Second Sight: C'est la Vie, mon cheri
C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri
In light of its iconic status, it's no surprise that Temple Street has had more celluloid exposure than most Kowloon thoroughfares. Usually a backdrop for police raids or other unsavoury activities, it held centre stage in two classics that helped make the early 1990s a golden cinematic era: Queen of Temple Street (1990) and C'est la Vie, Mon Cheri (1993).
With the now 20-year-old C'est la Vie, Mon Cheri, director-writer Derek Yee Tung-sing displayed his forte in taking a potentially trite storyline - in this case, the romance between a temperamental musician (Lau Ching-wan) and a young but doomed Cantonese opera singer (Anita Yuen Wing-yee) - and steeping it with psychological nuances to transform what might have been clichéd into a truly moving experience.
The Yau Ma Tei milieu is no mere window dressing but a vital component to the underlying themes, Yee demonstrating his talent in the realm of accumulating just the right amount of detail to make the street performers' lifestyle vibrate with authenticity. He also has an eye for perfect casting, from the younger players (among them Carina Lau Ka-ling and Carrie Ng Ka-lai) to the older generation. In the roles of the fatally ill young woman's mother and uncle, Petrina Fung Bo-bo and Paul Chun Pui never overplay their hands and so are all the more effective.
The sincerity with which they invested their roles led the two to Hong Kong Film Awards in the supporting categories, while Yee won best director and screenplay, Yuen was named best actress, and the production judged best picture.
Not that statuettes are necessarily an indication of artistic merit, but that year the voters got it right.
C'est la Vie, Mon Cheri, today, 7.30pm, HK Film Archive, Apr 28, 2pm, Broadway Cinematheque. Part of the 100 Must-See Hong Kong Films programme