In the end the story doesn’t add up and in truth
it really doesn’t seem to mean very much – but getting to that point of
realization is an intriguing cinematic journey. Director Ann Hui paints
a visually stunning morose picture of Hong Kong that is claustrophobic
and creepily atmospheric. The city seems shrouded in death, in nostalgia,
in shadows, in questions. In ghosts. There are ghosts everywhere. Hong
Kong is a city of ghosts – living and dead.
Hui isn’t going for scares with this film – she
is creating an atmosphere of mystery, doubt and unease. What is real and
what isn’t – what are dreams and what isn’t - who is alive and who
isn’t – who is what they appear and who isn’t. Layers of uncertainty slowly
emerge in the film as it almost dissolves into a palette of muted surrealistic
colors, of distorted nighttime scenes and unnerving restricted space. The
cinematography (Arthur Wong), the set designs (Silver Cheung), the eerie
music (Tommy Wai Kai Leung) all contributes to a wonderfully seamless technical
achievement. Simply watching this film is a great pleasure from an aesthetic
perspective. The story though often feels like it is simply present
as a clothesline to throw atmospherics and flourishes around and when you
are finished and examine what you have witnessed there are gaping holes
of logic that weaken the impact of the film considerably.
The actors are almost overwhelmed by these atmospherics.
They do a fine job though with Eason Chan and Hsu Chi totally dominating
the screen time. This is one of Eason’s better jobs though in truth he
need only go through the film with an expression of confusion on his face.
Hsu Chi’s role is much more complex and fairly subtle as she morphs into
various personas. She does a solid job I thought with only a few momentary
lapses into her girlish side. And for those who appreciate her warbling
ability you will be thrilled to know that she once again sings karaoke!
The supporting players do a terrific job as well – James Wong is suitably
weary for his character and Kara Hui Ying Hung (in a rare dramatic role)
is simply fabulous in her few minutes on the screen as a possessed mother.
On the surface this film appears to be one of
Ann Hui’s more commercial efforts and fits in comfortably with the avalanche
of horror films in Hong Kong over the last couple of years. Hui is well
known though for often creating a political subtext within her films and
though I am not entirely sure I suspect that it is here as well. With the
themes of loss of identity, loss of memory, possession and losing ones
head (literally) and the search for it seem to open up the possibility
that she is in truth visualizing a Hong Kong going through an identity
crisis and projecting her fears of a city that will eventually lose it’s
special heritage – its memories of what is was. To Hui, Hong Kong is becoming
a wandering ghost searching for its past.
Ghosts are everywhere and Hsu Chi can see them.
One of her eyes has the power of seeing them about the city. Not that she
wants to – she usually keeps that eye covered with either an eye patch
or sunglasses – because they frighten her – send her running in terror.
Eason meets Hsu Chi in a disco and they spend the night together. He begins
to fall in love with her before he realizes the strange life she leads.
He is slowly sucked into it. His father (James Wong) tells everyone that
a ghost is possessing him but no one will listen to him. Soon odd occurrences
begin happening to Eason – his apartment is painted red, dreams and reality
start merging together, he wakes up not knowing where he is, he starts
seeing dead people too. Is this all connected to Hsu Chi or rather to a
horrible accident from years before in which Anthony Wong loses his head.
Hui takes her time in telling the story – perhaps becoming too enamored
with her sets and designs – but it is an enticing tale until it falls short
in the end.
My rating for this film: 7.5
Distributed by Mega Star/Media Asia
The transfer is excellent - claims to be 16:9
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
The subtitles are Chinese or English.
There is a trailer for this film but no others.
This has glimpses of a scene that takes place on the subway system but
was apparently cut because of the subway's protests that it might scare
There is a Making of section - with no English
There is also a comic book version of some
of the scenes - was this based on a comic book?