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Thread: The Bund 《上海灘》

  1. #101
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by almo89 View Post
    The more I watch this show, the more I think this is the best series TVB ever made. It's not ur typical formulaic series. If you think about it, there's not a definitive good guy or bad guy. I mean you will cheer for Chow Yun Fat, but he was not an angel. The things he did to get to the top. Everything in this series was done so nicely. The storytelling elements didn't age one bit. The acting is top notch that hasn't been matched ever since. The character development was excellent. As much as I like Ray Lui, Chow Yun Fat was the one that stole the show. Lau Dan played a awesome villain. I saw the remake in the 90s and it was surprisingly good, but it had too much formula in there. It didn't have the magic the original one had. Chow Yun Fat's subtle emotions worked at its best in this show.
    One of my favorite sequences of the show is an overlooked one. Remember that episode when Hui Mun Keung went to the warehouse to see just what kind of "cargo" Fung Ging Yiu had imported (machine guns for killing the Ching Wu School students; not automobile parts as Fung Ging Yiu had claimed)? I loved the creepy atmosphere of that scene...Hui Mun Keung, with his hat and overcoat, going into this dark, creepy, foggy warehouse, and confirming his worst fears: his boss was planning on helping the Japanese to mass murder innocent Chinese.

    Many of THE BUND's key scenes took place in churches (because Fung Ching Ching was a devout Catholic). The church scenes lent a sublime atmosphere to the series. I don't know if director Chiu Jen Keung was himself Christian (let alone Catholic), but there seemed to be underlying themes of sin, sacrifice, redemption, and salvation (or condemnation) running throughout the series.

    There was definitely a highbrow element to it: references to Anton Chekov's THE SEAGULL (which Ching Ching acted in), and when Hui Mun Keung went through the rainstorm to propose to Ching Ching, she was performing the act from ROMEO & JULIET just before the fateful suicide of Romeo. All very literary stuff that you don't see in too many TVB dramas of *any* era. This series was special.

  2. #102
    Senior Member almo89's Avatar
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    "If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put it in a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friends.

  3. #103
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    One other thing to be said about THE BUND is that it was the most violent show that TVB had done up until that point and in many ways, it's *still* the most violent show TVB has ever done. The series *opened* with a brutal street gang fight (which is how Hui Mun Keung and Ding Lik met, dodging the knives, axes, and clubs of two gangs fighting on the street), and ended with Hui Mun Keung being gunned down several years later in a hail of machine gun fire. In between were dozens upon dozens of similar encounters, each extremely bloody and (for the time) horrifyingly graphic.

    But did THE BUND show this violence just to shock? No. The violence always had a dramatic purpose. It wasn't violence for violence's own sake, and it wasn't cartoonish violence. *Anybody* could be seriously hurt or killed...including major characters. The violence was gritty and realistic rather than melodramatic, which gave this series an aura of realism that most other series lack. TVB has made other gangster dramas since THE BUND, but never with the same degree of gritty realism.

  4. #104
    Senior Member i_fotted's Avatar
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    I honestly think the series is kinda boring. I really can't stand Ray Lui. I guess the series would have been more enjoyable for me if he doesn't annoy me so much.

  5. #105
    Senior Member almo89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_fotted View Post
    I honestly think the series is kinda boring. I really can't stand Ray Lui. I guess the series would have been more enjoyable for me if he doesn't annoy me so much.
    Ray Lui's character wasn't that bright compared to CYF. I admired his loyalty to both Lau Dan and CYF. In the end, he still treated CYF as his "Hing Dai". As for the series being boring, I can see where you are coming from. It's not a series that everybody will like since a lot of the things they try to is very subtle compared to the fast pace series we see these days. But that's what made the Bund an instant classic. It's all the little things that the new stuff can't touch. Heck I enjoyed Adam Cheng's version of HSDS. Maybe im just weird.
    "If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put it in a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friends.

  6. #106
    Senior Member i_fotted's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by almo89 View Post
    Ray Lui's character wasn't that bright compared to CYF. I admired his loyalty to both Lau Dan and CYF. In the end, he still treated CYF as his "Hing Dai". As for the series being boring, I can see where you are coming from. It's not a series that everybody will like since a lot of the things they try to is very subtle compared to the fast pace series we see these days. But that's what made the Bund an instant classic. It's all the little things that the new stuff can't touch. Heck I enjoyed Adam Cheng's version of HSDS. Maybe im just weird.
    I guess I'm more into light hearted comedic family dramas. I also watch alot of series from the 80s. The Bund just wasn't my cup of tea, even though it has some of my favorite actors in it like Angie, Lau Dan, AuYeung Pui San. I liked stuff like 挑戰(The Rough Life). Very enjoyable.

