Alan & Eric: Between Hello and Goodbye

Reviewed by YTSL

In 1991, the United Filmmakers Organization was co-founded by Peter Chan, Eric Tsang, Lee Chi Ngai and Jacob Cheung.  In the same year, three of these individuals were involved in making a movie that can be retrospectively regarded as a prototypical U.F.O. dramatic offering.  Five years prior to that, the man who had been production manager and assistant director for three Jackie Chan films -- but has mainly made his name by directing and producing non-action movies like “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” and “Comrades, Almost a Love Story” -- had a job in distribution and sales for Alan & Eric, a production company named for singer-actor Alan Tam and Renaissance man Eric Tsang (See Fredric Dannen’s “Hong Kong Babylon”, 1997:63-65).

It thus seems rather appropriate that Peter Chan’s directorial debut work would be entitled ALAN AND ERIC: BETWEEN HELLO AND GOODBYE as well as star Alan Tam (as a waiter turned chicken farmer turned Cantopop star named Alan Tam!) and Eric Tsang (giving a HKFA Best Actor performance as a chicken farmer turned fisherman(!) named Eric Tsang), plus have Lee Chi Ngai as the co-scriptwriter -- along with a guest appearance-making Barry Wong (as a bar-owner named Barry) -- of this Peter Chan-Eric Tsang co-production.  Given that the UCLA educated auteur has been labeled “the region’s most Americanised film-maker” (In Miles Wood’s “Cine East”, 1998:9), it also makes some sense that this maudlin melodrama -- whose focus is on the up-down, hot-cold friendship between two individuals with antithetical personalities -- would be perceived to have been inspired by the tear-jerking Hollywood “chick flick” that was “Beaches”.  In actuality though, I don’t see this at times charming -- but nonetheless shallow and uneven (plus rough at the edges) -- offering having that much in common with the 1989 weepie that starred Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey.
Instead, my stronger sense is that quite a few of the thematic strands and plot devices that appear in this unfortunately at times too immature feeling movie are ones that Peter Chan would return to use to better effect in his more polished UFO works.  E.g., the love triangle that tested the friendships of Alan, Eric and an artistic lass named Olive Cheung (played by a Maggie Cheung who was alternating between being a cute gal and serious actress at this point in her career) looked in some ways to presage that between “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man”’s main trio.  Relatedly, the sentiment expressed by a wistful Olive at one point in the film -- re her ideal love being someone that combined the more attractive attributes of her two favorite men -- is similar to one that would be uttered by Wing re Sam and Fan-Fan in “Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?”.  Additionally, there were moments in ALAN AND ERIC: BETWEEN HELLO AND GOODBYE that caused me to feel that Mr. Tsang and Ms. Cheung were effectively rehearsing to play the roles that they ended up essaying five years later in the also transnational “Comrades, Almost a Love Story”.
For the most part though, while the individual chemistry between those two talents was already there (as was that between them and Alan Tam), the overall mix and formula still did not feel quite right in ALAN AND ERIC: BETWEEN HELLO AND GOODBYE.  One contributing factor that I can think of was the surprising lack of a specific localizing sense that this nostalgia tinged production’s proceedings did largely unfold in that part of the world whose Chinese name translates into English as “Fragrant Harbor”.  Somewhat unusually for a Hong Kong movie, there seemed to be more flavor in the portions of the work that were filmed in San Francisco and less readily identifiable parts of the U.S.  Although this by itself is not a bad thing, the problem is that the bulk of this offering -- including those scenes which feature a fortune-telling, Cantonese-speaking “Yank” (played by Paul Fonoroff) along with a Chinese man named Pierre (played by Blackie Ko) -- does (presumably) take place elsewhere than North America (even while it does begin and end in the Bay Area).  Alternatively put:  This generally too shallow effort surely would have benefited from being more grounded as well as possessing a greater contextualizing depth.

My rating for the film:  6.

DVD Information:

Distributed by Universe

The transfer is pretty good - a little soft in the indoor scenes.


Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks

There are 8 Chapters.

The subtitles are in either Chinese, English or Bahasa (Malaysian) - and are easy to read.

There is a trailer for this film (but I would avoid till after seeing the film as it has a few spoilers within) and ones for Beloved Son of God, Papa Can You Hear Me Sing and The Lunatics.