Clarence Tsui

Clarence Tsui

Clarence is a contributor to Inkstone. Previously the Film Editor of the South China Morning Post, he is now a freelance journalist.

The movie from 1998 that’s going gangbusters in China
China’s consumer class is always looking for the latest, most cutting-edge smartphone app or the most talked-about viral video. Who would have predicted, then, that a 21-year-old movie would take Chinese cinema by storm over the past few weeks? What’s incredible is that The Legend of 1900 was hardly a classic in the first place.  Revolving around a piano prodigy, played by Tim Roth, who had spent his entire life on board an ocean liner, the movie received mixed reviews on its release in 1998, with disapproving critics lambasting it as “fragile” (Variety), “overwrought” (San Francisco Chronicle), schmaltz that “drowns in its own treacle” (Salon.com). The first English-language feature by Ital
When the CIA trained Tibetans to take on Communist China
The city of Berlin sat at the very center of the Cold War between East and West. The Wall, Checkpoint Charlie. The Berlin Airlift and the advent of modern spycraft. But the ideological fight between communism and capitalism wasn’t all based there. An exhibition currently running in the German capital is all about what one of its curators, Natasha Ginwala, calls an “overshadowed chapter” in the Cold War. Well away from central Europe, the CIA trained exiled Tibetans in the arts of guerrilla warfare to fight Communist China. The exhibition Shadow Circus documents this unlikely alliance, which lasted from the 1950s well into the 1970s. Running until March 10 at Berlin’s Savvy Contemporary galle
The live-streaming sites giving China’s voiceless something to say
China’s live-streaming industry is a huge business, with hundreds of apps vying for the attention of the nation’s some 800 million internet users. The business is expected to soar in value to some $7.4 billion this year, up from around $5 billion in 2018, according to Shenzhen-based analytics firm ASKCI Consulting. Many of the most successful livestreamers are the people you might expect: young, attractive women hosting online shows from their well-appointed homes (or studios). But director Zhu Shengze’s latest documentary Present.Perfect, which premiered on January 27 at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, shifts the focus from the internet’s rich and beautiful to its ordinary people
Chinese women filmmakers are blazing a path
Women, so goes a Chinese revolutionary slogan, hold up half the sky. In the 21st century, they appear quite capable of propping up half of the country’s cinema screens, too. Well, almost. According to latest box office statistics, female directors have helmed three of the 10 most popular domestic blockbusters in the country so far this year. It is a significant milestone. With earnings of $204 million, Taiwanese singer-actor Rene Liu’s Us and Them comes in at No. 5 on the popularity charts. Her directorial debut is a romance drama about the decade-long relationship between a young couple in Beijing, and Liu has written herself into the record books by becoming the first female Chinese filmma
The eight-hour film revealing the horrors of Chairman Mao’s gulags
Clocking in at more than eight hours, Dead Souls is one of the longest films to have played at the Cannes Film Festival. Based on interviews and footage director Wang Bing gathered over 13 years, Dead Souls reconstructs the pain and suffering of those condemned to “re-education” – a euphemism for hard labor – in a gulag in northwestern China at the start of Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Campaign, in 1957. The documentary premiered at Cannes on Wednesday in two parts, with an hour-long intermission in between. “The filming of Dead Souls began around the same time as the preparations for my fictional feature The Ditch,” says Wang, referring to his 2010 film about Jiabiangou, a labor camp in Gans