Made in Hong Kong



Review by YTSL

When many, especially overseas, Hong Kong movie fans think of Jackie Chan, dramatic films like “Rouge”, “Centre-Stage” and “Tempting Heart” -- all works for which he has producing credits -- are almost the last (kind of) cinematic offerings that come to mind.  Similarly, while one’s imagination doesn’t have to be stretched too much to envision Andy Lau as being the producer of the star vehicle for him that is “A Fighter’s Blues”, how many people realize that he also held that position -- along with Doris Yang -- for two of Fruit Chan’s efforts (critically acclaimed films that are often described as “independent” depictions of an unglamorous social reality in addition to being well-known -- infamous even -- for being ultra serious and downbeat in nature and tone)?

As the barely legible -- less so than the subtitles; a rare occurrence indeed?! -- opening credits roll, the main character in MADE IN HONG KONG introduces himself, comments on his social situation and small circle of friends, family and (sometime) boss.  Autumn Moon (then newcomer Sam Lee gave a commanding performance in this undoubtedly demanding role) is a self-described juvenile high school dropout who notes that he is as much a product of Hong Kong’s (failing) educational system as others who have fared better in it.  His regular low-lifer routine includes shooting hoops in public playgrounds and generally hanging out on the streets or high density apartment blocks but also acting as a debt collector for a loan shark he refers to as Big Brother Wing (Ricky Lau plays him as someone given equally to spout advice to his younger “followers” and mouth obscenities to those who have pissed him off in even the slightest way).

Although people would not guess it when judging him by his appearance, demeanor and social position, Moon may actually have been one of the brighter lights -- though probably not sparks -- of his troubled generation.  For one thing, he is someone who rails against injustice not only by decrying it but also by choosing to look out for, take under his wing and share a home with a bullied individual perceived as “a half-witted jester” called Sylvester (played by Wenbers Li Tung-Chuen).  Moon also shows his decency by staying in love with Ping, a young woman who he first spotted while on an assignment to collect debt from her mother, post finding out that she’s dying while waiting for a kidney transplant (The sweet and sprite-like Lam Yuk-Ping is portrayed by Yim Hui Chi; Carol Lam plays her protective and desperate mother).  Additionally, while his interactions with his mother (played by Doris Chow) and an idealistic social worker named Ms. Lee (essayed by Siu Chung) are hardly ideal, there’s enough there to show that he does care quite a bit about the former as a person (as well as parent) and re the latter’s mission.
Then there is Moon’s -- and also Ping’s and Sylvester’s -- tie(s) with Susan Hui, a schoolgirl who committed suicide by jumping off a tall building overlooking a church.  Although Amy Tam’s role is a largely non-speaking one, her Susan Hui appears to Moon in dreams and haunts his thoughts to such an extent that he starts to look upon her as a person he knows.  Another way in which her presence manifests itself in MADE IN HONG KONG is by way of two letters stained with her blood that Sylvester picked up at the site of her death, both of which Moon, Ping and Sylvester decide to deliver for the deceased girl to their intended parties.  The story behind one of them isn’t particularly deep but the tale attached to the other ends up working as a very poignant coda indeed.
Those who get the impression that MADE IN HONG KONG is an unconventionally structured film with multiple characters, nearly all of whom have their own small but interesting stories that are telling as well as relatable with, are most definitely on to something.  While Moon is the heart of as well as link between many of the other people encountered in this approximately 104 minutes in length, Fruit Chan -- who scripted and edited as well as directed this outstanding piece of work -- managed to get even some of those individuals who appear for scarcely a minute or two -- and were largely portrayed by amateur actors -- to leave viscerally as well as visually lasting impressions.  The schoolboy who takes revenge in a public toilet on the man who raped his younger sister.  The skateboarder with a screwdriver in one of his hands.  The wheelchair-bound arcade game expert.  Even the white collar worker who owns up to his surname being Chan but plaintively queries re whether he really is “Fat”.  They are not movie characters who will be easily forgotten.
To my mind, the reasons for being this are two fold.  Firstly, there is a sense that the fictitious individuals who are immensely compassionately depicted in MADE IN HONG KONG are very likely to have real life counterparts.  Secondly, and not necessarily paradoxically, they are in the picture to (help Fruit Chan) make particular points:  Some of which were specific to a time as well as place (i.e., the uncertain world that was Handover era Hong Kong); others of which are specific to a particular generation (E.g., that encapsulated in a youth’s fatalistic belief that “The adult world is far too complicated for me”); and yet others that are universalistic in nature (E.g., the suggestion of there being many subscribers to the piece of folk wisdom that “Poverty begets evil.  That’s the name of the game”).  Put another way:  This HKFA Best Picture winner is one of those rare works that come across as having a genuine message as well as feel, and whose very conception would constitute a true accomplishment even if it hadn’t been made -- as it was -- by a five man crew.

My rating for the film:  9.



DVD Information:

Distributed by Golden Satellite

The film itself was shot on an extremely low budget - so I am not sure if it is the transfer or the film stock that was used - but the transfer looks dirty at times and blanched out at others - but it is still certainly watchable.

Letterboxed

Cantonese only.

There are 9 Chapters.

The subtitles are burnt on Chinese and English and are often difficult to read because of white on white circumstances.

There is a trailer for the film.