  7. #107
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by almo89 View Post
    Ray Lui's character wasn't that bright compared to CYF. I admired his loyalty to both Lau Dan and CYF. In the end, he still treated CYF as his "Hing Dai". As for the series being boring, I can see where you are coming from. It's not a series that everybody will like since a lot of the things they try to is very subtle compared to the fast pace series we see these days. But that's what made the Bund an instant classic. It's all the little things that the new stuff can't touch. Heck I enjoyed Adam Cheng's version of HSDS. Maybe im just weird.
    THE BUND is the thinking person's TVB series. For all its other work, TVB's aim is only to be entertaining (although it sometimes fails even at that); it isn't trying to create art. In making THE BUND, TVB aimed to make both commercial entertainment AND art in the same package, which is remarkably difficult to do (think the Beatles' music and Michael Jordan's basketball playing), but something for the ages when it's done right (usually once in a lifetime). The average TVB series is like canned beer; you drink it down, don't think much about it, and know that the next can of beer will taste exactly the same. THE BUND, by comparison, is expensive and exquisite brandy...which must be savored slowly and is unique in each rare bottle.

  8. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by almo89 View Post
    Ray Lui's character wasn't that bright compared to CYF. I admired his loyalty to both Lau Dan and CYF. In the end, he still treated CYF as his "Hing Dai".
    The Ding Lik character was the most dynamic of the characters in THE BUND. By "dynamic," I mean in the literary sense: no other character in THE BUND changed as much as Ding Lik did (Fung Ching Ching almost did, but not as much as Ah Lik). The man started out as an uneducated street hooligan, and by the end of the series, was the suave overlord of Shanghai whose elegance and class were second only to Hui Mun Keung himself. Even so, Ah Lik recognized to the end that he would always only be second best to his "Mun gor" (which fed an inferiority complex that was further explored in THE BUND II). Although he took on many superficial aspects of Hui Mun Keung's character (notice Ding Lik's wardrobe as the series progresses; he dresses more and more like Hui Mun Keung as the series goes on), he was still, at heart, that uneducated street hooligan, and he knew it.

    I believe that in THE BUND, even the names of the characters are highly meaningful and symbolic. Hui Mun Keung..."Mun" meaning "educated" or "literary" and "Keung" meaning "strong"; these were indeed the character's key attributes (knowledge, wit, and strength). Ding Lik - "lik" being strength (but unlike Hui Mun Keung, no "knowledge" or "literacy"). Fung Ching Ching - "Ching" being "bottle" or "vessel" in this case, which I believe meant that Ching Ching was like an empty vessel at the beginning of THE BUND...naive, innocent, waiting to be filled.

    See what I mean? You can't do a deep analysis like this of any other TVB series.

  9. #109
    Senior Member almo89's Avatar
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    I believe that in THE BUND, even the names of the characters are highly meaningful and symbolic. Hui Mun Keung..."Mun" meaning "educated" or "literary" and "Keung" meaning "strong"; these were indeed the character's key attributes (knowledge, wit, and strength). Ding Lik - "lik" being strength (but unlike Hui Mun Keung, no "knowledge" or "literacy"). Fung Ching Ching - "Ching" being "bottle" or "vessel" in this case, which I believe meant that Ching Ching was like an empty vessel at the beginning of THE BUND...naive, innocent, waiting to be filed.

    See what I mean? You can'd do a deep analysis like this of any other TVB series.
    Awesome! First time I heard their names dissected like that. I never though about it, but it really makes sense now. So meaningful! The only thing that I can think of is the names for LOCH thanks to Mr. Cha. Like Gwok Jing and Yeung Hong were also very meaningful names.
    Last edited by almo89; 10-10-07 at 11:39 PM.
    "If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put it in a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friends.

  10. #110
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by almo89 View Post
    Awesome! First time I heard their names dissected like that. I never though about it, but it really makes sense now. So meaningful! The only thing that I can think of is the names for LOCH thanks to Mr. Cha. Like Gwok Jing and Yeung Hong were also very meaningful names.
    Yep, but instead of just taking names from an established scholar and writer, TVB's people (director/screenwriter Chiu Jen Keung in particular) thought of all this by themselves. They had their thinking caps on for this one. THE BUND was clearly written by smart people clicking on all cylinders; this wasn't one of TVB's usual "Ah Fook" jobs. This was literary. This was classy.

