After the Crescent
Reviewed by YTSL
As befits its “Eastern Hollywood” nickname,
Hong Kong cinema is primarily known for its market oriented output.
If one were to look around, however, some Jade Theatre offerings will be
found that don’t appear to have been made with large profit-making in mind.
Among these are documentary works (including by the likes of Stanley Kwan,
Ann Hui and Shu Kei). Then there are those efforts that could be
considered “indie” movies; even though they may have at least one popular
film personality on board (e.g., the Andy Lau produced “Made in Hong Kong”)
and/or -- as was the case with this HK$567,200 production whose director
cum scriptwriter the individual still may be best known for having scripted
the deservedly Category III rated “Run and Kill” -- turned out to have
been funded by a branch of the local government (i.e., the Hong Kong Arts
Although this 1997 work is not without any acts
of physical plus psychic violence, it still is -- as befitting its non-criminal
subject matter along with source of funding -- a darn sight more cerebral
as well as less bloody than those which Bryan Chang had scripted but hadn’t
helmed. Additionally, and however unlikely it may seem when bearing
in mind that he got his start in the movie making business at Jackie Chan’s
Golden Way Films Production Company, the main man behind AFTER THE CRESCENT
actually cites Fellini’s “La Voce de la Luna”, some Buddhist scriptures
and Tarkovsky’s “Sculpting in Time” along with an astrology book -- which
revealed to him “that the moon is the governing planet of my horoscope
sign” -- plus that satellite of Earth itself as the chief inspirations
behind his first directorial effort; one that ambitiously sought to examine
“the perplexities involved in the process of growing up” (See the HKIFF’s
“Hong Kong Panorama, 97-98’, 1998:77).
All of the leisurely paced AFTER THE CRESCENT
-- on which Carol Lai, who went on to direct “Glass Tears” some four years
later, worked as production manager -- takes place within a single day
and night that happens to be “the Lunar Fifteenth, the night of the full
moon” (Ibid). During the twenty four hour interval inside of which
the moon gets deemed by the movie’s primary character to be “so bright,
so pretty”, the seventeen year old -- who is named Meme Lam (and compellingly
portrayed by Cherie Ho Pui-Yi) -- is shown having to face a whole bunch
of adverse conditions, not all of which are solely her doing. And
although the job- cum degree-less youth is not without other close family
members, it turns out that she cannot expect to get much help from any
of them; this on account of her father being on the “weird” side (not least
because he’s still mourning the unexpected passing away of his wife some
two years on), her elder brother Fai being “a bit slow” and her younger
brother Lok being but a(nother) far from ultra-responsible love-sick teen.
Early on in this at times pretty experimental
feeling effort, there is an awkward as well as extended scene in an eatery
(that, from the sound of things, is located near a busy thoroughfare).
O Sing Pui’s cinematography -- which makes copious use of long takes that
“perfectly preserv[e] those squirmingly awkward pauses we all face in daily
life” (See John Charles’ review
of AFTER THE CRESCENT at “Hong Kong Digital”) -- as well as the spartan
plus crammed tea house setting play a big part in creating the feeling
of discomfort that pervades this main mood establishing section of the
documentary style dramatic offering. Nevertheless, what clearly is
most responsible for the discordance that emanates in waves from the unhappy
individual at the center of the affair, the boyfriend that she belatedly
realized was hers no more and the gal who had become the latest apple of
his roving eye is the new state of romantic affairs that they get revealed
to be in.
As if it weren’t bad enough that Meme’s ex-love,
Wah, is so openly under the thumb as well as enamored by the more assured
Clara, Meme turns out to -- unbeknownst to her loved ones -- be two months
pregnant. After independently deciding to have an abortion, the troubled
main personality in AFTER THE CRESCENT -- who Bryan Chang described as
“a teenage girl who has a life ahead of her but is unable to grasp the
meaning of it” (In the HKIFF’s “Hong Kong Panorama, 97-98’, 1998:77) --
decides to go to an older friend (named Angela) for financial assistance.
Instead of money alone, Meme also finds herself being presented by her
nightclub worker pal with advice to keep the baby plus hook a man into
becoming its father.
Although a candidate shortly presents himself
to her, Meme ends up not following the plan outlined to her by the probably
wiser as well as more experienced female. This is not because there’s
a set series of steps that she is intent on alternatively pursuing.
Instead, this listless youth’s day and night -- and life as a whole for
a while now -- looks to consist of her going from one chance but fateful
proving occurrence to another. In much the same way as its self-hating
protagonist, AFTER THE CRESCENT generally comes across as feeling like
it’s apt to wander and meander along a path that’s far from predictable
plus less than logical. While some might admire this slackly structured
approach, my own sense is that it is one that often is more likely to result
in dissatisfying mediocrity, if not outright disaster.
My rating for this film: 6.