A Queer Story

Reviewed by YTSL

Amidst the criticism that has been leveled against Hong Kong movies in terms of many of them having homophobic strains, I find myself thinking of there actually being quite a few -- including “Naked Killer”, “Gigolo and Whore II”, “Swordsman II”, “Swordsman III:  The East is Red”, “Green Snake”, “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man” and “Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?” -- that contain scenes which require their viewers to not be put off by watching people in scenes and situations that could be said to be gay friendly at one or another level.  All this in addition to a heralded trio of dramas -- with top notch leads and helmed by respected auteurs -- in which homosexual characters are very much the main focus of the productions:  I.e., Wong Kar Wai’s “Happy Together” (starring Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Jacob Cheung’s “Intimates” (which boasts luminous performances by Carina Lau and Charlie Yeung), and Stanley Kwan’s “Hold You Tight” (memorable for Eric Tsang’s sensitive portrayal of a gay man as well as being Chingmy Yau’s last film).

The Shu Kei directed and co-scripted (with Abe Kwong) A QUEER STORY is one more quality offering with a well regarded cast -- who include the guest appearance making Anita Yuen (as Yuk Sheung), Waise Lee (in a fleeting car driving role), Alfred Cheung (as Carl), Hsu Chi (playing a lesbian hairstylist), Kristy Yeung (as the girlfriend of someone whose mother left his father for a(nother) woman) and Francis Ng (who sensitively portrays a man whose love gets struck down by AIDs) -- and an esteemed director which depicts homosexual individuals in ways that thoroughly emphasize their being humans who love, have relationships and live in ways that often are far more conventional than many (homophobic) heterosexuals think is the case.  As this 1997 effort’s Chinese title -- which translates into English as “Gay Man at Forty” -- underscores, being gay is but one (though admittedly also major) aspect of being for the film’s headlined personality.
Indeed, for much of this tonally under-stated work, Law Kar Sing (who veteran singer-actor George Lam empathetically portrays) looks to be having the kind of crisis that comes as much from his hitting the big 4-0 as being a homosexual man who hadn’t “come out” to many people in his life (including his father as well as boss and clients).  The older age and more conservative general attitudes of the middle-aged man nicknamed “Moustachio” by his younger and far less uptight plus closeted lover is particularly noticeable when he’s in the company of twenty-something year old Sonny (Jordan Chan endows the other half of A QUEER STORY’s main pairing with a coquettish quality as well as characteristic liveliness).  The duo’s generation gap and disparate perspectives on many aspects of life is also detectable by way of:  The older man being a filial son as well as someone who continues to make time and effort to stay connected with his lesbian 10th Aunt (played by Meg Lam) and remind her college-age son that she is still his mother (even after having separated from his father); but the younger man never being seen in the company of relatives.
As can be imagined, these kind of differences play their part in leading Kar Sing and Sonny to sometimes having the sort of spats that are part of the territory when opposites find that they can repulse as well as attract.  It doesn’t seem to help their relationship all that much either that marriage counselor Kar Sing and hairstylist Sonny have friendship circles that hardly overlap (The older man’s best friends appear to be a gay professor and his celebrity photographer lover whereas the younger man prefers to spend his time away from his partner in the company of his hair salon colleagues or clients).
Matters come to a particular head though with the (temporary) return from Canada -- where her family had migrated -- of the woman who Kar Sing’s father -- along with what seems like the rest of their home village -- had expected him to ask to marry.  I’m not entirely convinced of the truth of the suggestion made in A QUEER STORY that:  “Behind every gay man is a woman waiting for him”.  Still, this is definitely the case with regards to Kar Sing and Lai Chuen (who Christine Ng portrays as best as she can despite looking way too young to have been an age mate of the man her character obviously does care quite a bit for).  How “Moustachio” handles this situation and “reality” in general makes up an important as well as substantial part of a well crafted film which this (re)viewer found to be sensitive and very watchable (and confirms my sense, after having checked out his “Hu-Du-Men”, of being partial to the directorial offerings of the talented individual who also is a professional film critic and book store owner in addition to being the associate producer of “Ashes of Time”).

My rating for this film:  7.5