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|Saturday, April 28, 2001, updated at 08:57(GMT+8)|
"Crouching Tiger" vs "Mood for Love" at HK Film AwardsLavish martial arts epic "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" will clash with a spartan study of anguished, forbidden love at the Hong Kong film awards on Sunday in a close race expected to keep hundreds of thousands of movielovers in the region glued to their sets.
"Crouching Tiger" and "In the Mood for Love" each nabbed double-digit nominations, including nods for best picture, best director, best actor and actress.
Producers of "Crouching Tiger" are hoping to cash in on four Oscar wins last month, including the first two for Hong Kong, and a smash North American box office success.
The film, a kung-fu romance with dazzling special effects shot in dozens of locations across China, is competing for all 16 prizes at the Hong Kong awards except best new performer.
Taiwan-born director Ang Lee, who lost out on the best director Oscar, will be flying to Hong Kong specially for the ceremony, which will be shown live on local television.
"In the Mood for Love", a love story of a far different but no less passionate sort, has been nominated in 12 categories.
Directed by Wong Kar-wai, the elegantly composed story of two married neighbours trying desperately not to fall in love was shot mainly in a few sparse stairways and flats in Hong Kong and scored a phenomenal success at last year's Cannes festival.
The Hong Kong awards, which usually showcase local films little known to the outside world, will this year be the judge of how two international blockbusters have been perceived at home.
While a huge draw overseas, "Crouching Tiger" did not make it into even the top five at last year's box office in Hong Kong, where moviegoers have grown up on a steady diet of kung-fu flicks.
Apart from taking home the prestige, and a golden statuette of a woman clad in just a few strategically placed pieces of film, the winners are likely to gain from a surge in demand in the video rental market.
Unlike its Hollywood counterpart, the statue has no popular nickname and is known simply as The Hong Kong Film Awards.
Local film makers said the overseas success of both films had already given a shot in the arm to Hong Kong's ailing film industry, once the most vibrant in Asia.
"The Hong Kong Film Awards is definitely more alive because of that," Raymond Wong, chairman of the Movie Producers & Distributors Association of Hong Kong, told Reuters.
FLUFFY COMEDY, DURIAN DRAMA A THREAT
But the two internationally acclaimed films are up against some tough competition from local productions.
"Needing You", a fluffy romantic comedy starring hearthrob Andy Lau and the queen of cantopop Sammi Cheng, was Hong Kong's top grossing picture in 2000. Also nominated is drama "Durian, Durian", directed by arthouse film-maker Fruit Chan.
Rounding out best picture nominees is "The Triad Zone", a tale about the intricate relationships between factions of the underworld starring Tony Leung Kar-fai, who made his name in "The Lover".
The ultimate showdown, however, is expected between the superstars.
Lau hopes to take home the best actor award again for his role as a boxer in the action romance "A Fighter's Blues", but he will have to knock out dashing Chow Yun-fat of "Crouching Tiger". The epic has brought the action hero back into the picture after years of absence in the local movie scene.
Chow won the award three times in the 1980s.
Tony Leung, meanwhile, has emerged as critics' favourite for his performance as a cheated husband who falls for a married woman "In the Mood for Love", a 1960s romance of two neighbours ensnared in a web of infidelity.
The prize for best actress has been boiled down to a three-way race between the two leading female stars in "Crouching Tiger", Malaysian-born Michelle Yeoh and Beijing-bred Zhang Ziyi, and Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung for "In the Mood for Love".
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