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Hollywood Hong Kong
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(from left to right) Zhou Xun, Glen Chin, Wong Yau-Nam and Ho Sai-Man.
Year: 2002  
Director: Fruit Chan Gor  
Cast: Zhou Xun, Glen Chin (Chan Ying-Ming), Wong Yau-Nam, Ho Sai-Man, Leung Sze-Ping, Tam Kit-Man, Wan Kam-Li, Hu Wei-Men, Koo Jun-La, Fong Wai-Hung, Ma Ma
The Skinny: Fruit Chan's latest is as impenetrable as his earlier works, but the surprising narrative, black humor and genuine originality make this a winner for discerning audiences. Popstar chasers: stay away from this movie!
by Kozo:
     Practically the only Hong Kong filmmaker left who actually makes films, Fruit Chan has carved out his own private niche in the morass of commercial comedies, Western wannabes and tired popstar vehicles that has become Hong Kong Cinema. It's refreshing to find a filmmaker who takes risks, and tells new stories with his work. One could argue that it's hard to understand just what Fruit Chan is trying to say. I tend to agree, but even without complete understanding, one thing is undeniable: this is interesting stuff.
     Hollywood Hong Kong fits right in with Chan's filmography. Possessing of "realistic" characters and locations, sumptuously appropriate cinematography, and a sense of humor that can only be described as absurdly black, this latest effort is ostensibly a drama. The primary character seems to be a young Mainland prostitute (Zhou Xun of Suzhou River) who enters the dilapidated Tai Hom shanty town and proceeds to disrupt matters in a decidedly unexpected way. Going by the names of Tung Tung, Fong Fong and probably a few others, she charms with a seemingly carefree playfulness and beguilingly innocent sexuality.
      She first enchants Keung (Wong Yau-Nam of boy band Shine), a young pimp who discovers her on the Internet. Their evening together consists of sex in the bushes, and the admiration of the nearby Plaza Hollywood, a modern shopping center/apartment complex which dwarfs Tai Hom with five massive high-rises. At the same time she befriends Tiny (Leung Sze-Ping), the rotund younger son of pork hawker Chu (Glen Chin). Chu finds himself enchanted by the young temptress too, but its older son Ming (Ho Sai-Man) who falls under her sexual spell. One wonders why she does what she does, but the lives of these lower-income Hong Kong residents seem almost sordidly enriched by the presence of Tung Tung. She's like an angel to these not-too-sympathetic men, but not for long. Soon it becomes apparent just what she's up to, and the ride that the men—and the audience—get taken on cannot be easily described.
     Fruit Chan loads this uncommon film with plot details and moments which defy classification. Besides the unfolding drama of Tung Tung's activities, we also get treated to the disappearance of Chu's mother sow, the meddling of a Mainland doctor/quack (Hu Wei-Men), and more metaphorical images than any one film deserves. Despite the feeling that this is a film of great depth, it's hard to discern just what statement—political or otherwise—Chan is trying to make. Tung Tung longs to go to America (and the "other Hollywood"), but that isn't overtly explored. Likewise, the details of Tiny's friendship with Tung Tung, and the subsequent fallout of her activities, seem rife with hidden meaning, but it's hard to pin down just how it all ties together. One could walk away from Hollywood Hong Kong saying that it doesn't make much sense. And, they wouldn't be entirely incorrect to do so.
     But what's left is a narrative that's more intriguing and even affecting than one could possibly expect. The story stands on its own as an absurd, blackly funny, and even lyrical portrait of seemingly common individuals. Tung Tung (or whatever her true name is) can be seen as a deceptive, negative character, but the character details and Zhou Xun's performance give her a sympathetic inner life. The men can be seen as victims of their own immoral lust, but the attention to daily life and the actors' natural performances make these human, pitiable characters. And though the events in the film seem to have neither rhyme nor reason, the emotions seem genuinely gripping, and the outcomes ring appropriately true.
     Still, it's understandable that Hollywood Hong Kong will likely not strike a chord with the masses. The main cast members are unattractive by popular standards, and the characters are neither likable nor engaging. The story isn't a three-act character arc of triumph or descent. This is a film about everything but what we're used to seeing at the movies, and audiences who like pretty people will not be pleased. However, those who allow the film to engage them may be pleasantly surprised. Thanks to its original narrative and decidedly iconoclastic style, Hollywood Hong Kong could surprise even the most Hong Kong Cinema-jaded. (Kozo 2003)

22nd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Nomination - Best Picture
• Nomination - Best Director (Fruit Chan Gor)
Nomination - Best Screenplay (Fruit Chan Gor)
Nomination - Best New Artist (Wong Yau-Nam)
• Nomination - Best Costume Design (Jesse Dai)
Nomination - Best Original Film Score (Lam Wah-Cheun, Chu Hing-Cheung)
39th Annual Golden Horse Film Awards

• Winner - Best Director (Fruit Chan Gor)
• Winner - Best Makeup and Costume Design (Jesse Dai)
• Winner - Best Sound Effects (Liu Ka-Man)
Nomination - Best Picture
Nomination - Best Actor (Glen Chin)
Nomination - Best Actress (Zhou Xun)
Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Hu Wei-Men)
Nomination - Best Screenplay (Fruit Chan Gor)
Nomination - Best New Performer (Wong Yau-Nam)
Nomination - Best Cinematography (O Sing-Pui)
Nomination - Best Editing (Tin Sap-Bak)
Nomination - Best Art Direction (Oliver Wong)
Nomination - Best Original Film Score (Lam Wah-Cheun, Chu Hing-Cheung)
Nomination - Best Original Song ("Yut Gor Lai Ji Sam Ba For", performed by Zhou Xun)
9th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
Best Screenplay (Fruit Chan Gor)
Recommended Film

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Asia Video
Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen