Fong Sai Yuk was such a huge hit when it was released in 1993 that work was started on Fong Sai Yuk 2 and it was released in the same year! Personally I find both films to be equally enjoyable. They are both a mix of broad, goofy comedy interspersed with moments of melodrama. Corey Yuen, as director, and Jet Li and Josephine Siao, as Fong Sai Yuk and his mother, all return in the sequel. The plot synopsis and cast list can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fong_Sai-yuk_II
The sequel references the first film in a few ways (which I think is quite nice):
- Both films open with scenes showing an attempted assassination, both of which take place during festivities with the assassins disguised as entertainers. In Fong Sai Yuk 2 our titular hero fights off a bunch of Lion Dancers with a giant sparkler. The red and white stylized face paint on the assassins puts me in mind of Chinese Opera. As Sai Yuk beats these assassins he gets their spears off them and piles them on his back, ending up with a construction that reminds me of the elaborate high head dresses that are found on some warrior characters in Chinese Opera.
- Both films feature instances of cross dressing. In the first film Mrs Fong dresses up as a young man and even Sai Yuk makes a brief appearance in a girl’s frock and fetching makeup. In Fong Sai Yuk 2 Mrs. Fong impersonates a Japanese samurai, and Sho Su Lee (Amy Kwok) and Ting Ting (Michelle Reis) dress up as young men.
- Both films have Sai Yuk meet a future wife in early scenes in circumstances of mistaken identity, by which I mean that when he first meets each girl he does not realize who they are and only discovers their true identity later in the film.
- Both films have a fight for a wife happening on a wooden platform. Having reread that last sentence I realize that, if you haven’t seen these films, it might need some explaining. In each film a young girl is offered as a wife as a prize in a martial arts competition that takes place on a high wooden platform. In both these films these competitions are marvelous and elaborate action set pieces. Both of these fight scenes feature female characters turning up dressed as young men (as mentioned above).
- Sai Yuk ends up marrying each of the girls, and initially at least, is a reluctant bride groom. In each film his wedding night is interrupted by the entrance of Manchu troops.
- Both films have a lot of comedy but in both some poignant scenes are provided by a wife making a sacrifice. In the first film Siu Wan (Sibelle Hu) takes a fatal gun shot for her husband, even though he is not the man she actually loves. In the second movie Sho Su Lee betrays and forsakes her own father to save and help Sai Yuk, his first wife Ting Ting and his mother even though she has realized that Sai Yuk doesn’t love her and has just married her in order to get his hands on a box belonging to her father. In both films these sacrifices create a strong emotional ripple effect. In the first film Siu Wan’s uncouth thuggish husband displays genuine distress at Siu Wan’s death and in the second film Sho Su Lee’s behaviour inspires sympathy and respect in Mrs Fong and Ting Ting (the latter had formerly been hostile and distressed towards Sai Yuk’s taking a second wife). In both films, these sacrifices force Sai Yuk to have a serious think, reconsider his position and grow up a little (important for such an immature, if engaging, character).
- In both films Sai Yuk rescues a parent in a fight in a town square – in the first film it’s his father (played by Paul Chu). In the second it’s his mother.
- In both films Sai Yuk and his mother have a shared piece of choreography – a mad punching routine – that they do. They do it in the fight in the dye house in the first film, and in the final fight scene in the second.
- Both films end with the good guys cantering off into the landscape.
My next blog will be about the choreography in my favourite fight scene in this film.