Posts Tagged ‘Lam Ka Tung’

GALLANTS [DA LUI TOI | 打擂台]

2010/08/03

http://www.gallantsthemovie.com/

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HONG KONG 2010  Directed by: Derek Kwok Chin-Kin, Clement Sze-Kit Cheng Written by: Frankie Tam, Kwok Chi-Kin, Clement Sze-Kit Cheng  Produced by: Lam Ka Tung  Cinematography: Sing-Pui O  Editing: Matthew Hui  Music: Teddy Robin Kwan, Tommy Wai Cast: Leung Siu-Lung, Chen Kuan Tai, Wong You-Nam, Chen Koon Tai, J.J. Jia, Teddy Robin Kwan, Jin Auyeung, Li Haitao, Siu Yam Yam, Lo Meng, Ku Kuan-Chung

Kung-fu master Law Sun is in a coma since 30 years. In the meantime, his martial arts school had to close down and is now run by his ex-disciples as Law’s Teahouse. Outdated, without customers and broke shopkeepers Dragon and Tiger, both in their fifties now, are thinking to finally give up the place when a young property company manager, Cheung, shows up. Clueless at work and aimless in life Cheung used to be a kung-fu enthusiast, but had to give up his passion at an early age due to asthma. Cheung gets involved in a property dispute about the teahouse and learns about the rich heritage of the place and its old inhabitants – just before he accidentally wakes up master Law. Once Law is back on his feet, he reopens his school – not knowing that 30 years have passed. Having lost a substantial part of his memory he shifts into high gear, training Dragon, Tiger and Cheung to take part in a tournament and fight with their arch rivals to get their dignity back.

GALLANTS is a lovely homage to the art of kung-fu and kung-fu cinema alike. It displays a fine sense of humor that has little to do with your average Cantonese comedy: instead of making fun of the subject or exploiting it for cheap punch lines GALLANTS always respects its (anti-)heroes and loves them for their character as much as for their flaws and failures. Seen largely through the eyes of Cheung GALLANTS has a touch of coming-of-age story that makes for an interesting contrast to the ageing martial arts masters: young and old are learning from each other and have respect for each other, typifying one of the virtues of Asian cultures, but it also wouldn’t be a topic of this movie (and many others for that matter) if we all wouldn’t feel its appreciation is gradually fading in the East as well.

The movie’s offbeat style and indie-feeling is a welcome change to what else is out there at the moment; all things considered GALLANTS is a league apart from proclaimed masterpieces of satire like ONCE A GANGSTER. However, in the wake of GALLANTS being hyped as one of Hong Kong’s best movies of the year it still takes quite some imagination to see what exactly would constitute the movie being a real milestone of cinematic creativity. It is honest and authentic, warm and heartfelt, funny and yet seriously in love with kung-fu, however, I’d overrate the movie if I’d praise it as something that it isn’t.

GALLANTS is a formidable small film, and looking at this year’s output from HK most certainly one of this year’s sleeper hits, especially thanks to its non-commercial approach to filmmaking, but it is also a movie that’s contained within its subject-matter, mostly playing inside the box. GALLANTS is a film about the heyday and downtime of kung-fu, but it doesn’t reach out to an audience that isn’t much concerned with the physical or spiritual side of martial arts.

J.


SPARROW [MAN JEUK | 文雀]

2010/05/23

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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.


VENGEANCE [FUK SAU | 复仇]

2010/03/28

http://www.vengeance-lefilm.com/_en/vengeance.html

HONG KONG / FRANCE 2009  Directed by: Johnnie To  Written by: Wai Ka Fai  Produced by: Johnnie To, Peter Lam, Laurent Petin, Michele Petin  Cinematography: Cheng Siu-Keung  Editing: David M. Richardson  Music: Tayu Lo  Cast: Johnny Hallyday, Anthony Wong, Lam Ka Tung, Lam Suet, Simon Yam, Cheung Siu Wai, Felix Wong, Ting Yip Ng, Maggie Siu, Irene Thompson

At first sight VENGEANCE seems like the late but expected Asian contribution to the once-again popular genre of revenge flicks. After DEATH SENTENCE and TAKEN comes VENGEANCE.

