Film review: Made in Hong Kong, re-released on its 20th anniversary, still a powerful snapshot of city’s hopes and fears
Fruit Chan Gor’s allegorical 1997 comedy offered a bleak assessment of the city’s prospects under Chinese rule. You couldn’t find a more ironic way of commemorating the handover than seeing this newly restored version
You couldn’t find a more ironic commemoration of 20 years of Chinese rule of Hong Kong than the re-release of this classic 1997 film, screening in a “4K resolution” restored version. A dark comedy about disenchanted youth, the plight of those at the grass roots and low-level triad members, Made in Hong Kong was one of the bleakest examinations of the city’s prospects in the lead-up to the change of sovereignty.
Shot on leftover film stock collected from producer Andy Lau Tak-wah’s studio, the independent production was made on a shoestring budget using non-professional actors. It introduces audiences to Sam Lee Chan-sam, who, with his hipster looks and wayward manners, makes his indelible acting debut here.
Lee plays Moon, a high-school dropout and small-time hoodlum who resents his absentee father and his succession of mistresses from China. Moon is friends with the half-witted Sylvester (Wenders Li Tung-chuen) and harbours puppy love for the severely ill Ping (Neiky Yim Hui-chi), but none of them is enlivened by these feelings.
Made in Hong Kong forms the first part of Fruit Chan Gor’s “1997 Trilogy” – whose other components are The Longest Summer and Little Cheung – and is shot with a rawness and urgency that would in time become the writer-director’s signature.
The film was partly set on a public housing estate, which appears like a character in Chan’s politically conscious story – one that is marked as much by Moon’s misguided heroics as it is by the cynicism of his triad boss towards China.
What leaves the most lasting impression, however, is the candid human story at the film’s heart, full of absurd humour and tragic twists of fate.
Made in Hong Kong opens on July 1
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