Category Archives: 2006 Hong Kong Movies

The Postmodern Life of My Aunt 姨媽的後現代生活 (2006) – Hong Kong / China

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 11th March 2007
Released on DVD across Asia

Starring: Siqin Gaowa, Chow Yun-Fat, Vicki Zhao Wei, Lisa Lu Yan, Guan Wenshou, Wang Ziwen, Shi Ke, Fang Qingzhou
Directed by: Ann Hui On-Wah

Life is a journey…

Ann Hui have always been an exceptional talent and the pact of realism in her films like “July Rhapsody” pin points her distinct style of direction. In Hui’s pursue for realism, there is always a message that reflects and affects the life of any part of the audience. Whether it is the rebellious teenager years, the struggles of middle age or perhaps the need to adapt into the ever changing world of today, Hui’s films have someone for everyone. In “The Postmodern Life of My Aunt”, Hui ventures into the issue of older people and their struggles to keep up with the rapid growth of modernise cities such as Shanghai. It is a struggle that is relevant to everyone of us and with a brink of the eye, Neo can not imagine what it will be like for him in 50 years time – whether he will be grasping on the comfort of the old or adapting into the ever changing society of the future. The film reminds the audience of our parents, grandparents and realising that ultimately change is inevitable and the struggles that they face are seemingly real and tangible. There is a quote from the aunt, Siqin Gaowin that seems frighteningly realistic – “It doesn’t matter if you cheat me when I am still 17, but if you cheat all my money now, it is like a dead end for me, as I cannot earn it back.” It is all the more shameful and disgusting when the audience think back to all those headlines of fail companies and within those companies there are millions of pensioners who have their entire life saving within.

“My Aunt” is not a film that is all too concerned about the plot, but rather as the title suggests, it is about the journey of one’s life. It is an interesting and fascinating adventure to witness through Siqin Gaowa venturing through one scam after another, until finally noticing how much the world have changed. Shanghai has become ultra commercial and the urban myth about the obsession of money is fast becoming the truth than a random saying. The scenes of Siqin in the car as she look out the window of the commercialize lighting in the night time as well as millions of car lights roaming across the screen like ants coming in and out of their nest. It is a sight that she can never imagine seeing 50 years ago. Ann Hui smartly produces the film in a satirical manner and in many ways the beauty of the film lies in Hui’s use of images to speak louder than words. Perhaps the most shocking scene of all, apart from Chow Yun Fat bedding Siqin, is when we encounter a typically hot chick, before realizing that half her face is burnt. It is a shocking yet sympathetic sight as the audience realize the imperfect nature of humanity and emphasizing on a theme that Hui is stressing upon, what we see if not always what we get.

Siqi Gaowa portrays an immensely difficult role in a rather natural and understated manner as she is torn between the comforts of the old and the frightening prospect of the new. The moment she realizes that Chow Yun Fat is a conman, the expression within her face is worth embracing as she finally realizes that it is a world she can no longer fit in. It is worth noting that despite Chow Yun Fat single handedly lifts the film to another level; it is nothing more than a glorified cameo. It is all the more disappointing that all the trailers emphasize on his involvement in the flick, which once again indirectly alludes to Hui’s central theme of what you see may not be the truth. In another cameo performance, the much missed Zhao Wei plays Gaowa’s daughter in a relatively good performance.

All in all, “The Postmodern Life of My Aunt” is by no means accessible to everyone, but it is ultimately an art flick about the seemingly reality of old age and life. It ponders the audience to question about their future and the fears of old age. The parallel struggles of Gaowa are as close as grandchildren will understand the struggles that our grandparents are going through, until the audience experience it themselves. It is a frightening process to imagine about what was once cool is now totally out of date, but then again who knows what will happen in 50 years time. Perhaps, cars will be flying across the universe, people can walk across the ocean or everything may remain pretty much the same. Ann Hui is to be applauded for creating something so real and so affecting. It is by no means Hui’s strongest work, but it is a film that allows us to explore and journey into the unknown… (Neo 2007)

