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Passion Island
|     review    |     notes     |     availability     |
Passion Island     Passion Island

(left) Janice Man and Chang Chen, and (right) Joan Chen and Simon Yam in Passion Island.
Chinese:

熱愛島

Year: 2012
Director: Kam Kwok-Leung
Writer: Kam Kwok-Leung, Lam Fung
Cast: Simon Yam Tat-Wah, Joan Chen, Chang Chen, Janice Man, Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Song Jia, Maria Cordero, Bob Lam, Tiffany Lee Lung-Yi, Bryan, Angie Mak, Victor Huang Weide, Alex Yen
The Skinny:

The comedy of the year. This wannabe magical romance-drama is one of the most illogical films ever and the actors, if not director Kam Kwok-Leung, may be aware of it. Featuring CGI tears and paintings of corn-eating monkeys. The highlight: Chang Chen pretending to be Korean.

 
Review
by Kozo:
Passion Island means well, but that’s not an excuse for its existence. Directed, written and hopefully regretted by Hong Kong cultural figure Kam Kwok-Leung, Passion Island makes absolutely no sense, but let’s dive in and examine what passes for a plot anyway. Simon Boss (Simon Yam) runs an island called, duh, Passion Island, which produces a purple vegetation called “Passion Weed” that’s under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency. Being a professional organization, they send Simon’s ex-wife Joanna (Joan Chen) to question his FDA-unapproved Passion Weed, which may be some sort of medicinal hallucinogen or maybe just a fine salad garnish. Paraplegic Fan Li (Song Jia) is game to ingest the weed, seemingly as a way to combat the hopelessness felt by she and her fiancé Chu Yu (Francis Ng). Good luck to both, but if anyone in Passion Island needs help, it’s Simon Boss, who insists on wearing loud fashion disaster coats, stylish briefs and nothing else for the majority of the film.

Meanwhile, Simon’s goddaughter Janice (Janice Man) guides smarmy Korean Chuell Kim (Chang Chen) around the island. Chuell seeks his missing car, which ended up on Passion Island because of a man named Amigo. Also, Janice has a journal belonging to Chuell’s ex-girlfriend, and she reads it secretly while imagining herself as a star in K-dramas, Hollywood movies or maybe strange sadomasochistic cult cinema. Everyone gets together for occasional meet-ups, which usually involve exposition, someone asking someone else to translate, or Chuell Kim admiring large paintings of corn-eating monkeys. Eventually, Chuell Kim does find his car, after which he urinates on it with industrial strength force and then commiserates with machine gun-carrying dudes who play acoustic guitar and serve him coffee. Simon Boss and Joanna continue to spar while touring his massive DVD collection and picking out their (or maybe Kam Kwok-Leung’s) favorite films. Among his collection is a copy of Raped by an Angel 3, but presumably the audience is not supposed to notice that.

Passion Island is a magical, existential, environmentally-friendly romance-drama that intends to be witty and meta, but instead comes off as misguided and nonsensical. The unfathomable storyline features epiphanies that are only discernible because characters break down and smile, have sex or, in Simon Yam’s case, wear pants. A major crisis occurs when a whale is beached on Passion Island, but don’t worry, the rubber whale will be okay because this is a film with little tension or suspense. There’s some tension inherent in Fan Li and Chu Yu’s relationship, and Chuell Kim carries a gun, but at no time is there a danger that he’ll pop a cap in someone’s ass. Chang Chen and director Kam Kwok-Leung seem to equate acting angry and rude with being Korean, while Simon Yam and Joan Chen act silly and giggly like they’re teenagers sharing a private joke. Janice Man is upstaged by her parade of pink dresses. Only Francis Ng and Song Jia achieve anything resembling an onscreen bond, but maybe that was a lucky accident.

What makes Passion Island somewhat watchable is its sheer balls-to-the-wall bizarreness. Besides having Chang Chen portray a Korean by curling his lip into a perpetual “Imma beat you up” grimace, the filmmakers slap a tattoo above his eyebrow that reads “This is Art.” People start conversations randomly and engage in an endless stream of non-sequiturs, plus they make faces at floating purple mist, cry via CGI and name-drop Hollywood film titles like annoying movie geeks. During the opening, Simon Yam swipes through the credits on his smartphone, before dropping it and swiping the movie screen with his finger to introduce the film’s title. Air-lifted whales, a lusty break-down-the-door seduction scene, and a homoerotic beach surf tussle between Francis Ng and Chang Chen seal the deal: Passion Island is the comedy of the year. Kam Kwok-Leung has an obvious love of art and cinema, and was clearly attempting something when he conceived of this project. But that something is a mystery that perhaps only telepathic aliens or corn-eating monkeys would understand. I’m neither so I got nothing. (Kozo, 2012)

 
Notes:

• The Hong Kong DVD release from Universe Entertainment is missing the scene in the film where Chang Chen urinates on a car with apparent industrial strength force. This is obviously a distressing matter and should be considered a crime to those who appreciate cinema and lobby for its respectful preservation. Also, it involves Chang Chen pissing on a car.

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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