The Last Affair
There is probably no film more illustrative of the underlying theme of Le French May's Cities in Cinema: Paris-Hong Kong series than this 1983 feature, the directorial debut of production designer Tony Au Ting-ping as well as the big-screen bow of TV star Carol Cheng Yu-ling. Although it was shot entirely on location in La Ville-Lumiere, The Last Affair is purely Hong Kong at heart and, reappraised from a perspective of nearly three decades, surprisingly representative of a movie industry in transition from New Wave experimentation to mainstream commercial colossus.
When it premiered in 1983, The Last Affair was anything but typical of contemporary theatrical fare. The year's top 10 Chinese-language money-makers belonged to the categories of raucous farce, action comedy, horror thriller and costume epic, genres with almost nothing in common with the chic t?te-?-t?tes (not to mention other body parts) between an unhappily married tourist (Cheng), a caddish violinist (Chow Yun-fat), and a bride-to-be unsure about her upcoming wedding (Pat Ha Man-chik).
As far as Hong Kong audiences were concerned, the subject matter and the director's aesthetic aspirations were nearly as alien as the script's foreign locale. Though a Cheng-Chow teaming might today seem like sure-fire box office gold, the actors were then primarily known as TV performers. With its languid operatic interludes and refined bathtub trysts, The Last Affair grossed under HK$4 million.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and The Last Affair comes across as a harbinger of what would be Hong Kong's cinematic future on the festival and art house circuits, paving the way for filmmakers such as Wong Kar-wai and Stanley Kwan Kam-pang.
Chow and Cheng would appear together in another three films - My Will, I Will (1986), The Eighth Happiness (1988) and Now You See Love... Now You Don't (1992) - but reflecting the commercial reality of the duo's status, these made no attempt to be as dangerous, in thematic and stylistic terms, as their first and last Parisian affair.
The Last Affair, Sat, 4pm, Broadway Cinematheque, May 27, 1.30pm, Palace IFC