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Film Review: "The Drummer" (4K restored version, 1983)

Film Review: "The Drummer" (4K restored version, 1983)
FILE PHOTO: Film Review: "The Drummer" (4K restored version, 1983) © Ryota Nakanishi

2023 this year is the memorial year, 20th anniversary of the death of the charismatic Hong Kong pop singer/actor, Leslie Cheung. Thus, his important works are digitally remastered to redistribute in the major cinema chain around Hong Kong.

Fans are naturally happy with revived memories of their own lives during that golden era and special gift posters from the distributor. The general expression is that the society is completely different and recessively unrestorable in contrast to the mechanical film restoration. From their vitality to creativity, it’s quite unimaginable today in the face of the social stagnation and the mass inclination to exodus.

Again, the advanced technology can’t automatically produce a masterpiece even though pervasive advertising agencies completely buy up awards, ratings, critics, and successfully achieve the total cognitive manipulation of the mass consumers to create the illusion or ‘memory’ of a ‘masterpiece.’ What I must point out is that a true masterpiece and a genuine charisma can’t be created in this way.

In other words, so called ‘masterpieces’ and ‘charismas’ backed and copied out in mass by the establishment of today are in fact anti-masterpieces and anti-charismas in nature. An enormous insult to the great classics and craftsmen of the past in general.

On the contrary, what makes them true masters or real masterpieces is solely their quality itself. Hence, both the box office and awards are just external factors to the art as the movement of the capital. None of them is an essence to the creativity itself. Thus, I only put my focus on the creative values of The Drummer (1983) not commercial values while the latter is a sole concern of capitalists.

The Drummer (1983) is seen as a jumping board of Leslie Cheung for his stardom. And this masterpiece is Dir. Kuen Yeung’s best one undoubtedly. As a 4K restored version, it is not good simply because it is partially out of focus and the shots are rough visually without eye witnessing impressions typical in the 4K restored version. Furthermore, the sound is too sharp not so comfortable. Thus, it still has room for further adjustment.

The narrative is basically taken place in the good old days of the Kowloon district coloured in the sunny, warm and the village-like slow tone of the imagery. The lower apartment building still stands and can be seen in every old district even today. Yet, the society, especially, the humans are drastically different in many aspects, thus, the present Hong Kong films are just disappointments in contrast to The Drummer (1983) and any other genuine Hong Kong classics which made what the international brand image of Hong Kong films should be in our eyes. Unfortunately, Hong Kong of today in the cultural field is just used and exploited in terms of the past glorious legacy, especially by external speculators in the industry.

Leslie Cheung as the protagonist, a high school student, Tommy Chen wants to pass the exam of the drum school with the help from his grandfather (Ng Wui), his girlfriend (Elaine Chow Sau Lan), and the struggling Philippine drum master (Fernando Carpio). The main conflict is Tommy Chen’s annoying noisy drum practice for neighbours and his tempering father (David Lo Dai Wai), a director-script writer. There are some features of this film narrative, one is that many proceeding actions of the protagonist are later redefined and turned into the creative process and imaginations by the producer and his father as a scriptwriter. This kind of insert is not any flashback or discontinuity at all. The seeming derailment in the storytelling is narratively compatible and perfectly in sequence simply because the characters are filmmakers in this film story. Thus, the filmmaker fully exploited the advantages of the course of the filmmaking itself as part of the narrative actions. The other one is that the grandfather (Ng Wui) who is an ideal family member who only knows to love his grandson and endlessly dedicates to his success. Moreover, he doesn’t even know temperament, rejection, and opposition to his beloved grandchildren under any circumstances. Thus, the grandfather (Ng Wui) is like Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin-like character which is also unique, and he is felt like a real person for the audience.

In conclusion, a good film is remembered as a good person like the grandfather (Ng Wui) and Leslie Cheung who refused any stunt double to replace his drum performances he first practised to stage for this film masterpiece.


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