Trivial Matters

Collection of seven vignettes -- some sad, others sardonic -- have little in common other than a concern with the small things of life and a throwaway attitude very typical of its creator, Pang Ho-cheung (aka Edmond Pang).

With:
With: Jan Lamb, Chan Fai-hung, Kristal Tin, Edison Chen, Stephanie Cheng, Eason Chan, Isabel Chan, Chapman To, Kenny Kwan, Angela Baby, Patrick Tam, Stephy Tang, Gillian Chung, Juno Mak, Zhang Zheng, Feng Xiaogang, Peter Kam, Shawn Yue, Conroy Chan. (Cantonese, Mandarin dialogue)

“Trivial Matters” is exactly what it says on the packet. Collection of seven vignettes — some sad, others sardonic — have little in common other than a concern with the small things of life and a throwaway attitude very typical of its creator, Pang Ho-cheung (aka Edmond Pang). Hard on the heels of his much more formal “Exodus,” pic may baffle those unfamiliar with the Hong Kong writer-director’s insouciant oeuvre, and will be best appreciated at Asiaphile events. Pic did so-so biz on local release last December.

Though Pang is best known internationally for “Isabella” (in many ways his least typical movie), “Trivial Matters” is closer in spirit to earlier pics like “Beyond Our Ken” and “AV,” in which the audience is never sure just how seriously to take what’s being shown. Based on Pang’s own collection of short stories, it also has a scattergun success rate that’s also very characteristic of him.

Best segs are the third and fifth, both of which are constructed as mini-movies rather than casual jottings, and are nicely played by their separate casts. In “It’s a Festival Today,” a girl (Isabel Chan) moves in with her b.f. (Eason Chan) but doesn’t want to have sex; finally, at Christmas, she agrees to service the poor guy, which leads him to desperately hunt the calendar for other holidays in order to get pleasured again. Punchline is blackly witty.

Tone in “Ah Wai, the ‘Big Head,’ ” the longest and most slickly lensed of the bunch, is more wistful, sketching a friendship between two high schoolers — quiet Kei (Stephy Tang) and spacey Ah Wai (Gillian Chung) — as they drift apart but meet again at a class reunion. Stretching from the late ’80s to the mid-’90s, and based around their shared liking for Cantopop legend Danny Chan, yarn has a lovely period feel and subtle chemistry between the two actresses that packs quite an emotional punch at the end.

Other segs range from passing gags — thesp Edison Chen as a dirty-mouthed pick-up artist — to self-consciously clever playing with film form. The simplest, but with a piercing moment of sadness, is the sixth episode, “Recharge,” centered on a hotel-room assignation between a businessman (Chapman To) and a Mainland hooker (Zhang Zheng).

At a time when Hong Kong production has become increasingly conventional and middle-class, pic is notable for its natural, undogmatic approach to nudity and drug use.

Casting of names in all the segments — including Mainland helmer Feng Xiaogang in a witty cameo as the account manager of an assassination agency — maintains interest for auds able to recognize the faces. However, general viewers are more likely to agree with pic’s opening intertitle: “Life is rather trivial in hindsight.”

Trivial Matters

Hong Kong

Production: A Making Film prods. presentation of a Not Brothers production. Produced by Pang Ho-cheung, Chapman To. Executive producer, Subi Liang. Directed, written by Pang Ho-cheung, based on his short story collection.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Charlie Lam; editor, Wenders Li; music supervisor, Peter Kam; production designer, Man Lim-chung; sound designer (Dolby Digital), Kinson Tsang. Reviewed on DVD, London, April 8, 2008. (In Udine Far East Film Festival, Italy.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Jan Lamb, Chan Fai-hung, Kristal Tin, Edison Chen, Stephanie Cheng, Eason Chan, Isabel Chan, Chapman To, Kenny Kwan, Angela Baby, Patrick Tam, Stephy Tang, Gillian Chung, Juno Mak, Zhang Zheng, Feng Xiaogang, Peter Kam, Shawn Yue, Conroy Chan. (Cantonese, Mandarin dialogue)

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