review by Neo

Support the Site by Buying from YesAsia

Simply beautiful....
Edmond Pang is not the next anything, but rather a bright new hope of the next decade for HK cinema. After 4 out of 4 good witty films, Pang dilutes his wittiness for art, yet still capturing the mood of his style. Pang is an expert storyteller and his ingeniousness use of voice over apes Wong Kar Wai, but also keeping a constant mood within the characters while capturing the romantic affairs of Macau. Like Wong, the movie emphasis on time, love and the film music score, but Pang is by far different and far more playful and witty. The film success isn’t exactly due to the storyline, but rather the beautiful performance of Isabella and a career breakthrough role for the unfairly underrated cameo specialist – Chapman To which both combines well with Pang’s romantic vision through the lens into the city of Macau.

The movie goes like this: A corrupt cop have sex with a girl that turns out to be his daughter. Resist to accept soon becomes a touching relationship of father and daughter than the two began to treasure...

Pang is clearly an ingenious director, who realizes that calling Isabella the same name would be a cliché, but rather changes the title role to a dog. This in turn gives a further depth to a beautiful piece of painting. Perhaps the most important aspect of Pang’s image is the music score itself. It defines the film, the actors, the director and ultimately the audience. The score is heartfelt and beautiful to endure and perhaps the best fitting film score since 2046. The sense of loneliness, enduring, cheerful, carefree is all combined with the ultimately mood of a romantic.

After a career suicide in Bug Me Not, a movie for mentally disabled people, Isabella proves the economic theory about for “every low, there will always be a high” correct. Isabella’s performance echoes Karena Lam in her award winning debut as a natural high school-er in July Rhapsody. Isabella is clearly natural and for the first time, Neo actually reckons she is pretty. Her looks are menacing to resist and her youthfulness is played with a matured and controlled temperament as she pulls off a nomination worthy performance. As for Chapman To, an actor who Neo have found funny and likable in the past proves his potential of being a serious dramatic actor. Chapman is a likable comic genius and is clearly underrated by various critics/audience who labeled him as “annoying”, “filling up space”, “a waste of time”, despite pulling off memorable performances in Moonlight in Tokyo, Infernal Affairs, Colour of Truth and Initial D. Chapman depicts a corrupt cop who slowly resist and accepts the knowledge of a daughter is one of maturity and sympathetic performance.

Isabella is a beautiful movie to endure and while it isn’t Pang most accessible film, it nonetheless fills the most vital ingredients of an art movie – the feel and the mood. Pang tackles upon issues of controversy in a light hearted and playful manner while being serious at the same time. The city of Macau isn’t really that romantic, as it is in fact filled with gamblers, prostitutes, triads and corruption. This is another reason why Edmond Pang hits his marks so cleanly and artfully, despite the fact that most scenes are so clearly staged – think Isabella lying on the bed posing – doesn’t that rings 2046’s Maggie Cheung? Pang also plays with the idea of a probable incest and here he ingeniously filmed the scene with a tone of juxtaposing comic and seriousness – think about it – you just have sex with a random girl you met at a bar and the next thing you realize – she is actually your daughter? Isabella isn’t a film of plot and twists as Pang’s previous ones, but like Wong Kar Wai, it is all about the mood and the feel that it ultimately conveys. It isn’t the most flawless movie, but yet at the same time the flaws are not obvious and frequently hided behind the magnificent mood created by the powerful music score. Overall, Isabella is what I embrace as a beautiful little movie that gives the “feel”…

I rate it 9/10

Comment on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum

Genre: Incest/Drama
Director: Director: Edmond Pang
Cast: Chapman TO, Isabella LEONG, Anthony WONG, CHIM Siu-Man, Josie HO, Meme TIAN, TSANG Kwok-Cheung, Shawn YUE, Zhuo Yun and JIA Xiaochen.
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo), May 2006