Posts Tagged ‘Conroy Chan Chi-Chung’

DREAM HOME [WAI DOR LEI AH YUT HO | 维多利亚一号]

2010/12/11

http://www.dreamhome.asia/

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Pang Ho-Cheung Written by: Pang Ho-Cheung, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Wan Chi-Man Produced by: Conroy Chan Chi-Chung, Subi Liang, Pang Ho-Cheung  Cinematography by: Nelson Yu Lik-Wai  Editing by: Wenders Li  Music by: Gabriele Roberto  Cast: Josie Ho, Anthony Wong, Michelle Ye, Norman Chu, Lawrence Chou, Eason Chan, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Hee Ching Paw, Hoi-Pang Lo, Ching Wong, Ying Kwan Lok, Juno Mak, Lap-Man Sin, Wai Hung Chan, Chu-Chu Zhou, Juan Song

In order to afford her dream home a woman, Cheng Li-Sheung, goes to great lengths, applying very drastic measures to make her dying father happy with a sea view apartment: once she has identified the property of choice, she begins to kill her neighbors one by one so that the value drops dramatically, bringing the price down into a range she can afford. But despite her will to inflict utmost brutality on her victims, she also seems to be just an ordinary girl pursuing a dream – and inevitably heading for trouble the longer she plays this vicious game.

DREAM HOME boasts a very fine and complex script that provides plenty of reasons for the main character to act the way she does: we learn a lot about her through her childhood memories, especially how the difficult relationship with her father has formed her personality, as well as it explains her dependency on her dad’s affection and motivation behind the need to buy that apartment. Her mother’s and brother’s roles are equally important, laying out a precise, psychological and believable cause-and-result pattern – DREAM HOME isn’t absurd, but an intense study of an unstable personality spiraling out of control.

Cheng Li-Sheung’s dull, monotone and difficult working life adds another interesting component, turning her into someone who is used to rejection, used to the harsh reality out there that is best dealt with in raw fashion. Ultimately, Cheng separates her gentle and fragile side from the side that shows no mercy, no morals and no guilt, and she develops into a Jekyll-and-Hyde type of character who puts her dream above anything else, even human life, in a delusion that fulfilling that dream could lead to salvation and a redefined relationship with her father.

It has been noted that DREAM HOME lacks coherence, but after studying the history of serial killers in-depth you will realize that schizophrenia doesn’t need a reason. People have been killed under far more random circumstances, so Cheng Li-Sheung’s motivation seems fairly reasonable after all. But you will have to understand that she is in fact not a girl next door anymore when the film starts, but that at this point she has crossed the line and changed into a deviant psychopath. She is leading a double life, and her measures are completely out of proportion – there is no turning back for her, she has lost it completely. There is only black and white, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that she is a sadistic killer, as she derives no pleasure from the violence, but sees it as a necessary means to an end. She is committing horrible crimes, but always looks beyond the here and now, hence never actually feels anything about what happens.

There are many other ways looking at DREAM HOME besides watching it as a slasher: the movie first and foremost is a very black comedy, a sarcastic comment on Hong Kong’s money-driven culture and inflated real estate market, and an essay on what values in life really matter. Mr. Pang is taking things to the edge, so that the most violent moments border on the hilarious, but never turn into slapstick: the line between laughter and shock maybe thin, but it’s always there. DREAM HOME remains a gut-wrenching flick at all times, and is probably one of the most violent movies of the year, yet it is also one of the most intelligent films of the year, telling a story that is painfully real and intense like few other films that were released in 2010.

The ending is, quite as expected, less coincidental but most of all consequential, a reductio ad absurdum, leaving Cheng and the audience speechless in view of what just happened. It’s the to-the-point conclusion of a great, condensed film that deserves to be praised – it’s a truly accomplished work.

With DREAM HOME Mr. Pang proves once again to be one of Hong Kong’s most versatile filmmakers and a brilliant observer who likes to dismantle reality and bring its essence to the screen, concerned most of all with what moves the ordinary citizen amid an ever-changing world. I recommend watching his previous film LOVE IN A PUFF back to back with DREAM HOME, and you will come to the conclusion that Mr. Pang’s films are wonderful, contemporary works from Hong Kong that shouldn’t be missed.

Whatever’s next, I bet on Mr. Pang to excite the audience with another surprising, and surprisingly good, film. I’d kill to see it today.

J.

 

 

 

 


ONCE A GANGSTER [FEI SAA FUNG CHUNG CHUN | FEI SHA FENG ZHONG ZHUAN | 飞沙风中转]

2010/08/01

http://www.mediaasia.com/onceagangster/

HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Felix Chong Written by: Felix Chong, Chapman To, Lau Ho Leung Produced by: Alan Mak, Ronald Wong  Cinematography: Lin Yau Tsou  Editing: Chi Wai Chan  Music: Ken Chan Cast: Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Alex Fong, Michelle Ye, On-On Yu, Wilfired Lau, Conroy Chan Chi-Chung, Sze-Kwan Cheng, Fung Kwok, Pong Nan, Kwok Cheung Tsang, Ben Yuen

It’s not exactly original to rip off Italian western movies anymore (unless you do it very, very intelligently), but the copy of the opening of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, here set in a Hong Kong harbor reminiscent of 70’s/80’s kung fu and action flicks, was a fair beginning (then again, Leone’s original is one the greatest opening scenes of any film ever). I almost expected Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan to appear out of the blue, but then, while a Morricone-inspired melody is playing, the film cuts to daring close-ups of scarcely hidden genitals and butts of young triad members attending an initiation ceremony. So expectations changed as quickly as the scenes and settings with the film suddenly gearing towards a Hong Kong version of DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN.

But it’s not that bad after all. ONCE A GANGSTER is a relatively (by Hong Kong comedy standards) demure satire paying homage to – or exploiting – the notorious YOUNG & DANGEROUS series and similar triad movies. Consequently many of the old stars of Hong Kong’s gang movies have joined the cast, and apart from the always-brilliant Jordan Chan also Ekin Chen is far more bearable here than in his fantasy films. ONCE A GANGSTER tries its best to put the cast to good use and mostly refrains from the usual slapstick and tedious trickery of Cantonese comedy: many of the jokes are falling into the category of black humor, but even some of the more vulgar gags hit home occasionally.

Of course all this is not on the same sophisticated level of satire as Johnnie To’s films (even though ONCE A GANGSTER extensively quotes ELECTION), but it’s also not Stephen Chow terrain. The story about the selection of the next don is just a reason to trail off left and right into Hong Kong action (B-)film history. Expect a lot of obvious references as well as quite a few insider jokes, paired with various artistic styles like musical or silent picture. Instead of a coherent movie ONCE A GANGSTER is a playground for director Felix Chong and his fellow co-writers to explore the HK gangland, past and present. You may like what they found, or not, as their selection of “best of” scenes is entirely subjective.

I would have wished for a less tiring story and script, in fact a further reduction of the plot, and instead for a sharper and wittier interpretation of common gang movie clichés. I doubt that literal references to Andrew Lau’s movie series have any news value, or that the mobsters’ funny outfits and names are offering a new perspective on one of the more genuine Hong Kong movie genres. Quoting is not transcending, and I can’t help but feel that ONCE A GANGSTER hardly ever goes beyond the former.

ONCE A GANGSTER has a hard time to find its place. It’s not the most intelligent persiflage, nor the most stupid. But it is evident that a great cast is wasted on a mediocre script and a lukewarm attempt to bring back fond memories. ONCE A GANGSTER too obviously feeds off the cast, and that’s why in the end it’s more a reunion than an actual satire.

J.