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
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
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.
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.
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.