Made in Hong Kong, 1997

Autumn Moon (Sam Lee) describes with resigned disaffection his aimless life in the urban jungle of Hong Kong: playing street basketball with other underemployed, high school dropouts in the city park; collecting loansharking debts for a mob boss named Big Brother Wing (Chan Sang); coming to the rescue of a defenseless, mentally disabled friend named Sylvester (Wenbers Li Tung-Chuen); engaging in ever-escalating acts of aggression against members of rival triads. While making their collection rounds at a high-rise tenement complex, Moon and Sylvester pay a visit to a debtor named Mrs. Lam (Carol Lam Kit-Fong) who, in turn, quickly chases away the inexperienced and unthreatening hired thugs when Sylvester suffers an inopportune nosebleed. Encountering Mrs. Lam’s beautiful and confident daughter, Ping (Neiky Yim Hui-Chi) from a distance, Moon is captivated by the attractive young woman and begins to visit under the pretense of debt collection. Like Moon, Ping’s father has also abandoned his family, leaving them in financial distress and at the mercy of gangsters eager to exploit their indebtedness to recruit their adult children into an inescapable life of crime. In a gallant, albeit misguided attempt to show affection and concern for Ping, Moon assumes responsibility for Mr. Lam’s debt, and sells his mother’s (Doris Chow Yan-Wah) television set to raise money, causing additional friction to their already strained relationship. One day, while Sylvester is carrying the trash out to the curb, he witnesses a young woman leap from an adjacent rooftop to her death. Sylvester runs to the scene and, in a moment of panic, retrieves two, blood soaked letters that landed near her body. Deriving from the letters that the young woman who committed suicide was named Susan (Amy Tam Ka-Chuen), Moon begins to be haunted by the senselessness and impersonal nature of her death, and with the help of Sylvester and Ping, decides to deliver the letters to their intended recipients.

Fruit Chan presents an intelligently conceived, vibrant, and compassionate portrait of marginalization, alienation, and disconnection in Made in Hong Kong. Shot as a low budget film and using a cast of nonprofessional actors, Chan uses bold and resourceful camerawork, freeze frame and speed altered shots (a clever solution to the problematic use of odd length, reclaimed scrap film stock), and exploits the natural, frenetic rhythm of Hong Kong city life to create a sense of aimlessness and disorientation that reflect the nihilism and despair of the protagonists. The incorporation of highly stylized colors within the characters’ environment further evokes the pervasive misery of their situation: the somber, blue hued shot of Susan on the rooftop overlooking a spare and featureless cement church cross; the green hues of Moon and Ping’s dimly lit apartment hallways; the austere blue hues of an upper floor apartment staircase, as Moon discovers the existence of his father’s mistress and new family. Ironically, a lighthearted and poignant scene of the three friends casually searching for Susan’s grave amidst a vast hillside cemetery summarily defines the nature of their hopeless existence – the unanswered cries of lost youth in search of identity and validation against the silence and apathy of a resigned society rooted in human commodification and disposability.

© Acquarello 2002. All rights reserved.

Sidebar