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WEDNESDAY: Center Stage: The Films of Maggie Cheung

Programmed by Deany Cheng

“For me, acting is life.” – Maggie Cheung.

A case could be made that Maggie Cheung is the most important film actor of the last forty years, as well as our last truly global superstar. A polyglot whose prolific twenty-year filmography spans three continents, Cheung heralded a modern, cross-cultural celebrity that bridged the institutional art-house of the West with emergent cinema from Hong Kong and China. Cheung’s films often touched on themes of diaspora and Chinese identity in eras in which both were very much in flux, and through the lens of her work, we glimpse the promise and anxiety of a world about to transition to a new millennium.

By virtue of her collaborations with other greats of 90s Hong Kong cinema, both in front of and behind the camera, Cheung’s œuvre also functions as a capsule of that rich scene. This series alone features films directed by Jackie Chan, Stanley Kwan, and Johnnie To; and her co-stars run the gamut from global icons like Michelle Yeoh and Tony Leung Chiu-wai to performers like Anita Mui and Brigitte Lin—legends in their own right who never quite crossed over to the West. Cheung’s filmography, then, is also the perfect entry point to an eclectic and rewarding cinematic tradition.

7:00PM Wednesday, September 28th

Police Story still

Police Story (1985)

Jackie Chan · 100m · DCP

Featuring Maggie Cheung in one of her earliest roles as his put-upon girlfriend, Jackie Chan’s Police Story is widely considered one of the greatest action movies ever made. Chan himself plays super-cop Ka-kui, who must protect star witness Salina Fong (Brigitte Lin) before she testifies against the drug cartel she works for. With reams of broken glass and death-defying stunts galore, this is one of the purest slices of entertainment ever put to film.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Wednesday, October 5th

Police Story 2 still

Police Story 2 (1988)

Jackie Chan · 122m · DCP

Maggie Cheung returns as longsuffering girlfriend May in the rip-roaring second installment of Jackie Chan’s vaunted Police Story series, this time getting roped into the action in a bigger way as part of a kidnapping plot that draws Chan’s Ka-kui back into the thick of things after the events of the first film saw him bumped down to highway patrol. Police Story 2 is an action showcase as rollicking as (if less glass-filled than) the first.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Wednesday, October 12th

Center Stage still

Center Stage (1991)

Stanley Kwan · 126m · DCP

Center Stage is a biopic on the tragically short life of 1930s screen legend Ruan Lingyu that doubles as a meta meditation on film and celebrity, both back then and now. Director Stanley Kwan weaves past and present together in a time-jumping tapestry that embodies Chinese cinema's remembrance of itself, tied together by Cheung in one of her very best performances—or at the very least, in one that demanded the largest number of her gifts.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Wednesday, October 19th

The Eagle Shooting Heroes still

The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993)

Jeffrey Lau · 103m · Digital

Rumored to have been born, like Chungking Express, from the long editing process of Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time, Jeffrey Lau’s The Eagle Shooting Heroes features a veritable all-star cast of Hong Kong’s finest—Maggie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, and not one but both Tony Leungs, among others—clowning it up exquisitely. Featuring more slapstick, musical numbers, and wire-fu than you can shake a stick at, it is the gold standard for star-studded cash-grabs.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Wednesday, October 26th

The Heroic Trio still

The Heroic Trio (1993)

Johnnie To · 83m · DCP

A leather jacket-wearing, shotgun-toting, motorbike-riding Maggie Cheung teams up with fellow legends Anita Mui and Michelle Yeoh in this action-packed romp from underrated auteur Johnnie To. When Hong Kong is threatened by a subterranean villain kidnapping babies for nefarious ends, the trio must set their differences aside, band together to form the titular Heroic Trio, and save the city. Superhero movies have never been so gloriously unhinged since.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Wednesday, November 2nd

Irma Vep still

Irma Vep (1996)

Olivier Assayas · 99m · DCP

The first of Maggie Cheung’s two collaborations with filmmaker and erstwhile husband Olivier Assayas, Irma Vep burnished her bonafides as a global art-house icon. Playing a version of herself brought in to star in an increasingly troubled remake of the classic French serial Les Vampires, Cheung is the vessel through which Assayas is able to both discuss art’s complex relationship with commerce and depict its ability to nonetheless transcend the noise.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Wednesday, November 9th

Comrades: Almost a Love Story still

Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996)

Peter Chan · 118m · 35mm

Criminally underseen in the West, Comrades is a trenchant and affecting document of Chinese diaspora disguised as a sweet romantic dramedy. Starkly different from her more iconic roles because of how conventional it is, Maggie Cheung here plays a snarky and street-smart city girl opposite Leon Lai’s dopey transplant as they navigate both a changing Hong Kong and their burgeoning feelings for each other, all set to the dulcet tones of Teresa Teng.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Wednesday, November 16th

Hero still

Hero (2002)

Yimou Zhang · 99m · DCP

In one of her last roles before all but retiring from the screen, Maggie Cheung joins a stacked cast of Hong Kong’s most luminous stars—Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, and frequent co-star Tony Leung—in Zhang Yimou’s balletic, billowing wuxia about the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang. Drenched in rich color and bursting with exquisitely choreographed action sequences, Hero may be the most beautiful piece of nationalist propaganda ever shot.

Tickets can be bought here.

7:00PM Wednesday, November 30th

Executioners still

Executioners (1993)

Siu-Tung Ching, Johnnie To · 97m · DCP

As much a dark reprise as it is a sequel to The Heroic Trio, Executioners finds our protagonists now navigating a post-apocalyptic city suffering from nuclear fallout and a scarce, dictator-controlled water supply. Zagging towards steampunk where the first film zigged towards Marvel, Johnnie To’s follow-up is a heavier affair that nonetheless features copious amounts of fisticuffs and Maggie Cheung-thrown grenades--how could you not be entertained?

Tickets can be bought here.