Lung Kong, Cantonese film-maker who directed original 1960s Better Tomorrow, dies

Hong Kong - Lung Kong, a key figure in Hong Kong's Cantonese cinema who directed the original A Better Tomorrow in 1967, died in his apartment in New York on Tuesday, said Apple Daily. He was 79, said the report.

His widow confirmed his death and said he had not been well.

Like current Hong Kong directors, Lung was active at a time when Mandarin films held sway over the industry and Cantonese movies were underestimated. He was one of the few directors who insisted on making Cantonese films because he did not want people "looking down" on the movies, and he was also an innovator.

Deviating from mouldy Cantonese melodramas, he tackled fresh topics such as epidemics, atomic bombs and delinquents, said Apple Daily.

His directorial debut, 1966's Prince Of Broadcasters, starring Lydia Sum, was acclaimed for its novel approach, said the report. His 1969 film Teddy Girls starred Josephine Siao, Nancy Sit and Sum as rebellious teenagers.

Sit said her role as an unmarried young mother caused a stir then, and her parents had initially said no to the project, reported Apple Daily.

She said Lung spoke to her mother personally, and said Sit would never improve on her acting if she were to play good girls all the time.

Lung was a vital figure in the industry, as Cantonese films became the centre of attention and Hong Kong's New Wave directors, including Tsui Hark and Ann Hui, emerged in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tsui produced the 1986 remake of A Better Tomorrow - directed by John Woo and starring Ti Lung, Leslie Cheung and Chow Yun Fat - to pay tribute to Lung.

The son of a Cantonese opera actor, Lung was born in 1935. His childhood ambition was to become an actor and director. After he graduated from high school, he worked in finance and took night classes, where he met Chow Sze Luk, a Cantonese film-maker.

Chow gave Lung a referral to Shaw Studio, where Lung made his acting debut as a villain in Chow's Crime Of Passion In The Hotel in 1958. Other villainous roles followed, in films such as 1964's Track Of A Chase, before Lung turned to directing.

He suffered from migraine and retired from cinema in the 1970s. He moved to the United States, where he met his wife and they had a son.

Lung made his final public appearance last month, in a wheelchair at a retrospective of his work in New York, said Apple Daily. He was in tears as he accepted a lifetime achievement award from Tsui.