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This moving melodrama about a Cantonese opera singer reduced to being a street performer in order to support his family remains one of the best-loved Hong Kong films of all time.
Life imitates art in this heartbreaking drama about the tragic life of a bit-part Cantonese opera actor: the decline of the once prominent Cantonese opera scene, and its ultimate migration into Hong Kong cinema, is a persistent theme throughout the film, and its finest moments take us backstage to witness the workings of this highly localized art form. Real-life Cantonese opera star Ma Si-tsang plays an actor who, laid off from his job at the opera, is forced to play a clown in a low-rent company and become a street performer in order to support his family. When his beloved son decides that he wants to become a performer himself, the conflicted patriarch must make some difficult choices about his family's future. Transcending the sticky sentimentality of so many Hong Kong films of this period through Chun Kim's sensitive direction and Ma's astonishingly rich performance, Parents' Hearts continues to inspire fervent love from Hong Kong critics: it was voted to Time Out Hong Kong's list of the hundred greatest Hong Kong films ever made, while a recent Hong Kong Film Archive programme note gushed, "Parents' Hearts is one of the best Hong Kong films, ever!"