Made in Hong Kong

To Chung-chau

To Chung-chau

(“August Moon”) ….. Sam Lee

Lam Yuk-ping ….. Neiky Yim

Sylvester ….. Wenbers Li

Susan ….. Amy Tam

(Cantonese dialogue)

There’s a fresh and anarchic feel to the street-punk drama “Made in Hong Kong” that makes the similarly themed “Young and Dangerous” series look positively middle-aged. Despite jumping the rails in the final reels in a predictable orgy of violence and bloodshed, this second feature by longtime assistant director Fruit Chan (aka Chen Guo) is one of the few movies to translate the energy and experimentation found in many 16mm and 8mm Hong Kong shorts to feature length. Offshore sales look slim, but festivals should showcase this intriguing pic.

Chung-chau (Sam Lee) is a gangly, small-time punk who lives with his mother in a rough apartment block — Dad has gone off with his mainland mistress — and does occasional debt-collecting jobs for triad boss Wing. Chung-chau’s sidekick is the somewhat retarded Sylvester (Wenbers Li), who one day picks up a couple of bloodstained letters lying by the body of a suicided schoolgirl (Amy Tam).

On a collection job, Chung-chau meets the hard-nosed, 16-year-old Ping (Neiky Yim) and, despite Wing’s warnings about getting emotionally involved, falls for her kooky charms. Meanwhile, Chung-chau is convinced he’s being taken over by the spirit of the dead schoolgirl, and elects to deliver the two letters found by Sylvester. When Ping suddenly disappears one day, Chung-chau starts to lose his grip on reality and takes on a killing contract from Wing.

Though the plot and its unfolding are often as confused and out-there as the central character’s mind-set, helmer Chan constructs an often involving, rough-edged portrait of a certain section of Hong society that’s running out of control with nowhere to go. Wild camerawork, sweaty, totally convincing playing by Lee in the main role, and an often deafening soundtrack heavy with background noise, all combine in a portrait of angry youth that’s as hypnotic as it’s often maddeningly kinetic. Pic, which copped a special jury prize at Locarno, is likely to put off anyone not attuned to such nihilistic fare.

For the record, the movie, which was godfathered by Hong Kong megastar pop singer Andy Lau, was made for $ 80,000, using short ends of film stock from pictures Chan worked on over the years.

Made in Hong Kong

(HONG KONG)

Production: A Shu Kei's Creative Workshop presentation of a Nicetop Independent/Team Work Production House production. (International sales: Shu Kei, Hong Kong.) Produced by Andy Lau, Doris Yang. Executive producer, Lau. Directed, written by Fruit Chan. Camera (color), O Sing-pui, Lam Wah-chuen; editor, Tin Sam-fat; music, Lam Wah-chuen; art direction, Ma Ka-kwan; costume design, Tin Muk; sound, Yung Chi-chung. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 7, 1997. (Also in Vancouver Film Festival.) Running time: 108 MIN.

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