Ho Yuk - Let's Love Hong Kong

Reviewed by YTSL

Post viewing this ambitious “movie about lesbian love, pornography and social decay” (according to David Watkins of the “South China Morning Post”) which had I hadn’t felt much of a liking for, a friend (Hi there, Tara!) and I had a fun and interesting discussion about it.  Over the course of doing so, she did succeed in making me think better of this evidently determinedly non-mainstream production -- or, at least, certain elements in it -- than I had upon seeing its end credits roll up on the cinema screen.  At the same time, I was unable to completely shake off my suspicion that the Hong Kong Arts Development Council funded work is -- perhaps as befits its having an academic as its director, scriptwriter cum producer (Yau Ching is a media production professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University) -- one of those intellectually and otherwise “challenging” efforts that is meant to provide more discursive than viewing pleasure.

Actress and director
In theory, I don’t necessarily have a problem with this being so.  As regular visitors to the site will no doubt realize, this (re)viewer also would be more inclined to think well of -- rather than frown upon -- HO YUK - LET’S LOVE HONG KONG’s being “the first movie ever made in Hong Kong by a woman, with women in love with each other as the theme” (Yau Ching, as quoted in an SCMP article entitled “Passion Under Wraps”).  And, indeed, my feeling is that some of the “talking points” filled film’s best moments are those which show its quiet protagonist, Chan Kwok Chan (who gets sensitively portrayed by a first time actress named Wong Chung Ching), in the caring company of a mother she evidently is very fond of (played by Maria Cordero) or her prostitute lover (who is essayed by Wella Cheung).

By a similar token, the interactions that two others of HO YUK - LET’S LOVE HONG KONG’s main characters have with Chan Kwok Chan (who, unbeknownst to such as her mother, appears as a cyber-stripper sex toy on the “Let’s Love” web site) are ones that do seem to have been effectively depicted.  Nonetheless, I do feel obliged to register my reservation that the feelings for Chan Kwok Chan that odd-job-woman Zero (Erica Lam received a Golden Horse best supporting actress nomination for this) -- and not just regular “Let’s Love” patron Nicole (Colette Koo had this challenging role) -- possessed were far more akin to lust than love.  As such, even when they did attempt to have personal relations with their fantasy gal, what they sought to offer her always came across as on the superficial side plus insufficient to emotionally satisfy an individual whose silence caused her to appear to be an enigma (or blank slate) to many.

By her very nature (or professionally demanded disposition), Chan Kwok Chan appears to be a personality who viewers of HO YUK - LET’S LOVE HONG KONG can spend as much time talking about as certain others in this Category III rated film are wont to have in their thoughts.  Consequently, the dramatic work probably would have benefited from devoting more sections to her than it ended up doing.  And since the character of Nicole looks to be both under-developed and intriguing, I also found myself wishing that more (understandable) contexts had been provided for this ballsy businesswoman’s activities; be these ones which involved her at work, socializing with men in gay-friendly hang-outs or masturbating at home in front of a multi-screen system.

In contrast, I am wont to suppose that HO YUK - LET’S LOVE HONG KONG could have done without many of the scenes in which Zero figured (or actually have done away entirely with her character); and this even while recognizing that her section of the movie is that which most clearly communicates that the Hong Kong of this offering -- one which has been diminished by, and in relation to, certain non SAR sections of Mainland China -- (still) really only exists in the imaginary.  In all honesty, the segments with the giraffes felt too heavy-handed while many of the ones in the cinema-turned-lodgings too surreal.  Furthermore, those which had her walking at length along under lit Mongkok area streets too often appeared overly meandering, and contributed to my sense that the 87 minute long work could have been significantly improved if only it had had a better editor along with selector of what to delete from plus add to it.

My rating for this film: 5.5