  11. #111
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Another unique trait of THE BUND:

    Unlike almost all other TVB series, THE BUND did not have regular opening sequence titles played with the theme song. This was not an oversight. TVB wanted to dispense with formula on this show...right down to not using the standard opening title sequence. Instead, every episode of THE BUND started in the middle of an action or dramatic sequence, then the theme would be played over a dramatic freeze frame and would continue playing when the action resumed. No other TVB series ever did this, and it's one more minor, but salient item that separates THE BUND from everything else TVB has done.

  12. #112
    Senior Member almo89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    Another unique trait of THE BUND:

    Unlike almost all other TVB series, THE BUND did not have regular opening sequence titles played with the theme song. This was not an oversight. TVB wanted to dispense with formula on this show...right down to not using the standard opening title sequence. Instead, every episode of THE BUND started in the middle of an action or dramatic sequence, then the theme would be played over a dramatic freeze frame and would continue playing when the action resumed. No other TVB series ever did this, and it's one more minor, but salient item that separates THE BUND from everything else TVB has done.
    I was gonna ask why they didn't have the opening theme for this show. It would always start with the short sequence and then the still image with the music playing. I thought it was pretty cool, but never knew why they did this. At first I thought this was done because of the age of the series, but this wasn't true as the 70s shows all had the opening themes.
    "If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put it in a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friends.

  13. #113
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by almo89 View Post
    I was gonna ask why they didn't have the opening theme for this show. It would always start with the short sequence and then the still image with the music playing. I thought it was pretty cool, but never knew why they did this. At first I thought this was done because of the age of the series, but this wasn't true as the 70s shows all had the opening themes.
    THE BUND was TVB's great cinematographic experiment, so they dispensed with the usual opening titles in an attempt to use a technique that had been used in 1970s Western films. Many classic American films of the 1970s used this technique, but for TVB, it was something new.

    The practice continued in THE BUND II and THE BUND III, and TVB even began to apply it to some of its regular series for a time, but finally went back to its usual opening theme titles a year later.

  14. #114
    Senior Member i_fotted's Avatar
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    Wow, Ken those analysis are very interesting. I never even thought of anything like that such as their names. Did you like all 3 part of The Bund? Do you prefer one over the other? What did you think about the remake with Sunny, Nnadia, and Lam Kar Tung?

  15. #115
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_fotted View Post
    Wow, Ken those analysis are very interesting. I never even thought of anything like that such as their names. Did you like all 3 part of The Bund? Do you prefer one over the other? What did you think about the remake with Sunny, Nnadia, and Lam Kar Tung?
    The first BUND was the classic. THE BUND II and THE BUND III were worthy, entertaining successors, but losing Chow Yun Fat and Angie Chiu (and their compelling characters) from the cast greatly weakened the franchise. Ding Lik was a great, interesting character, but he worked best when he was part of a dynamic that included Hui Mun Keung and Fung Ching Ching. Without his two foils/partners, the story of just Ding Lik by himself just wasn't as strong. Still, that doesn't mean that THE BUND II and THE BUND III weren't good series; they just couldn't hope to match up to their eldest sibling.

    I was not very impressed with TVB's 1990s remake. I *am*, however, quite impressed with the 2006 China remake with Huang Xiao Ming.

  16. #116
    Senior Member almo89's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng View Post
    THE BUND was TVB's great cinematographic experiment, so they dispensed with the usual opening titles in an attempt to use a technique that had been used in 1970s Western films. Many classic American films of the 1970s used this technique, but for TVB, it was something new.

    The practice continued in THE BUND II and THE BUND III, and TVB even began to apply it to some of its regular series for a time, but finally went back to its usual opening theme titles a year later.
    Oh icic. I think The Emissary starring Andy Lau used this technique too, but I don't quite remember as it has been a while since I saw it on VHS. Once I got the VCD, I didn't watch the VHS one. The VCD had a edited opening theme.
    "If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put it in a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friends.

  17. #117
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    Discussing another aspect of THE BUND's success: the music.

    The 1970s and 1980s were the period of great TVB soundtracks. Up until the late 1980s, TVB could be counted on for delivering great soundtracks for their series...even the mediocre ones. Many times, even a so-so series from the 1970s and 1980s would have a killer theme tune. This was thanks to the talent of such songwriters as Joseph Koo Ga Fai, James Wong Jeem, and Michael Lai Siu Teen.

