wang Lung-wei). So, in the end, when Lau himself has to step in to defeat the villain, it isn't a reassertion of patriarchy (as in Come Drink With Me), but rather a reassertion of generational order, an argument that old doesn't necessarily mean feeble and outdated. Lau's conservatism has room for the young (Hsiao Hou's antics reflecting the influence of a younger generation of filmmakers, the comedies of Sammo Hung and Yuen Wo-ping), but nonetheless demands respect for tradition.

Kara Hui won the Best Actress award at the first Hong Kong Film Awards for her performance her (well-deserved, I'd say). Look for Yuen Tak as Wang Lung-wei's godson. He was one of the Peking Opera troupe that included Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Yuen Wah and Corey Yuen.

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