review by Sickbobby

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Hollywood Hong Kong? A Pig Stew?
In “Hollywood, Hong Kong” director Fruit Chan, departs slightly from his realist “tell-it-as-it-as” approach, to create a quirky black comedy that’s equal parts unsettling and charming.

The movie revolves around the run-down Tai Hom Village (for the trainspotters, in Hong Kong’s Diamond Hill), and the Chu family. “Chu”, in Cantonese, is as common a surname as “Smith” or “Jones”, but it is also pronounced the same as “pig”. As such, the Chu family is made for their butcher business, as well as their famous barbequed roast pigs. If that wasn’t enough, patriarch Chu (Glen Chin) is born the image of a butcher; big, round, carrying around a humungous belly, he’s the type of man that you would confidently by your meat from. And like father like son, offsprings Ming (Ho Sai-Ming) and Tiny (Leung Sze-Ping) are made from the same mould. Also making a living in the same village is Keung (Wong Yau-Nam, from the boy band “Shine”), who makes a meek existence as the village pimp.

Life in Tai Hom village is simple and routine until the mysterious appearance of a young mainlander girl (Zhou Xun). To Keung, she’s Fong Fong, a Shanghainese prostitute, propositioned on the internet, whilst to the Chu’s she’s Tung Tung, a tempting fresh alternative to the suffocating routine of daily life. What, though, is the intentions of this mysterious Tung Tung, Fong Fong or whatever her name is? At first, she’s a breathe of fresh air to all, but one thing is for sure, Keung and the Chu’s are in for a roasting that’s hotter than the one Chu’s pigs receives…

Hollywood, Hong Kong is a weird film in that it’s equally balanced by the real and the quirky. A trademark in all of Chan’s films is to show the real side (which usually equates the dirtier side) of Hong Kong that’s mostly absent in most locally produced films. Consider the last time you saw a Hong Kong film which featured shanty towns filled with tin houses which reeks of poverty and boredom? Hong Kong films have a tendency to hide this aspect of geography, one that it is as real as the gleaming towers which dominate the skyline of Victoria Harbour. It is against this backdrop that Chan presents the visible problem of wealth divide; next to Tai Hom is a monstrous 5 block apartment building that reeks of materialistic wealth. This is definitely a case of “so close yet so far”, where a simple underground pedestrian tunnel separates the rich from the poor. With the wealth literally dominating their lives, it’s hard for Keung and Tung Tung not to dream about escape – for Keung, a shot at the being a big time player in the red light district of Mong Kok, for Tung Tung, to go to the real Hollywood.

Chan also examines Hong Kong’s relationship with Mainland China. In analysing the relationship between the Mainland seductress and the average Hong Kongers, Chan poses the question of how valued and welcomed is mainland China in Hong Kong, when, all its promise of a better change only brings disruption to a once peaceful existence and unobtainable dreams of wealth?

Away from the social commentary, Chan layers the film with a treasure trove of quirks – a slightly mad, mostly eccentric village doctor, a missing prized sow and the highlight of the film, a tale of missing severed hands. These little quirks helps the film to beautifully sum up (not accurately of course, because who has had to find their missing severed hand?) daily life – in the midst of the daily grind of making out a meek living, life throws out a few curveballs that keeps us on our toes and makes life interesting.

Again, Chan continues his tradition of employing non-actors for roles in his films; only Zhou, Wong and Chin have previous experiences as actors. Using such a strategy is risky, but the gamble pays off for Chan, having it add to his approach to reality.

Hollywood Hong Kong continues Chan’s success of making films his own way in his own style. The film merits not because it is different – being different alone does not mean it is good – but because it is a well made film which excels in telling a story that is uncomfortably real but at the same time, a wonderful escape from our own reality.

I rate it 7.5/10

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Directed by Fruit Chan Gwor
Starring Zhou Xun, Glen Chin (Chan Ying-Ming), Wong Yau-Nam, Ho Sai-Man, Leung Sze-Ping
Reviewed by John (Sickbobby), April 2005