Connie in flower frame
Connie Chan: Movie Fan Princess
link to info about the site link to biography link to reviews link to filmography link to special features link to images link to links link to forum

Link to Review Index
Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)
Director: Wong Yiu
Cast: Connie Chan, Lui Kei, Nancy Sit, Lydia Shum
Publisher: China Art; Format: VCD, DVD (Region 0)
English subtitles: No
YouTube clip 1spacer YouTube clip 2spacer YouTube clip 3

Almost all we ever see of the Fong family’s household is an abnormally large foyer that conveniently fans out toward the camera—in which the Fong’s themselves, like no one in reality ever does, seem to conduct almost all of their social interactions, which in turn are punctuated by whimsical musical cues. In short, anyone raised on 1960s American TV has an easy reference point for Four Gentlemanly Flowers. And if you think that equating this Cantonese film with American family sitcoms of its era is stretching it a bit, please consider also the precocious tot who’s on hand to dispense scene-closing zingers, the bumbling parental figure continually made to look foolish by his wise-cracking offspring, the abundance of double takes and improbable comic masquerades, and the relentless idealization of upper middle class life.

Also like American family sitcoms of the late 60s, Four Gentlemanly Flowers trades in the language of the generation gap, and does so with a mild irreverence that serves to conceal an underlying endorsement of the status quo. Despite the fact that we’ll see old dad trading in his fusty Mandarin wear for a tailored suit, and even falling for the charms of “a-go-go”, it will come as no surprise when it’s the more traditional daughter played by Connie Chan, rather than her beat crazy sister played by Nancy Sit, who gets the boy in the end.

Filmed in cheery primary colors and ChiLuenScope, Four Gentlemanly Flowers is as much of a fantasy as any of Connie Chan’s high-flying swordswoman movies of the day. Still, its not hard to see playing out in it the anxieties of the age, in particular the fear of a loss of traditional values that one might expect in a rapidly changing society such as Hong Kong’s back in 1968. It seems that Papa Fong (Ko Lo Chuen) is going through a bit of a mid-life crisis—one that’s not only making him more partial to the swinging pleasures of the modern age, but also driving him into the arms of a money-loving younger woman—with the appropriately Western name Lulu—played by Maang Lee. It’s up to Fong’s four bickering daughters to settle their petty differences and unite to restore order to the family. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

Aside from giving us a candy-coated peak at some of the forces at work within HK society during its time, Four Gentlemanly Flowers is a real treasure trove for people like myself who have a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for sixties kitsch. The scene in which the sisters perform in a school pageant is worth the price of the DVD alone, capped by Connie Chan’s “kiss of the spider woman” dance number, which comes off like a Les Baxter album cover sprung to life.

Because of what’s at stake for its characters, Four Gentlemanly Flowers, despite its sitcom trappings, never lapses into insipidity. And for Western viewers lulled by those familiar tropes, its instances of sophistication can be quite jarring. The Brady Bunch, after all, never had to deal with the problem of adultery. That the Fong sisters manage to do so without once breaking from their wise-cracking, prat-falling ways made Four Gentlemanly Flowers an experience that was, for this viewer, at once as disarmingly foreign as it was strangely familiar.

Reviewed by Todd Stadtman of The Lucha Diaries
Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)

Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)

Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)

Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)

Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)

Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)

Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)

Four Gentlemanly Flowers (1968)