Most of these new movies are neither particularly creative, nor especially meaningful. They are original as far as some details are concerned at best, leaving their mark through creative ideas that however do not change the fact that the movie generally speaking is irrelevant. The two aforementioned movies are proof that revenge 2.0 is following the principle “everything remains different”. An eye for an eye; he who laughs last, laughs best.

But even if today the laughing sounds a bit different: Darwinism and the concept of natural selection remains the intrinsic philosophy of the genre. It is important to understand though that natural selection is always a question of balance of power at point in time X, and that this balance of power by definition is dynamic, always in the flow. Every film that makes payback its central idea dramaturgically pretends that balance of power is a linear process: the (anti)hero is the victim that turns into the delinquent and „wins“ at the end. The film however is nothing but a window, a moment in time, a fragment that makes us believe that the balance of power actually has a zero-point, starts from there and reaches its final stage at the end of the movie’s run-time, marking a kind of endpoint.

That is of course not true at all. It’s a lie. Revenge movies simply stop telling the story when it is most convenient. They do not mention that each victim may have been a culprit before the film’s beginning, and that after the film is over the hero will become a victim again (it is very likely that not only the hero avenges the death of his family – murderers have friends too, you know). The balance of power is shifting permanently, is renegotiated case by case, again and again and again. Revenge movies ignore this cycle and reduce the balance of power to a very simple scenario: the good guy is doing bad things to bad people and therefore comes out as the good guy. And it all ends there.

Johnny To has achieved a new milestone for the genre: the deconstruction of the revenge flick. This is much more important than the fact that VENGEANCE is one of the most aesthetic Hong Kong films of recent years; or that it is a balls-to-the-wall thriller; that it celebrates violence, just as it was common during the good old days of Hong Kong cinema; that it features two (!) of the most original showdowns seen in a long time; that it takes itself and the genre seriously, but not too seriously; that it showcases some very fine acting, especially a fabulous Anthony Wong; and that it is exquisitely nonchalant, even more than most other To films.

VENGEANCE is a discourse on revenge, not just revenge in a 24fps format. It is actually both. VENGEANCE feels very comfortable being a thriller, but then it feels even more at ease as abstraction of what happens. VENGEANCE is prancing, playful, imaginative, then dissembles all in an instant. In VENGEANCE Johnny Hallyday is Costello who assigns three hit men to avenge his family and kill their murderers. Costello doesn’t have much time: he has a bullet in the head and begins to lose his memory. That’s why he begins to photograph and archive the people he meets and the places he goes. It’s a memory substitute. Analogue RAM.

Already before the first showdown it is obvious that Costello doesn’t really realize much of what is happening around him anymore. Anthony Wong and his men however arrive at the point of no return: a promise is a promise, old-school triads like them still know what rules, ethics and morale are. They have taken Costello’s money, now they will finish the job. With or without the employer.

Thus they win the battle, but lose the war. The murderers who have killed Costello’s family are dead. And then also Wong et al. die in a hail of bullets courtesy of the mafia. Pure coincidence. Bad luck. Shit happens. But you gotta finish what you’ve started. Even if you know that it’s the end of everything. Facing death eyes wide open. Like Pike Bishop, Dutch Engstrom, Deke Thornton. Never back down. Defending values and ideals against this overwhelming nihilism.

VENGEANCE is not a revenge thriller, but its swan song. It’s the WILD BUNCH of revenge flicks. With VENGEANCE the eternal cycle ends, not just because at the end everybody’s dead (that would be too simple), but when everything finally is really over the avenger has forgotten what revenge is. “What does revenge mean when you have forgotten everything?

J.