Wong Yau-Nam

Summer Breeze of Love (這個夏天有異性)

summer breeze of love

Summer Breeze of Love unwinds like the dying hours of a hot summer’s night. It’s not always comfortable, but there’s something strangely comforting about it. Maybe it’s the movie’s unhurried pace or its meandering plot. Perhaps it’s the orange-gold palette that casts a nostalgic glow over the whole picture. Quite possibly it’s the dewy presence of the Twins’ Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung.

Against my better judgment, I found myself falling for this film, which never aspires to be more than a wistful portrait of teenage love. And while there are faults aplenty, the movie pretty much achieves its goal. Two friends spend the summer looking for romance and learn a little something about life and love along the way. The absence of a driving storyline allows the pair of ingenues to stumble awkwardly towards love, or adulthood.

One of the girls, Kiki (Charlene Choi), develops a crush on basketball player and resident stud Ah Fung (Tsui Tin-Yau), who is never far from his entourage of admirers. She finds herself in an enviable position when he starts paying special attention to her. Could it be love? Is that why he wants to borrow her mobile? And shower at her flat? Her friend’s brother Chung Lok-Hoi (Roy Chow) doesn’t think so, but being an inarticulate video game addict and little else, he’s not in a great position to compete for her affections.

Hoi’s sister, Kammy (Gillian Chung), however, has no difficulties professing her love for the much older Danny (Dave Wong), a divorced man who has not yet figured how to squirm his way out from under his mother’s thumb. Rather than taking her up on the relationship, and thus turning this movie into a different one entirely, he hems and haws. On the one hand, Danny sees Kammy as a way of (very) belated rebellion and a chance to finally get a life; on the other, he recognizes what everyone else already knows – it’s a kinda creepy for him to be seen with a teenage bra shop assistant.

The filmmakers ask a little too much from the audience here, and pairing Chung and Wong (ostensibly due to some EEG arrangement) is too far-fetched for their story to take root. Kammy’s declarations lack the substance to make her pursuit a tender if ill-begotten infatuation, and Danny ends up being the more interesting character.

Thankfully, Kiki’s romance hews closer to that of reality. When Choi refrains from gleeful, slapdash mugging, she’s a wonderfully open actress and expressive in ways that haven’t been roughened by experience and cynicism. Her performance recalls a similarly refreshing one in My Wife is 18, and Summer Breeze has wisps of another Twins effort also released the same year, Just One Look. The latter film holds up best, this one still pleases with simplicity and sweetness.

“Red Eyes” (眼紅紅) by Twins:

Released: 2002
Prod: Ivy Kong 江玉儀; Leung Bo-Tung 梁寶桐
Dir: Joe Ma 馬偉豪
Writer: Joe Ma 馬偉豪; Sunny Chan 陳詠燊; Ivy Kong 江玉儀
Cast: Charlene Choi 蔡卓妍; Gillian Chung 鍾欣桐; Dave Wong 王傑; Roy Chow 周永恆; Tsui Tin-Yau 徐天佑; Wong Yau-Nam 黃又南; Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; Monica Lo 盧淑儀; Andrea Choi 蔡安蕎; Matt Chow 鄒凱光; Lee Fung 李楓
Time: 107 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

McDull, the Alumni (春田花花同學會)

mcdull the alumni

“Magnificently unprepared for the long littleness of life,” reads a line from Alan Bennett’s award winning play The History Boys. The sentiment applies to a good many people and situations, though usually not to a Chinese New Year film and not to one starring a cartoon pig. The festive comedies are better known for riotous gags and irreverent humor than for evoking existential angst. But like previous movies in the McDull franchise, this one couches sober self-reflection in the whimsy of Alice Mak’s animation.