    THE BUND was no exception to this, and the theme song might be the most famous TVB theme song of all. The song itself, performed by Frances Yip, has been discussed and praised to death, so I'm not going to repeat what others have already said here. Instead, I'm going to discuss how the song was adapted for various mood pieces in the series by the Joseph Koo Orchestra.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, the Joseph Koo Orchestra frequently scored mood pieces to suit various scenes in a TVB series. For wuxia adaptations and other series set in China's ancient past, traditional Chinese instruments would be used...often in some combination with Western orchestral instruments or modern pop instruments (i.e. electric guitar, bass, etc.). For modern series, Western orchestral instruments were combined with pop instruments.

    On THE BUND, Mr. Koo and his orchestra elected to go with an ALL Western orchestral lineup: no traditional Chinese instruments and no modern pop instruments. Why not? Probably because neither one would have suited THE BUND, which was set in 1930s Shanghai. It was the Jazz Age, and the last fading afterglow of the Victorian Era. The most appropriate kind of music would have been, if not jazz (which might have been beyond the Koo Orchestra's repertoire), then Straussian Waltz.

    Before he composed the soundtrack music for THE BUND, Joseph Koo must have been listening to many Johann Strauss (the Younger) waltzes such as the "Blue Danube Waltz" and "The Emperor Waltz" (the latter of which was actually heard in THE BUND II), which were popular dance tunes in the West during the late 19th and early 20th Century and had worked their way into the culture of modern urban China (i.e. Shanghai) by the 1920s and 1930s. THE BUND gave Koo and his orchestra a chance to play waltzes in the early 20th Century style.

    The best example of this is THE BUND's "joy" theme...played during the happier moments of the series (most famously when Fung Ching Ching walked home in the snow and was met by the umbrella-carrying Hui Mun Keung...one of THE BUND's iconic scenes). What a great composition and, just as importantly, great job of conducting that was! The mood of that scene was created by the snowy atmosphere, Chow Yun Fat and Angie Chiu's charisma, and THAT MUSIC. It wouldn't have worked without that music.

    There was also THE BUND's "sorrow" theme, played entirely by strings. It started with a pathos-laden solo violin, which is joined in by cellos after what would be, in the vocal version, the first verse (sorry; not a professional musicologist; don't know all the correct terms). Absolutely creates the mood of sadness that THE BUND often called for, and was best used on two occassions in the series: when Hui Mun Keung was left alone in the tiny shack he first settled in at Hong Kong, after having lost his power, position, lover, and even finger in Shanghai, and also during Hui Mun Keung's final drive with Fung Ching Ching (the last time he would see her) near the end of the series. Again, this music was indispensable to creating the mood of the series.

    Then, there was THE BUND's "danger" or "suspense" theme, played entirely with cellos, which was done in an abrupt, start-and-stop tempo that created an atmosphere of real tension. This theme was often played when Hui Mun Keung or Ding Lik was about to enter a very dangerous situation in which their lives were threatened. You can hear this one early in the series when Ding Lik is sharpening his fruit-cutting blade in preparation to assassinate a man whom he doesn't know is the Hui Mun Keung who had spent the night at his home a few days earlier.

    It would be a lie to say that THE BUND didn't rely on some outside (i.e. non-TVB) music. Not only were many recordings of 1920s and 1930s jazz songs used (during dance and nightclub scenes), but TVB also used soundtrack music from THE GODFATHER (appropriately) and selections from the British rock band Pink Floyd's music (particularly "One of These Days" from the album MEDDLE and "On The Run" and "Time" from DARK SIDE OF THE MOON). These selections from Western music were incorporated very cleverly and effectively into the soundtrack to establish the atmosphere of the series.

  18. #118
    Senior Member tweety365's Avatar
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    Ken, I just simply love your analysis of this series. You put into words what I feel and thought, except with keen insight and you placed them so eloquently together. Major thumbsup.

    The Bund is one of my favorite series. I’d probably rank it somewhere in the top 5 all time fav. However, I never was able to see the significance in the little details before. I just know that what I watched and re-watched is mighty cool stuff. I never really paid attention to the characters' names before. The music was certainly addictive, but now I have a much better understanding of its purpose and intent. Everything you’ve mentioned is so true and I wholeheartedly concur with your thinking.

  19. #119
    Senior Member i_fotted's Avatar
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    The music was unquestionably my favorite part about the series. Man Ken, you might have actually convinced me to rewatch the series again. It might be time to go dig up those old *** VHS.

  20. #120
    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Thanks, guys.

    I have mis-spoken about THE BUND soundtrack BGM completely eschewing modern Western pop instruments. That's not entirely true. There was a second "danger" theme that quite extensively used electric bass guitar, electric lead guitar, and I believe drums or percussion as well. This one was actually used more often than the all-cellos version.

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