UW set to receive, screen classic Taiwanese films

April 3, 2013

The screenings of two classic features directed by King Hu, a landmark figure in world cinema, mark the latest donations to the unique collection of celebrated Taiwanese films at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Photo: Dragon Gate Inn

The 1967 Taiwanese classic "Dragon Gate Inn."

Following a donation ceremony, "Dragon Gate Inn" (1967) will be screened at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, April 13, and "A Touch of Zen" (1969) at 11 a.m. Sunday, April 14, at the Chazen Museum of Art, as part of the Wisconsin Film Festival.

These screenings are co-sponsored by UW-Madison's Center for East Asian Studies and Wisconsin China Initiative, in partnership with the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research and the UW Cinematheque program. They are among several events in April to celebrate Taiwan culture.

In 2011, it was announced that UW-Madison would receive a collection of 35mm prints of celebrated feature films donated in several installments by various studios in Taiwan. This collection enables scholars, film aficionados, and general audiences to explore the richly layered history and daily lives of people in Taiwan.

These films have been archived and managed by the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, where they join an existing collection of international films, including 120 Taiwanese feature and documentary films in 16mm donated by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Chicago in 2003.

This year's gift and related events are made possible by a grant from the Asian Cultural Council and continued support from TECO.

Nicole Huang, professor in UW-Madison's Department of East Asian Languages and Literature, has worked with Professor Wenchi Lin, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the National Central University of Taiwan, over the past three years to secure these gifts and coordinate events in conjunction with the donation.

"Adding the two iconic King Hu features to our already unique collection anchors the collection and further raises our profile home and abroad," says Huang, who also directs the Wisconsin China Initiative.

The name of King Hu — Hu Jinquan (1932-97) — is most famously associated with the beloved martial arts cinema in the Chinese-speaking world.

Born in Beijing, Hu moved to Hong Kong in 1949 and entered the film industry as a young man, first in set design and later in acting. After years of apprenticeship, Hu began directing with the famed Shaw Brothers studio, where he found his calling in the martial arts genre. Finding Shaw's studio framework no longer suitable to his creative style, Hu moved to Taiwan in the 1960s, where he was quickly embraced by the expanding film industry.

Dragon Gate Inn and A Touch of Zen, made during his Taiwan years, are widely regarded as his best works and the cornerstone of the swordplay subgenre of martial arts cinema. A Touch of Zen became the first Chinese film to win at the Cannes Film Festival.

"King Hu's films inspired a genre that continues to prosper in world cinema today. When Ang Lee made his Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000, he openly declared that the film fulfilled a childhood dream, one that was inspired by the master-King Hu," Huang says.

Other events in April to celebrate Taiwan culture include:

• Friday-Saturday, April 5-6: Shu-Gi Cheng, a dance professor from Taipei National University of Arts and member of the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, will give a lecture about the contemporary dance company, in Lathrop Hall's Margaret H'Doubler Performance Space, April 5, at 3:30 p.m. She will lead a taijiquan (t'ai chi ch'uan) public workshop on April 6, in Studio 349, Lathrop Hall, at 9:30 a.m. These events are co-sponsored by the Department of Dance and coordinated by Professor Jin-Wen Yu.

• Monday-Tuesday, April 22-23: Taiwanese media culture expert and UW-Madison alumna Ko Yu-fen, of the Department of Journalism at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan, will give a public lecture (in Chinese) about her creative writing, April 22, at 5 p.m., Tong Auditorium, Engineering Centers Building, and will hold an open forum (in English) about her research into Cold War-era television, April 23, at 11 a.m., Room 336, Ingraham Hall. Her visit is co-sponsored by the Student Association of Taiwan.