I rated it 9/10

Lethal Angels 魔鬼天使 (2006) – Hong Kong

A Naked Killer/Weapon wanna-be…

While back in the 90s, a movie from the Wong Jing’s factory called Naked Killer caused some sparks and even a small cult following, the formula of using hot chicks as lethal weapons isn’t exactly that original. In the 21st, Wong Jing attempted to continue to cash in by producing an awfully acted, yet graced by the sexiness of Maggie Q and Anya. Now director Steven Cheng attempted to continue the legacy and the result is even cheaper than the two predecessors and compounding with some truly awful acting. It is still a huge question mark across Neo’s mind right now, as to how can someone so criminally under-use the ever charming Cherrie Ying and how the hell did they manage to grasp a hold on Jordan Chan to even appear in such a non-existent role. Perhaps the answer is replicated to the fact that it is a Charlie Heung production, but seriously Lethal Angels struggles to be qualifying as a movie and sometimes being sexy is just not enough.

While it is undeniable that there are plenty of moments within sexiness and appeal that the flick is able to consent out, but being sexy is one thing and being able to act is another. Despite the fact that Jordan Chan and Cherrie Ying is embracing the audience on a false marketing DVD cover, the leads of the film is really Andy On and Tawianese model Tien Hsin. Tien Hsin is sexy and there are some shots of her that are worthy of taking pictures for a feature magazine, but when it comes to acting she seems more artificial and wooden than raw. Being the lead of the film, her abilities to portray emotions is rather forced and difficult to endure. Perhaps the only moment that she really convinces is when she kisses Andy On and the procedure that comes after. Likewise Andy On fails to impress once again and continue to confirm that his scene stealing performance in Star Runner is a one off fluke.

Sometimes, Neo just wonder what the hell is within the director’s mind. Why cast Cherrie Ying in such a non-existent role. Cherrie Ying is without doubt a heck of a natural talent and the beauty combines well with her figure and a hint of innocence. Ying is wasted in a role that the audience hardly even notice her and let’s hope that she does not become the next Kristy Yang. Likewise, Jordan Chan is critically annoying and suitably wasted in a role that is more suited for B-list actors than a talent like Chan. If Chan continues to stare in such nonsense roles, his career is heading the direction of suicide.

All in all, Lethal Angels is really one heck of a bad movie and sometimes Hong Kong movies should draw a margin between what qualifies as a movie as what qualifies as not. It is a shame that director Cheng fails to make use of the talents in Cherrie and Jordan and likewise fails miserably in casting Andy On and Tien Hsin as the leads. While Wong Jing’s Naked series was at the very least mindless entertainment, Lethal Angels is totally mindless and even at times sexy, but minus the fun part. The result is a below average B-movie and really even Wong Jing could have done better… (Neo 2007)

I rate it 3.75/10

[DVD] On the Edge 黑白道 (2006) – Hong Kong

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This is probably a film that a lot of people missed out on during 2006. Back then, this was probably one of the better movies of the year and the status remains despite 5 years after. The film was made on the backdrop of an era where undercover cops have been given cult status after the success of 2002’s Infernal Affairs. For me, On the Edge succeeds on a number of levels, firstly as a character driven drama, secondly in refining the career of Nick Cheung and finally as an engaging drama. Still, On the Edge is by no means perfect; it fails to live up to its promise. It is simply a film that could have been great and settled for second best. Then again, the film poses one of the most memorable scenes with Francis Ng and Nick Cheung in the car. Ng (the triad boss) asks Cheung (undercover cop) – “How long have you been a cop?” Cheung replies “7 years”, Ng continues “How long have you been with me?” Cheung claims “4 years”. Ng smartly charms “At least it is not because we don’t pay you enough, so you have to work part time!” For me, the film works because it focuses on characters and with the scene stealing Francis Ng, ever dependable Anthony Wong, the improving Derek Tsang and a convincing yet difficult display of conflicting emotions by Nick Cheung, On the Edge rises above expectations and succeeds…

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Neo rates this 8/10.

Directed by Herman Yau.
Starring: Nick Cheung, Francis Ng, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Rain Li.