Hidden Track

In the year 2000 Aubrey Lam made her directing film debut with “Twelve Nights” which coldly dissected a relationship from beginning to end. I found this to be a painfully sterile film that felt to be influenced by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, but only superficially. Now three years later Lam returns with her second film that in a narrative sense takes up where “Twelve Nights” left off as the film begins at the end of a relationship and then depicts the female character attempting to deal with this emotional void. This film though is an entire mood change – this is bright, colorful, fanciful, amusing and as light as a floating feather even if it is rather self-indulgent. It may also be guilty of trying too hard at times to create an "Amelie" type of enigmatic “magic” but slips instead into cutesiness – but the lead actress Po Po is such a charmer and the cinematography just looks so good that one is more than willing to forgive this film its occasional Hello Kitty foibles.
Po Po is devastated after her boyfriend gives her the heave-ho and so she packs up and flies to Hong Kong where her pregnant sister lives with her husband. Her quirky character is quickly established as she asks the air hostess if she can have a round slice of cheesecake as a triangular one feels somehow incomplete and then she confesses to the passport control officer that she has “she just broken up with her boyfriend and needs some fresh air” when asked why she has come to Hong Kong. Once settled down she begins to look for a song from the Taiwanese artist Jay Chou that was being played when she first made love with her ex-boyfriend. She feels that having this song will allow her to hold on to his memory a little longer. The Mandarin title of the film is actually "Looking for Jay Chou", but in fact this singer only appears at the every end in a peculiar unreal coda.
It turns out to be a much more difficult task than one would suppose though as this particular song was on a rare and limited edition CD and actually is a hidden track that plays long after the rest of the album is done. So she embarks on a mildly meandering Alice in Wonderland odyssey through Hong Kong in search of this song – which in itself is really a MacGuffin – it is not the song so much as the musings that matter as she is led from one person to another to another and along the way picks up perhaps a small smattering of wisdom.
In her search she comes into contact with a few odd and romantically challenged individuals. Her first encounter is with the nerdy slacker owner of a used CD store – Shawn Yu who is abjectly mourning the death of his dog and promises to never bring anything into his home that has a shorter life span than he does. Others are the Casanova like David Wu who uses a different name for every girl he knows, Denise Ho a tough talking tender hearted cab driver, Daniel Wu who is a masculine cop who listens to Teresa Tang and takes his mom on dates with him, Eason Chan a New Age stone therapist and Chan Hing Cheung who feels that he and Po Po have so much in common because they are both looking for a special man to love. None of these are really connected up, but simply little episodes in her life that have a fairy dust quality to them. There is in fact no particular attempt to link them up or create a meaningful narrative – this is really a dreamy mood piece that goes almost nowhere and that is a great deal of its charm.
One senses that for this film, director Lam was influenced by Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express (the second part specifically) – certainly preferable to Scenes from a Marriage for me – as Po Po (both the name of the actress and character) seems clearly modeled on Faye Wong’s character with her elfin looks, short hair style, wide-eyed looks and dreamy expressions and there are a few shots of her that seem to be nearly right out of Chungking Express. The Shawn Yu character has moments that recall Tony Leung as well with Shawn attempting to get over the loss of his dog by talking to animals instead of bars of soap. Throw on top of that the fish tanks, the cleaning and Po Po’s propensity to daydream and it seems likely that Wong’s film was filtering through the director’s mind. Not that I want to put this into the class of Chungking Express  - this is more Chungking light that primarily shines due to the lovable performance of Po Po (in her debut) and some lovely imagery.

My rating for this film: 6.5

cl-wise - Shawn Yu, Eason Chan, Denise Ho, Jay Chou, Daniel Wu, David Wu