SPARROW [MAN JEUK | 文雀]

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Hong Kong 2008   Directed by: Johnnie To Written by: Chan Kin-Chung, Fung Chih-Chiang Produced by: Johnnie To Cinematography by: Cheng Siu-Keung  Editing: David M. Richardson   Music: Xavier Jamaux, Fred Avril Cast: Simon Yam, Kelly Lin, Lam Ka-Tung, Law Wing-Cheong, Kenneth Cheung, Lam Suet

“Sparrow” is the term used in Hong Kong for pickpockets, and that’s exactly what Kei (Simon Yam) and his fellows are: everyday they roam the streets of Hong Kong to steel from locals and foreigners alike. Until one day Kei meets a mysterious woman (Kelly Lin) who seems to be on the run from someone trying to follow her. Their paths shall cross again soon but only later Kei and his friends will realize what her true intentions are.

Johnnie To’s SPARROW was shot in between other projects and reflects To’s filmmaking from around that time: unpretentious, light, witty and likeable, yet not important enough to compare to other of his earlier or later works. Rather something like the film next door.

Like many other, similar To works SPARROW is driven by coincidence: there is no master plan, no predictable outcome. The story is rather loose and as so often we are observers, witnessing how it unfolds. SPARROW is amiable enough for us to stay tuned and enjoy the show, but when it’s over it’s time to recapitulate that SPARROW is little more than “nice”.

I do appreciate the Mediterranean flair and flavor SPARROW displays, I was almost surprised Belmondo or Delon didn’t pop up out of the blue. But maybe that was just a cheap trick to make SPARROW more Cannes compatible. How know. Any which way SPARROW lacks some punch and isn’t exactly compelling, so its shelf life is only as long as its running time.

SPARROW is a beautiful and eloquent film best consumed on a Saturday afternoon. It’s a really tasty appetizer; just make sure you also have prepared a main course.

J.


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