Review: ‘Night Corridor’

The cinematic equivalent of fusion cuisine, gothic tale "Night Corridor" proves that too many influences spoil the soup. Novelist-photographer-filmmaker Julian Lee serves up this devilish brew with plenty of eerie mystery and Lynchian obfuscation, but the offerings intrigue rather than satisfy. Offshore, this is a specialty vid offering.

The cinematic equivalent of fusion cuisine, gothic tale “Night Corridor” proves that too many influences spoil the soup. Novelist-photographer-filmmaker Julian Lee serves up this devilish brew with plenty of eerie mystery and Lynchian obfuscation, but the offerings intrigue rather than satisfy. Don’t expect much H.K. sauce in the mix, although there are generous helpings of “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Ninth Door” stirred in alongside Japanese-style horror. Locals stayed home last fall; offshore, this is a specialty vid offering.

Lee’s starting point is the masterpiece of unsettled Freudian ravings, Heinrich Fuseli’s painting “The Nightmare,” depicting the troubled demons of a sleeping woman’s unconscious. Pic begins as Sam Yuen (H.K. heartthrob Daniel Wu, also co-producing) prepares for an exhibition of his disturbing photos of agonized subjects (helmer Lee’s own work) in his adopted city of London. He receives a call from his mother telling him twin brother Hung has died in Hong Kong.

Ex-nightclub singer mom (Shaw Bros. vet Wai Ying-hung) is a full-time boozer, and there’s something mysterious in the way Hung died. Family adviser Father Chan (Eddy Ko), a tortured priest whose relationship with a school-aged Sam was none too pure, conspires with Sam’s mother to hide Hung’s bizarre manner of death: He was torn to pieces by a pack of frenzied monkeys.

This info is discovered in the library of an old colonial-era club, whose night porter, Luk Si-fan (Ku Feng), introduces Sam to Olivia (Coco Chiang), a woman claiming to be Hung’s g.f. Meanwhile, Sam searches out other demons from his past, particularly radio star Vincent Sze (Allan Wu), for whom Sam has nurtured a hopeless love since they were children.

As with his first feature “The Accident,” Lee got Stanley Kwan onboard as co-producer, and together they talked a number of Hong Kong names into working for peanuts. Shot in just 13 days on a tight budget, pic presents an unsettling, strangely underpopulated metropolis whose empty streets still manage to feel suffocating, like an old B-noir shot mostly at night. But the story takes too many baroque pathways, and overall impression is of a film sampling from too many well-known predecessors.

Wu comes off best as the troubled Sam, not an easy feat when he’s given so many disconnected scenes to tie together. Wai gives a largely one-note performance as the alcoholic mother, pitched at too high a level. Despite budget restrictions, tech credits are strong, and there’s a richness to the nighttime colorings that contributes to the decadent feel.

Night Corridor

Hong Kong

Production

A Pure Film Art Syndicate production. Produced by Stanley Kwan, Daniel Wu. Executive producer, Kingman Cho. Directed, written by Julian Lee, based on his novel.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Wong Chi-ming, Charlie Lam; editor, Yau Chi-wai; music, Jun Kung; production designer, Silver Cheung; costume designer, Coco Ho; sound, Tam Tak-wing. Reviewed at Turin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (competing), April 27, 2004. Running time: 72 MIN.

With

Daniel Wu, Wai Ying-hung, Ku Feng, Eddy Ko, Allan Wu, Coco Chiang.
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