Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous
(Hong Kong) Semi-documentary. Directed by Christopher Doyle. Starring Connie Yuen, Thierry Chow, Lip Ching-man, Vodka Wong, Kevin Lau, Selene Cheung, To Wun, South Ho, Kevin Sherlock. 85 minutes. Category I. Opened September 28.
“Hong Kong Trilogy” is annoyingly difficult to describe: It’s part-documentary, part-identity introspection, part-surrealist ramble. The man behind it is filmmaker Chris Doyle, best known as the man who gave Wong Kar-wai’s films their distinctive look.
When Occupy hit in September last year, Doyle took to Kickstarter to crowdfund a film about the young and old of Hong Kong. The “Hong Kong Trilogy” is a series of three loosely connected vignettes.
“Preschooled”—which was actually shot as a short film before Occupy and the Kickstarter project took off—looks at children in the city who bounce from school to tutors and back, ignored by their largely absent parents and raised by their helpers. “Preoccupied” looks at the people and the community that grew around the Umbrella Movement, specifically at the Occupy site at Admiralty as it developed and was taken down. “Preposterous” is a more lighthearted look at the elderly of the city, who go speed dating around town. It’s narrated entirely by Hongkongers, who also play themselves—or cinematic versions of themselves, at least.
We follow them around the city as they discuss their hopes for themselves, and for Hong Kong. The three threads are loosely linked by a series of characters who float through each other’s lives. There’s the girl in the red cap who carries holy water around the city, trying to save the souls of the SAR. There’s the adorably chubby and lonely Vodka Wong, who may live on the Peak but can’t fit in: His never-there parents aren’t helping. There’s artist Maoshan Connie, who sketches the Occupy sites, and Thierry Chow, youthful feng shui master who keeps the tradition alive in a modern time. There’s South Ho, artist (and sometime HK Magazine photographer) who starts an urban garden in Admiralty. Then there’s Doyle’s friend Kevin Sherlock, playing a disheveled half-shaven gweilo who’s constantly in search of beer. He’s dressed… well, exactly like Chris Doyle.
Chris Doyle shooting the trilogy
The best section of the movie is its Occupy segment, in which Doyle takes the time to document all that was best about those 79 days: The sense of togetherness, fellowship and community that many won’t have seen unless they were there at the time. It’s a truly valuable piece of filmmaking because almost no one else has chosen to do this, and certainly no one close to Doyle’s stature as a filmmaker.
Doyle has said that he set out to make a film that works by associations and parallels, allowing his interviewees to tell the story for him. And the film is constantly playing with this level of reality and unreality, as the interviewees/actors engage in stylized conversations and interactions, with their own voices running underneath. But messages emerge,and beyond documenting Occupy “Hong Kong Trilogy” explores the struggles that creative Hongkongers face, in all corners
of the city.
With Doyle behind the lens it’s a given that the film is impeccably shot. The visuals are effortlessly creative and evocative, redefining bits of Hong Kong that we’ve all seen a hundred times before. The film’s free-flowing narrative structure makes even the unreal feel real, but it can also be a liability, often feeling more like three separate shorts rather than a single cohesive whole.
Moments of surrealism work and fall flat in equal measure. The final section, “Preposterous,” starts weaker—it’s light-hearted but feels too much of a departure from what’s come before, and the elderly characters feel shallower than their younger compatriots. But at the end Doyle gathers the disparate strands of all three parts together into a single scene.
All of his real/unreal interviewees/characters come together for that most Hong Kong of activities: a beachside BBQ. It’s a piece of Hong Kong Fellini, the movie’s cast coming together in a communal celebration of the people of Hong Kong. That was the real lesson of Occupy, and Chris Doyle keeps it alive in “Hong Kong Trilogy.”
Watch the trailer here.