Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hump Day Hottie: Gong Li

As a peace offering to those readers offended by my dismissal of Memoirs of a Geisha, I stop for a moment to honor the enduring beauty and exquisite talents of Gong Li. I know. I know. I'm supposed to call her Li Gong now since all the Asian stars are starting to rebill themselves with their names flipped in the American order. But I can't part with 15 years of habit that easily when it comes to one of the world greats.

Fifteen years you say, incredulously? Yes. For those just marvelling at the Gong Li magic for the first time due to the Geisha hoopla, 2005 marks a major comeback for this once dominant Chinese superstar. Think people are enthused about Ziyi Zhang these past few years? That ain't nothing compared to the lusty fuss over Gong Li in the 1990s. She was ubiquitous in the films of Zhang Yimou, at your local arthouse, and in Academy Award nominated foreign films.

Any of these six titles are great places to start if you want to fall under her spell for the first time (or all over again): Ju Dou (1990) --one of Memoirs of a Geisha's most beautiful camera shots, the fabric in the water, is like a lift or tribute (intentional or not, I don't know) to this movie. Raise the Red Lantern (1991) was her second consecutive appearance in an Oscar nominated foreign film. The Story of Qui Ju (1992) won her the first of her two Chinese Oscars known as "Golden Roosters" and delivered the Best Actress trophy at the Venice Film Festival, too. Farewell My Concubine (1993) was arguably her most famous film in America. It received two Oscar nominations and also generated much buzz for a supporting actress nomination for Gong Li herself (it didn't come to pass but she did receive the NYFCC prize). To Live (1994) won the BAFTA for foreign film and was a Golden Globe nominee. And Shanghai Triad (1995), won an Oscar nomination for cinematography. It helps to have a subject as breathtaking as Gong Li to shoot if you're a DP.



Previous Hump Day Hotties for your distraction... Madonna, Cillian Murphy, Rachel McAdams, Jake, Madonna, & "Give 'Em Hell" Harry, Orlando Bloom, Lady Tottington, Daniel Craig, Viggo & Maria , Emmanuelle Béart, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Fiennes & Weisz

10 comments:

JavierAG said...

Great tribute - her contribution to world cinema through classics like "Raise the Red Lantern" has been invaluable. Can't wait for next year's "Autumn Remembrance".

adam k. said...

OK, I need help understanding this. Which Asian name is the surname and which is the given name? So, it used to be Gong Li. Does that mean Li is really her given name and Gong is the surname? Hence the recent switch? So Ziyi is Zhang Ziyi's "first name"? I really never know what to call her when trying to refer to her informally.

NATHANIEL R said...

GONG is the last name. It's just that Asian stars used to always go by their last name first internationally. On old posters it's ALWAYS Gong Li just like it was Zhang Ziyi (ZHANG being the last name) when Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon premiered.

it's only been the last couple of years where they started referring to all the asian stars in the American way by first name than last name. The only asian stars that were treated that way earlier in press and billing were the ones who had already americanized names (like Maggie Cheung)

adam k. said...

Yeah, I think I liked the Asian way better. It really does sound more exotic that way.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I have (unfortunately) only seen Shanghai Triad and thought it was one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen.

It's that age old problem of many of her movies not being out on DVD in Australia. So sad.

-Glenn

Cody said...

I was introduced to Gong Li. In 1992 by my then Chinese girlfriend. I have been intranced ever since. She is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and talented actresses/women/godesses I have ever seen. I have every one of her movies and seen each one at least five times. But who can ever forget her in Red Lantern!!!??? OOOOOoooooof!!!!
I am holding my breath until Autumn Remberance and Miami Vice!!!!

Anonymous said...

I like Gong Li more than Ziyi, for some reasons, I like Gong Li's humble and honest personality, not that shallow to sell herself...

Luciano Mello said...

Meu, eu fiquei apaixonado quando vi pela primeira vez esta beldade em Miami Vice. Não sei o que faço para me corespnder com ela.

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Andrea said...

Amazing. I love this tribute to Gong Li. You found the words that I always look for when I'm trying to express to people what big a deal she is. I stopped trying though and just showed them her movies. Now everyone loves her. Also, thanks for clearing up my doubts about her name. I thought, since I was always reading articles in English, that her name was Gong. I randomly opened wikipedia and saw that i had been wrong...for two years! wow. Well, I hope she finds good scripts in the US so her talents are not wasted :( I personally recommend The Story of Qiu Ju, Zhou Yu's Train, Ju Dou, and Farewell My Concubine. Really... Just every movie that she's in is worth watching just to see her. Truly.