Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jason goes to Hong Kong Cinema--Day 2

A nice, relaxing, 4 film Saturday. Let's jump right in

First up, a bit of craziness with CITY UNDER SIEGE. What can I say about this? A somewhat psychotic circus troupe constantly picks on their clown Sunny (Aaron Kwok, showing his comic chops). Sunny, for what it's worth, sort of brings it upon himself, claiming to be "the master of the twin daggers," when they already have a knife-thrower. And then, while searching for some hidden treasure, they're exposed to a biotoxin left over by the Japanese in WWII, and it turns them all into hideous evil super-mutants. Or rather, all but Sunny become evil super-mutants. Sunny is dropped on a ship, then tossed in the ocean, and washes up on shore as a waterlogged fatso. He meets Angel, a local news beauty. He loses all the water overnight, and becomes a heroic, normal looking, semi-mutant (mostly, he has strength, speed, and can actually throw knives accurately). And then the fight is on, with the help of Angel and a couple of police investigators who are completely unfazed by mutants (they talk so much about having battled other mutants that their scenes feel like a sequel to some other movie). Very fun.

Next up, a literal San Francisco/Hong Kong connection with MERRY-GO-ROUND. A story of choices, memories, regret, and loneliness. Eva and Nam both live in San Francisco, and while they aren't friends they have run into each other before in the Chinese American community there. They both, coincidentally, decide to return to Hong Kong. Eva to deal with her deceased grandfather, Nam's less clear, but she starts by delivering a letter from her friend Merry (who has leukemia) to her online boyfriend. Along the way their lives become intertwined more (the boyfriend--who becomes the disinterested object of Nam's affection--is Eva's nephew, etc.) and the central character turns out to be an elderly mortuary worker, who takes Nam is as an assistant, and who also has a history with Eva (Ella Koon, who plays Nam, also plays young Eva in flashback scenes). It's a slow developing story, but with excellent performances and a thoughtful script, it's ultimately rewarding if you stick with it.

And then the delightfully entertaining destruction of sexual stereotypes, ALL ABOUT LOVE. Macy is a hard-working activist, who opens the movie by marrying a gay man so he can get residence and stay with his lover (a friend of Macy's). The plan, of course, is to divorce as soon as he gets permanent residence. Macy herself is a lesbian. Or she was, then she turned straight for a while, now she's back to girls. As the hardcore lesbians complain, she's one of those bi-girls who just "eat and run." Well, she's got bigger problems than just her moribund love life (although that's the problem her lesbian friends are trying to fix)--she's pregnant. But things turn around when she sees someone special in her pregnancy class--her ex from 12 years ago, Anita. They broke up (really, Macy dumped her) when they were way too young to settle down, but now (in a delightful sequence where they walk each other back and forth to their homes) they reconnect and realize a spark is still there. So two pregnant lesbians give it a go at lasting love. Meanwhile the very confused father's get in on the act. And as they both debate whether to keep both babies or abort one (or even both), everyone has an opinion. Ultimately resulting in a family with two babies, four mothers, and two fathers. Funny and delightful, but with just a few things that bugged me. [Spoiler alert!] One, there are scenes of the pregnant women drinking wine--apparently this just isn't as taboo in Hong Kong as it is in America. Second, one of the father's is married but his wife is never shown (talked about a lot, but never shown) and presumably when he decided to be upfront and take care of the baby, she would find out and have something to say (presumably it happened offscreen?). And finally there's a scene at the end where they all go out dancing, and I kept wondering 'who is taking care of the babies?' Of course, they surely hired a babysitter, but it bugged me that after so many scenes of taking care of the babies they didn't show that. [End spoilers] But beyond that, it's a pretty delightful movie.

And finally, we ended the night with a little Johnnie To produced (but not directed, eh left that to Law Wing-cheong) brutality in PUNISHED. The master Anthony Wong stars as a business tycoon. He's got money and power, and he has a problematic, drug-addicted daughter. Or at least he does for a while--she is kidnapped, the kidnappers extort millions from him, and they kill her anyway. So now he and his loyal and capable bodyguard are out for revenge. And it gets brutal and bloody without leaving the realm of believability (i.e., it's not the most violent movie out of Hong Kong, but the violence is used wisely). And Anthony Wong's acting raises it above a standard revenge flick and turns it into a smart reflection on grief (literally a reflection, beginning and ending on a Bolivian salt flats that become like a mirror of the sky after it rains.)

Total Running Time: 433 minutes
My Total Minutes: 248,942

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