The little porker’s third big screen outing still bears some trademarks of a New Year’s film. There are cameos aplenty and it is rich in local flavor. A drinking game with mentions of BBQ pork rice would end badly. It’s also fun and funny, something you can watch with the kids. Chances are, you’ll be more offended by the toilet humor than they are. And that’s pretty much the dividing line for the film’s audience. I don’t mean that the movie separates those who have a preoccupation with the call of nature with those who do not, but I suspect that children are watching an entirely different film than adults.

McDull, the Alumni has no discernable plot. The nearest thing to one is a hostage crisis on Chinese New Year’s Eve and the upcoming almost-50th anniversary of the Springfield Blossom Kindergarten. Since the movie is told in vignettes, the story allows for gags aplenty, many of which involve food. Diners at the famous Jumbo floating restaurant in Aberdeen stuff themselves silly and make unintelligible sounds while trying to order more grub, and a hungry office worker (Jaycee Chan) uses the heat generated by his computer to poach an egg.

Beneath the silliness, however, lies a bittersweet message about success, particularly a Hong Kong brand of it that includes a flashy title and a feeling of self-importance. Springfield’s hot pot reunion dinner gives the principal (Anthony Wong) and teacher Miss Chan (The Pancakes) cause to teach the students about becoming pillars of society. At the same time, one of the school’s graduates, May (Zhou Bichang, aka Bibi Chow), reflects on her life choices when she is taken hostage.

The children, rather farm animals’, hopes and candid observations are amusing, but their innocence also disguises piercing truths. A recent graduate (Isabella Leong) rushes to a BBQ shop hoping to be be hired as a rice scooper. What the boss (Christopher Doyle) really needs is a chicken chopper, and her miscalculation of the job market nearly costs her the job. Poor McDull, never the brightest pig on the block, meanwhile decides he wants to be an OL (office lady) when he grows up because he doesn’t have to wear pants. He finds himself in a bind when he decides he also wants to eat shark fin soup. He briefly considers a future as a doctor or lawyer since they can always afford the delicacy.

McDull, the Alumni is not as strong as the first two films, but it leaves you with the same mix of melancholy and tempered optimism. Mixing the animation with live action turns out to be hit and miss. The cavalcade of stars does distract and comes off as gimmicky, but Zhou, winner of the Mainland’s Super Girl singing contest and the least glamorous and famous of the actors, captures the film’s tone the best. She isn’t very expressive but has a shy, bewildered look that is right for the part, conveying the overwhelming feeling of a woman who has left the pastels and security of youth for good.

“Fing Fing吓” by The Pancakes (“We have to work OT because we didn’t really work before 6 o’clock…..”):

Released: 2006
Prod: Peter Chan 陳可辛; Jojo Hui 許月珍; Brian Tse 謝立文
Dir: Samson Chiu 趙良駿
Writer: Brian Tse 謝立文
Cast: Ronald Cheng 鄭中基; Anthony Wong 黃秋生; Gigi Leung 梁詠琪; Sandra Ng 吳君如; Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Bibi Chow 周筆暢Chen Bolin 陳柏霖; Josie Ho 何超儀; Kelly Chen 陳慧琳; Jaycee Chan 房祖名Shawn Yue 余文樂Miki Yeung 楊愛瑾Jan Lamb 林海峰Francis Ng 吳鎮宇; Cheung Tat-Ming 張達明; Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒Michael Miu 苗僑偉; Tats Lau 劉以達Alex Fong Lik-Sun 方力申Andrew Lin 連凱Daniel Wu 吳彥祖Terence Yin 尹子維Conroy Chan 陳子聰Isabella Leong 梁洛施Jim Chim 詹瑞文; Teresa Fu 傅穎Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; Wayne Lai 黎耀祥; Eddie Cheung 張兆輝Yip Wing-Sze 葉詠詩; Hong Kong Sinfonietta; Wong Yau-Nam 黃又南Christopher Doyle 杜可風; Chet Lam 林一峰; John Shum 岑建勳; Kary Ng 吳雨霏; Jane Zhang 張靚穎
Time: 91 min
Lang: Cantonese, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014