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  Made in Hong Kong The Future's Fading
Year: 1997
Director: Fruit Chan
Stars: Sam Lee, Neiky Hui-Chi Yim, Wenders Li, Tam Ka-Chuen, Carol Lam Kit-Fong, Doris Yan-Wah Chow, Chung Siu, Chan Tat-Yee, Wu Wai-Chung, Chan Sang, Kelvin Chung, Ting Ah, Jessica, Wai Ah, B. Chai Ho, Ricky Lau
Genre: Drama, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mid-Autumn (Sam Lee) is a cocky young punk who exists on the streets of Hong Kong as an enforcer for the triads, though his life of crime is exceedingly minor as he largely puts pressure on those who owe his bosses money. He is not entirely without morals, however, as he sticks up for the mentally challenged Sylvester (Wenders Li), who may be slower than those who pick on and bully him, but Mid-Autumn sees the good in the young man and tries to help him avoid being victimised. One day, they are both in one of the territory's housing blocks when they both notice Ping (Neiky Hui-Chi Yim) in an apartment; Sylvester tends to get nosebleeds when he sees a pretty girl, and now is no exception, but despite her mother giving them grief, a friendship develops...

What's not being discussed here is that the Hong Kong of 1997 is about to become a part of China as this was the year of the handover from Britain, but it was woven into the fabric of writer and director Fruit Chan's tiny budget crime drama, made on a pittance raised by favours from industry figures like Andy Lau. It was not Chan's debut, he had helmed two other features he had not been best pleased with, but sometimes it takes a while for a talent to find their voice, and the big changes ahead in his locality were exactly what he needed to fire his imagination and set his enthusiasm for storytelling back on its even keel. As a consequence, he had a movie that quickly picked up a cult following, maybe more now than when it was initially released in the region and abroad.

There was a rough and ready quality about Made in Hong Kong that was some distance away from the slicker product its industry would be churning out once 1997 had been done and dusted. There was no hollow patriotism, either, as it evinced no nostalgia for British rule, but did appreciate the Western influence had shaped the residents in a way the Chinese simply had not, and judging by the manner in which Chan concluded his story, he was not too optimistic for the future. Some would say from the perspective of decades later he was absolutely justified in pulling the curtain over a major, long chapter in Hong Kong's history in such a bleak manner, though the rebellious nature of what we see is anticipated in defining the locals' narrative going forward, it was just that along with that was a sense that something was dying, a freedom the Communists would never allow under their watch.

This was not a perfect movie by any means - Chan was blatantly under the influence of watching Wong Kar-Wai films a shade too closely, and replacing his romanticism containing all that doomladen glamour with an earthy, crude, rude sexuality was not wholly successful, never mind endearing. Did we really need to hear about Mid-Autumn's nocturnal emissions quite so much, for instance? But to its advantage there was a real outlaw energy to this, with sequences edging over from drama situations to thriller, even action genre allusions as our hero gets in too deep with the gangsters while trying to act the knight in shining armour for Ping, who it turns out is suffering from a fatal illness that will kill her... ooh, about the time of the handover, if you want a clunky metaphor. There was other business with Sylvester's tribulations thanks to the bullies he had trouble fending off alone, and a suicide who has left two bloodstained letters that also strained for significance, but it was a film you watched for the vivid atmosphere and vibrancy more than its plot. Music by Lam Wah-Chuen.

[Eureka's Masters of Cinema release this on Blu-ray with these features:

LIMITED EDITION O-CARD SLIPCASE (2000 Copies Only)
1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K digital restoration
Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio
Optional English subtitles
New interview with director Fruit Chan
New interview with producer Doris Yang
New interview with producer Daniel Yu
New interview with Marco Muller, former director of the Locarno Film Festival
A collector's booklet featuring new writing by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; and an archival interview with director Fruit Chan.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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