HK Neo Reviews

14 February, 2012

[CFF] Q&A – Gallants 打擂台 – Director Clement Cheng

Filed under: 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival,Q&A and Interviews — Administrator @ 4:52 am

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@ 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

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After the award winning Gallants, Clement Cheng had a good chat with the audience. I asked a few questions and also some after the Q&A. Cheng is a cool and passionate guy about Hong Kong cinema, clearly a young director, but filled with potential as seen in his only two films at the festival.

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Q (Me): What inspired you to make this movie?
CC (Clement Cheng): Originally this movie is not about Kung-fu fighting, but rather about music. 10 years ago, when i first joined the entertainment industry, one of the current cast, Teddy Robin had a band group. Teddy really likes to play the guitar and he gave me some work to do. During the work hours, he always force me to play guitar rhythme. In one week, the band play together almost 3 to 4 times. There is also Samuel Hui and others older style musicians. One day, a bunch of old guys came to our band place with all their Ferrari, Benz and etc. All they talked about is shares, buying and selling houses and their sons overseas. Why would they be interested in music? But then once one of them started a chord, they just all played. It made me realise that they have all become young people, laughing and extremely happy. it was so emotional, so I really want to capture this moment of older people doing what they are passionate about and having a great laugh.

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Q (Me): So how did it become a kung fu movie?
CC: It’s very simple. Because if the movie is about music, no one will invest in the film. Even the music industry, not a lot of investors would put their money into it. When we sold this movie to Andy Lau is almost three years ago and Ip Man is extremely popular. So we change it to kung fu, as we previously already had a script about 60s and 70s kung fu stars and all the good guys like Jet Li and Jackie Chan all become bad guys.

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Q: Was it your idea to put in some animation in the movie?
CC: Yes, I am a big animation fan. There is actually a story behind it. The script have animation insert written in it, but in the post-production, we realise we had no money left to do it. So we showed the movie to Andy Lau, and he say, what happened here? Where is the animation? Then we told him and he asked how much and replied he will pay for it. So thank him! The thing is, it was two years ago when Andy Lau saw the script and somehow he still remembers it. I am really thankful for that.

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Q: How is this movie different to a lot of the 60s and 70s Shaw Brothers movies?
CC: They are now a lot older, so we prepared a lot of stunt people for them, but they all rejected the offer. Although they are in their 60s, they wanted to do all the fight scenes themselves.

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Q: I thought your movie need more romance and kisses. The music is Japanese, I really enjoyed. Therefore cannot attract the audience attention. Because there is not enough kisses. In the western culture, kiss all the time.
CC: (Laughs) I do not know how to direct kisses and romance. If you want to watch romantic movie, I got one after this. But it still doesn’t have kiss.

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Q: I felt in love with all the characters and the film made me laugh and cry. But how did you go about developing depth for the characters? You play my emotions very well!
CC: In order for the tragedy to work, you need to have comedy elements in it. So people can have that contrast. Underneath these elements, it is a movie about people being bullied, chased out of their homes and a tragic event.

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Q: What’s the most challenging part of the movie?
CC: Money! For the movie to be made, it is outrageous! Nobody wanted it. It was the happiest day of our lives, when Mr. Lau called me to make the movie. We only had 18 days to shoot this movie. Before we were going to shoot, we consulted mentors, about how we should go about shooting it. Everyone told us you can’t do it. How many action shooting days do you have? We have five. You better call Mr. Lau and say you are sorry and you can’t do it. The cheapest martial arts movie to be made in Hong Kong and just the action scenes took 25 days. How we managed to do it, is the colloration between the martial art actors and the action director Yuen Tak. They all know martial arts so we don’t have to reherse over and over again before we shoot.

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Q: Just want to reliterate about kiss elements, is the reason why there aren’t any, because you are trying to capture the 60s and 70s kung fu movie style and atmosphere?
CC: I actually didn’t think of that, as I do not know how to direct kiss and sex. I am scared of it. Actually in 60s and 70s, there are alot of kisses and fleshes to look at.

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2012 Golden Koala Film Festival – HK Neo Reviews Award

Filed under: 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival,HK Neo Reviews Awards — Administrator @ 12:08 am

Its been a great pleasure to be able to attend the 2012 Golden Koala Film Festival in Sydney. Meeting actors, directors, producers and cinematographers have been great fun. Like we did at the 15th Japanese Film Festival, its time for me to present some awards that I deem worthy.

