On Our Screens: An Autumn’s Tale (1987)

Film: An Autumn’s Tale

Year: 1987

Country: Hong Kong

Director: Mabel Cheung

Starring: Cherie Chung, Chow Yun-fat


Samuel Pang, a rude, foul-mouthed chain-smoking waiter of a third rate New York Chinatown restaurant, is often at the less fortunate side of the gambling table.  His friends call him “ruler”, a Cantonese slang meaning “to borrow money,” when he seeks subsistence after betting his last dollar in his pocket.  You would not find Samuel lovable, nor would you see any hope in him.

But Samuel has a dream, a small, humble dream which dwells deep in his heart.  He dreams that one day he can own his café by the sea.  It will be his home, his turf, his final haven from where he can sit back and escape from the toil of his days and stare quietly at the distant horizon.  He will call his café “Sampan” (an alias he is also known by) possibly as a tribute to his long seafaring career.

He lets his dream sleep, but it becomes roused… when Jennifer comes to town.

Jenny, Samuel’s very distant cousin, comes to stay with him in New York to study drama.  At 23, the pretty but unfledged woman comes to the Big Apple not in pursuit of stardom, but with a somewhat misguided objective.

She’s there to be with her wealthy, but immature boyfriend, Vincent,  a womanizing cad who happens to be a faithful Woody Allen follower. Vincent also lives steadfast by his infamous dictum that “a relationship is like a shark that has to move forward constantly, or die”.  So Jenny’s tender heart becomes shattered once she realizes that her playboy beau has been making and breaking relationships to his heart’s content, all in her absence.

This begins the brief tale of two lonely souls in the heart of New York City.

“An Autumn’s Tale”, a 1987 Hong Kong film, is about an unrequited love affair between two characters from two entirely worlds.  The film is directed by Mabel Cheung and stars Chow Yun-fat (who also played Li Mu-bai in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and Sao Feng in “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”) and Cherie Chung.

This film represents the best of Hong Kong’s creative production in the 1980s.  But for any non-native Hong Kong-Cantonese audience, the film’s dialogue can be tricky, even with subtitles.  For example, who could make sense out of these phrases, like, when Samuel Pang argues with a uniformed police on Broadway that he is not ticket scalping, he shouts, “You talk all, yes talk! I talk all no talk!”, and “I’m not yellow cow!” ?  But if you try these to your Cantonese friends, you can be sure that they will be driven instantly to tears laughing.


Rating (one to five whistles, five being the best): Three-and-a-half Whistles


How to Watch:



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