Representations of Desire in the 1980s

The Glamorous Boys of Tang, directed by Chiu Kang-Chien, is the only full-length feature film screened at the Asian Avant-Garde Film Festival, provoking and subverting the audience’s expectations simultaneously. We spoke with Li Cheuk-To, Curator-at-large of Hong Kong Film and Media, to gain further insight into this cinematic gem. 

Li Cheuk-To, Curator-at-large of Hong Kong Film and Media, M+, 2024. Photo: Annabel Preston

While Chiu is known for his writing collaborations with filmmakers like Stanley Kwan and Ann Hui, his solo work as a director is not often widely discussed. According to Li, The Glamourous Boys of Tang is a showcase of Chiu’s experimental sensibilities with its radical representation of eros and death. The film was originally positioned as a loose sequel to Eddie Fong’s An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty (1984), on which Chiu shared writing credits. Chiu used a similar cast and subject matter to experiment with his own visions of homoerotica. He was supported by an impressive crew, including renowned Hong Kong sculptor Antonio Mak as art director, photographer Chang Chao-Tang as cinematographer, experimental filmmaker and sound designer Jim Shum as the film’s composer, and Taiwan New Cinema veteran Liao Ching-Sung as editor. Chiu’s approach challenged mainstream cinema at that time, especially with its radical depictions of eroticism and corporeality on screen. 

Moreover, Li also draws attention to how Chiu’s creativity is the product of the vibrant cross-border cultural exchanges across Hong Kong and Taiwan in the 1980s. Born in mainland China and raised in Taiwan, he came to Hong Kong and began his career as scriptwriter for the Shaw Brothers Studio, which eventually led to a prolific collaboration with the auteurs of Hong Kong New Wave. While The Glamourous Boys of Tang has come to be known as a cult film classic, it also reveals Chiu’'s distinctive interpretation of marginality and alternative desires, which distinguishes him from his peers. His underappreciated artistry deserves reevaluation and introduction to a wider audience.

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