It may seem a bit too late to share my two-cent worth one whole month after the event, but being late is better than never.
What a Godsend privilege it was for me to be invited to a private party at the Hong Kong Film Archive on 11 August to celebrate the 80th birthday of Grace Chang. Not just with fans from older, younger and peer generations, but, more importantly, with herself in person.
Yes, I am talking about Grace Chang. The charming, extraordinary and unmatched diva of Hong Kong cinema in the 1950s and early 1960s.
She retired from the silver screen nearly half a century ago in 1964, after making Between Tears and Smiles. Since then she has been rarely seen in public, let alone under the spotlight. This is why the private party last month was a precious occasion too dear to be missed. It was hardly surprising for everyone to be overwhelmed with joy and excitement. As the organiser and host Peter Dunn, the child star who used to play the son or younger brother of the female leads in the MP&GI masterpieces, announced Grace's arrival, everyone rose from their seats and applauded. No one told us anything beforehand or did we rehearse whatsoever. It was so natural that almost everyone in the small theatre seemed to share the same mind in that split of the second.
Many fans and friends of Grace have already shared their emotional responses and messages of love and support on Facebook. I felt pretty much the same as they did and there is little for me to add on. In a nutshell, it was fantastic to see Grace again in great health and humour. Although not a fan of hers per se, I do appreciate her talent, dedication and confidence that help her achieve what she had on the silver screen. That was simply amazing and remarkable. I am grateful to God and the organisers for every moment we shared together and enjoyed throughout.
What seems more striking to me though is the stream of thoughts triggered off by the momentous event.
More than a decade ago I had set up a web site dedicated to Grace Chang with two friends. I still remember how much time and effort we spent on research, writing and solving the technical hitches. Apparently it was meticulous and time-consuming, and yet the process was greatly enjoyable, bringing much satisfaction upon completion. Over the years there was very little to update about her, but a lot of changes have taken place on each of us. We have gone into different directions in pursuit of our dreams. We have grown into personalities different from what we used to be. For quite some time the three of us haven't met as a group, and it was this private party that had brought us under the same roof again.
After all these years, we look older and more mature. The powerful wave of passion that had compelled us to do something for the brightest stars of the heyday of Hong Kong's Mandarin cinema has receded into the long-term memory. Having said that, our respect and admiration of those timeless gems of Hong Kong popular culture still persist. It is just that the strong urge of action seems to have reduced in magnitude, if retreated at all. We already have done what we can, to the best of our efforts, and we are happy that we did.
As the saying goes, "It doesn't matter how long you live. It is how you live that does." This is very true. This is why I am grateful for the opportunity to attend the private party, share some delightful moments with Grace and her fans and friends, as well as to do something for what I truly love and enjoy. In turn, each of these occasions, which I treat as amazing grace from God, leaves a distinct footprint in the course of my ordinary life. If I may, I won't say that it is a milestone or for that matter, but certainly each of these is something memorable, worthy of reminiscence and treasure for the rest of my life.