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Beyond Our Ken

Revenge is very sweet indeed in the often Euro-flavored Hong Kong chick-buddy pic, "Beyond Our Ken." Toplining Gillian Chung and Tao Hong as the current and former girlfriends of a serial cad, pic blossoms into a winning blend of early Claude Lelouch and mid-term Wong Kar-wai. Fest prospects also look strong after Nov. 11 release.

With:
With: Gillian Chung, Tao Hong, Daniel Wu, Jim Chim, Jimmy Wong. (Mandarin dialogue)

Revenge is very sweet indeed in the often Euro-flavored Hong Kong chick-buddy pic, “Beyond Our Ken.” Toplining Hong Kong singer-thesp Gillian Chung (one half of the Twins duo) and Mainland actress Tao Hong (“Life Show”) as the current and former girlfriends of a serial cad, pic blossoms into a winning blend of early Claude Lelouch and mid-term Wong Kar-wai. A logical progression from Edmond Pang’s other entertaining, high-concept pics (“You Shoot, I Shoot,” “Men Suddenly in Black”), this should solidify helmer’s rep as a diverse talent of intelligence and great warmth. Fest prospects also look strong after Nov. 11 release.

Young Chan Wai-ching (Chung) is about to be bedded by handsome firefighter Ken (Daniel Wu) in the boudoir of the apartment he shares with his grandmother.

Switch to older Mainlander Zhou Xiaolan, aka “Shirley,” who slaves away on the graveyard shift at a restaurant when her friends and her beau (also Ken) spring a surprise birthday party for her.

After flashing back to Ken’s wooing of Wai-ching, film returns to the present as Wai-ching appears at the restaurant to meet Shirley. She explains she’s Ken’s ex, and has suffered major embarrassment from his recent posting of nude photos of her on the Internet. She simply wants to get access to Ken’s computer and delete the photo files.

Realizing she could be Ken’s next victim, Shirley agrees to help Wai-ching and, in an artfully entertaining sequence, she keeps Ken busy while Wai-ching makes a copy of his latchkey. But this is only a prelude to the problems that ensue when the two women have to get past Ken’s grandmother to complete their mission.

A series of musical montages add a Gallic flavor as the two women develop a deep friendship that looks likely to end Ken’s relationship with Shirley. Further Euro influence is evident in the frequent use of Italian pop song “Amandoti” (likely to become as closely identified with this film as “California Dreaming” was with Wong Kar-wai’s “Chung King Express”). Also, the soundtrack’s soulful use of Mozart further helps to build an atmosphere of greater intimacy than the synopsis alone would suggest.

Then, just as the audience is lulled into a sense of complacency, the script delivers a twist that will catch all but the most suspicious off-guard.

Helming has a typical Hong Kong breeziness, but each narrative shift reveals just how expert Pang’s direction is. Thesps are all aces, with Wu’s duplicitous performance both dramatically satisfying and vulnerable to parody by the two female leads. Lensing has a blue/green tinge that’s now a Hong Kong staple, and all other credits are pro. Original title means “Revenge of the Princess(es).”

Beyond Our Ken

Hong Kong-China

Production: A Mei Ah release (in Hong Kong) of a Mei Ah Films (H.K.)/Beijing Jinyingma Movie & TV Culture Co., Shanxi Film Studio, Sichuan Haotian Film & Video Co. (China) presentation of a Making Films (H.K.) production, in association with China Film Co-Production Corp. (International sales: Mei Ah, H.K.) Produced by Li Kuo-hsing, Teng Zhan, Li Shuihe. Executive producer, Catherine Hun. Directed by Edmond Pang (Pang Ho-cheung). Screenplay, Pang, Wong Wing-sze.

Crew: Camera (color), Charlie Lam; editor, Wenders Li; music, Alan Wong, Yong Wing-ying; art director, Man Lin-cheung; costume designer, Tanaka Toshimi; sound (Dolby Digital), Leung Che Tat; associate producers, Steve Ouyang, Yang Fan. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Winds of Asia), Oct. 30, 2004. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: With: Gillian Chung, Tao Hong, Daniel Wu, Jim Chim, Jimmy Wong. (Mandarin dialogue)

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