A happy hunting ground for Sinophiles but a likely head-scratcher for most everyone else, “92 Legendary La Rose Noire” is a clever, slickly shot satire on Cantonese movies of the 1960s that’s so daft it’s enjoyable.
With careful subtitling and explanatory material, pic could score among festival auds in tune with Asian fare. For those with the decoding manual, “Rose Noire” is an homage-laden laugh fest with more levels than a club sandwich. Debut feature by Joe Chan, associate producer on the cult fave “Days of Being Wild,” was a sleeper at H.K. wickets last year, grossing a bright $ HK22 million over its six-month run.
Anything-goes story line, set in the present, revolves around a young woman writer (Maggie Shiu) who’s frustrated in her career. When she and her best friend (Teresa Mo) get accidentally involved in a gangland bloodbath, she leaves a note at the scene signed “La Rose Noire” (The Black Rose), name of a well-known fictional 1960s femme avenger.
Chan and scripter Kei On’s loving parody of 1960s cliches — handsome matinee idols, lovers’ duets, cliff-hanging sequences and magical martial arts — moves at a fast clip, propelled by a knowing, 1990s-style irony and bright production design and costumes. Tech credits are assured down the line.
Leung (from “The Lover”) has fun mimicking the acting style and funny voice of 1960s H.K. heartthrob Lui Kei, while bob-haired Feng parodies her own background as a child star from the period.
Chinese title literally means “92 La Rose Noire vs. La Rose Noire.” Pic’s success has already spawned a further riff, Pang Yi-wa’s “Rose, Rose, I Love You ,” also with Leung.