Best Film
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Gallants 打擂台 (2010) – Hong Kong

” It is a rare kind of Hong Kong cinema that allows the audience to laugh out loud, embrace the past and present and perhaps cry a little in the whole process along the way. It is a uniquely Hong Kong film and for that alone, director Clement Cheng have a fine future ahead. A must see film for all Hong Kong cinema lovers…”

Best Director
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Tapu Chen 陳大璞 – Pick the Youth 皮克青春 (2011) – Taiwan

“All in all, Pick the Youth is a highly underrated film from a director who wanted to share an extremely personal story about father and son and the notion of what is best for them. It is a complicated dilemma that will face most parents in the past, present and future. What is so great about this film is that it doesn’t try to manufacture emotions and uses music as a medium to explain and show one’s passion. Rebellious youth will forever be a topic of interest in coming of age youth cinema, but director Tapu Chen (陳大璞) is able to show a different side. Pick the Youth could well have been just another well-meaning art house flick, but it is more than that, because once you are hooked, you are unlikely to leave your seat.”

Best Actor
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Teddy Robin 泰迪羅賓 – Merry-Go-Round 東風破 (2010) – Hong Kong

“2010 is the year of reborn for Teddy Robin, although he won the Best Supporting Actor for Gallants, to me, this is by far the better performance. As Teddy noted, in Gallants, he was basically playing himself, but here, he is playing a role that he has never tackled and the result is quite stunning. There is no doubt that Teddy despite his miniature looks has wonderful screen presence and with age, he has improved his dramatic range through years of experience in life.”

Best Actress

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Ella Koon 官恩娜 – Merry-Go-Round 東風破 (2010) – Hong Kong

“Together with Ella Koon who also put in a career best display, both lifts the film above the direction and carries the film on their broad shoulders. It is a commendable effort from both.”

Best Supporting Actor
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Ko Yue-Lun 柯宇綸 – Jump! Ashin 翻滚吧!阿信 (2011) – Taiwan

“Likewise Ko Yue-Lun simply steals the show as Ashin’s sidekick. His conflicted emotions in display as well as being a drug addict further enhance his ability as an actor in probably the most difficult role in the film.”

Best Supporting Actress

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Zaizai Lin 林辰唏 – Jump! Ashin 翻滚吧!阿信 (2011) – Taiwan

“Although, Zaizai Lin’s screen time is kept to a minimal, but Lin was simply iresistably sweet and the manner she manages to extend from her page thin role, just goes to show the potential of her acting ability. Another actress to stay in touch with and certainly can do so much more in a meatier role.”

If you are any of the above and is in Sydney, feel free to contact me @ webmaster@thehkneo.com, to receive your award.

Looking forward to next year’s festival!

13 February, 2012

[CFF] Merry-Go-Round 東風破 (2010) – Hong Kong

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@ 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

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“regrets can be a good thing…”
“Sometimes, the biggest care you can give for someone, is by walking away…”

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Merry-Go-Round is undoubtedly a film about regrets, loss and found. It is a beautiful film that is visually stunning and wonderfully acted, but somehow fails to connect with the audience on an emotional level. In similar reins to director Yan Mak Mak’s Butterfly, the film allows the actors to act out the experience and certainly a change in mood from co-director of the highly successful Gallants – Clement Cheng. As director Cheng spoke at the Festival when i asked him, regrets can be a good thing. Like Teddy Robin’s character, he used a regretful event to serve as an excuse to keep living. In a way it is a positive and noble thing to do, but in another way, it is just plain sad. I remember I once regretted a situation with a girl and it took me years before I fully recovered. Nowadays I try to live a life with minimal regrets, but sometimes, life hits you when you least expect it to happen and it is easier said than done.

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2010 is the year of reborn for Teddy Robin, although he won the Best Supporting Actor for Gallants, to me, this is by far the better performance. As Teddy noted, in Gallants, he was basically playing himself, but here, he is playing a role that he has never tackled and the result is quite stunning. There is no doubt that Teddy despite his miniature looks has wonderful screen presence and with age, he has improved his dramatic range through years of experience in life. Together with Ella Koon who also put in a career best display, both lifts the film above the direction and carries the film on their broad shoulders. It is a commendable effort from both. Add in Lawrence Chou who is certainly talented and in the scene when Denise Ho told him: “Sometimes, the biggest care you can give for someone, is by walking away…” His reaction to this deep and meaningful line is simply priceless. This line is also extremely personal to me and most likely the only time the film really connected to my mind and heart. Unfortunately Nora Miao does nothing to add to the proceeding and I would have preferred more emotions being displayed by her character rather than a wooden face.

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All in all, Merry-Go-Round is a well-meaning, well-acted and visually stunning piece of Hong Kong cinema. It should be complimented on directors Yan and Cheng for making this film at an uniquely Hong Kong angle. However, with all the setting in place, one would expect the film to touch the audience’s heart near the end, but somehow it never does. Instead, it feels like a beautiful piece of painting with a lot to say about the human condition, regrets, history, relationships, but never truly expressing it directly to the audience. It is a shame, as both Robin and Ella (both winners of Best Actor and Best Actress at this festival) do an amazing job in taking the film along. Still, Merry-Go-Round is a good film and certainly worth taking a look if it does ever hit cinema screens around you…

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Neo rates it 7.5/10

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Actor – Lawrence Chou 周俊偉

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Cinematographer of 東風破 and 志明與春嬌 – Jason Kwan

[CFF] Gallants 打擂台 (2010) – Hong Kong

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@ 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

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“if you don’t fight, then you won’t lose, but if you decide to fight, you must win!”

