Undoubtedly enthusiastic guide to a cult Hong Kong actress, but let down by messy execution and unfortunate leery tone…
For few years in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Amy Yip (葉子楣) was one of the leading ladies in Cat III Hong Kong cinema, with films such as Erotic Ghost Story and Sex and Zen becoming big box office hits, and now considered as legitimate cult classics. And like her contemporary Chingmy Yau, she actually managed to succeed without showing off her naked body, relying rather on the art of teasing the potential of her body. Chaz Gower is clearly someone besotted by the charms of Yip, which has led to this book, a mix of synopsis and reviews of her films (including her early TV work and notable bit parts) and some commentary on the actress herself.
On the positive side, the clear enthusiasm Gower has for his subject shines through, and he has an easy and conversational written style that is easy to read. Also, by taking on an actress whose career was listed to a few short years, he’s able to explore the vast majority of her roles in reasonable detail. There’s also an interesting few pages on the darker side of the Hong Kong film industry, about how involved the Triads were.
However, this is very much a fan piece, which means the whole feel of the book is more akin to a fan Blog. This is exaggerated by both the production quality, which is hurt by the reliance on fuzzy screen captures and low-resolution pictures from un-named sources, and also in the style of the reviews. Some are just random thoughts about the film or Yip’s performance, others are scene-by-scene spoiler rests, and one in particular (for Robotrix) is packed full of quotes and observations from other viewpoints. It’s also a shame that the list of the movies and their local Box Office takings isn’t cross-referenced back to the main text.
But none of this would necessarily make this a bad book – the charm can outweigh some of the professionalism, and Yip is a touchstone actress for a certain sort of movie that had its heyday in the golden age of Hong Kong Cinema. The real problem I have with it is the overall leery tone.
Now let’s not be under any misconceptions about the main draw of Amy Yip. She was an incredibly attractive woman, with an amazing figure, and very large breasts. She was a sex symbol. I’m not immune to her physical charms! However, too much of this book seems to obsess over either how much flesh she shows in any movie, or how many punches and/or kicks her breasts receive. The nadir of this part of the book is the section which uses multiple screen captures to try and work out if her nipple is on display in one scene or not. Personally, I found it pretty distasteful, and in this #METOO age, the inappropriate nature of focussing on the male gaze just seems even more wrong.
You can’t fault the enthusiasm of this book, and it’s really good to see one of the lesser-known lights of the Hong Kong film industry get some focus. It’s just a pity that the execution is a little sloppy and that the tone makes it uncomfortable reading for the wrong reasons.
The Movies of Amy Yip is available on Amazon.
Publisher: Independently published.
Written by Chaz Gower.