Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Between seeing this on Saturday and the Brattle's 35mm screening of Hard Boiled on Monday, I found myself pondering the idea of writing down when English was used in Hong Kong movies and trying to figure out if there was any sort of common thread. There is "Yes Sir!" left over from British rule and the characters who are described as American or Canadian born, sure, but there are other times when I'll hear a bit of English dropped into the dialogue of one of these movies and wonder if it's just a phrase that doesn't translate naturally into Cantonese. There's not a lot of random English in 29+1, but given that it's been long enough since the handover that I don't imagine English is quite as pervasive in HK as it used to be, I'm kind of curious which phrases survive and why.

(The same, I suppose, also applies to Indian movies, although I'm not seeing as many of them right now.)

Without much more ado, since I don't expect this will be at Boston Common past Thursday, what with Beautiful Accident and God of War due to open within the next week on top of screens being needed for Wonder Woman, I liked this one a fair amount. Hong Kong movies don't seem to get quite the audience their mainland cousins do, possibly because they take a couple of weeks to cross the Pacific and that window allows the pirates to do their thing, but even something as aspirational, for lack of a better word, as this seems a little less overdone than what's coming out of China proper. Go see it, if you can.

I mean, I went and made sure to add Mr. & Mrs. Player to a DDDHouse order something like 60% for reasons of "liking Chrissie Chau a lot in this", and ordering discs from the other side of the planet has to count as a pretty strong endorsement, right? And it doesn't even look like it's particularly a part of the "Chrissie Chau wears a bikini for much of the movie" portion of her career, either! Admittedly, I stumbled on that while looking for Amazon links later, but she certainly comes off as funny enough in this that putting her in light sex comedies looks like good fun.

(Why, yes, I will be looking for her name on Hong Kong imports the way I look for Deepika Padukone's on movies from India, why do you ask?)


* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 27 May 2017 in AMC Boston Common #1 (first-run, DCP)

From the footage shown over the closing credits, writer/director Kearen Pang Sau-wai had been doing 29+1 as a one-woman show on and off for ten years or so prior to making this film, which means that she knows what works very well by now. Fortunately, she also seems to grasp that a fair amount of it wouldn't translate to a conventional film - including, perhaps, that she's aged out of playing a woman about to turn thirty - which means that, while the film she made is likely different from her play, it's nevertheless a nifty movie which takes on the same ideas.

As the film opens, it's 4 March 2005, a month from Christy Lam (Chrissie Chau Sau-na) celebrating her thirtieth birthday. She's successful - just getting promoted to regional marketing director by a tough-to-please boss (Elaine Kam Yin-ling) - has a nice apartment, and she's at a good place with her boyfriend Tsz-ho (Ben Yeung Sheung-bun), even if his cat doesn't much like her. Sure, her father's mind is deteriorating, and that boyfriend may not really like how much she works, and that leak in her flat that just did a number on her handbags may not be an issue much longer because the landlord (Jan Lamb Hoi-fung) sold the place, but he at least found her a spot to stay while she looks for a new home: Wong Tin-lok (Joyce Cheng Yan-yi) is subletting her apartment while she takes a trip to Paris for her birthday, which just so happens to be the same as Christy's.

Given how much Hong Kong movies are directed at the local market these days, Chrissie Chau must have been dealing with some pressure in taking the part of Christy on the big screen, but she's certainly up to it. Chau has a half-dozen or so ways of reacting to the nonsense Christy has to deal with over the course of the movie, and the nuance to capture whether this is a sort of funny aggravation, something more genuinely frustrating, or the sort of experience that genuinely wears a person down. She's good enough at the comedic side of the film to snap from something cheery to a sharp aside, but also able to show the weight of what she's dealing with bearing down on her.

Full review on EFC.

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