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Sometimes, like life, a film can be better on a 2nd viewing or perhaps it is the second time around that we truly appreciate it. For whatever reasons, my first experience of Gallants two years ago was largely disappointing. Maybe it is the advert of watching the film on a computer screen, but I never truly got into the movie. Fast forward to today, re-watching Gallants is fast becoming the best film of the festival and that’s not an understatement. To describe Gallants, it is not easy; to me it is a perfect combination of laugh out comedy, old school martial arts, revoking the memories of Shaw Brother days and an inspiring and emotional finale. For a film with such a limited budget (backed entirely by the generous Andy Lau), it certainly exceeded all expectations and with a super sub like Teddy Robin, the film is undoubtedly a unqualified success.

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The star of the show is without words, Mr. Teddy Robin, who not only managed to managed to stand out from their crowd with his natural uncanny screen presence, but also an impressive ability to display a comic and emotional side to his role. It is a testimony to Robin and in many ways I have always admired the confidence and life he brings to both his on screen persona and real life. Other 70s greats like Bruce Leung Siu-Lung and Chen Kuan-Tai are equally impressive in their respective roles and despite their growing age, their martial arts moves are a pleasure to watch. For the young guns, Wong Yau-Nam and JJ Jia is surely a cute couple in the making, it is a shame that the film went out of budget to follow that sub-plot. Likewise, Siu Yam-Yam adds presence to her role, despite being underused.

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All in all, Gallants is certainly a gallant effort from a debutant director Clement Cheng (refer to the Q&A with the director of Gallants) and the Pye Dog’s director Derek Kwok. Two years ago, I did not think that Gallants is worthy of winning the Hong Kong Film Awards’ Best Film, but sometimes in retrospective we all make mistakes and now I am proud to claim that the Gallant’s cast and crew fully deserved the award. It is a rare kind of Hong Kong cinema that allows the audience to laugh out loud, embrace the past and present and perhaps cry a little in the whole process along the way. It is a uniquely Hong Kong film and for that alone, director Clement Cheng have a fine future ahead. A must see film for all Hong Kong cinema lovers…

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Neo rates it 9/10

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Note: Even more amazingly the film only took 18 days to shot! Now that’s hong Kong style efficiency!

9 February, 2012

[CFF] Hi, Fidelity 出軌的女人 (2011) – Hong Kong

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@ 2012 Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival

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“What kind of people wins the lottery? Also what kind of people are rich and talented? Answer is someone else.”

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We have all seen countless movies about middle aged married men going out to behind the backs of their wives to have a “happy ending”. Hi, Fidelity takes a different route and instead focuses the attention on the reasons and process of a bunch of middle aged women doing the same deed. This is without doubt an extremely entertaining film that takes the audience along for the entire ride. Add in career best performances from Michelle Ye and surprisingly William Chan in a duo role, the film succeeds in showing the processes and the reasons behind the female’s mental state in the art of cheating. Still, like most Hong Kong movie, the build-up is great, but the finale seems to flatter as the director takes the shortcut rather than fulfilling the unacquainted potential the film possessed.

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Michelle Ye handles her difficult role extremely well as she tackles all the pressing issues that surrounds the film. In particular, in the scene when she confronts Pat Ha by expressing her love, it was menacingly seductive. For the first time in his life, William Chan impresses in his duo role, not only is he convincing, but ended up somewhat likable and flawed. It is a far cry from his days of roaming the magazine headlines for just one reason – Angelababy. For a minor character in the film, Chapman To rises to the occasion and steals the stole as Michelle Ye’s gangster boss husband In the scene when To confront Ye over her fidelity, he was downright impressive, calm and rhetorical. Despite obviously being a bit part role, To manages to transform his small role into something more memorable than it should be. As for the film weakest link, it goes to veteran Pat Ha and the much missed 90s cinema – Carrie Ng. Both are unable to bring their respective characters to light and are borderline average at best.

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All in all, Hi, Fidelity is actually a pretty good film; it entertains and once it starts the run of ballet just never stops. However, the film has a number of noticeable flaws, including a full forwarded ending, disappointing performances from the experienced Pat Ha and Carrie Ng and resulting in a film that does not know whether to be serious or not. Still, there is a lot to like about this film and in terms of entertainment, it delivers. It is certainly nothing special and sometimes it pays to expect less. Hi, Fidelity is something different to the usual fair and it ends up being a good trashy film, but nothing great…

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Neo rates it 7/10

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