Made in Hong Kong (1997)

Review #1,612

Director:  Fruit Chan
Cast:  Sam Lee, Neiky Hui-Chi Yim, Wenders Li
Plot:  Moon, a low-rent triad living in Hong Kong, struggles to find meaning in his hopelessly violent existence.

Genre:  Crime / Drama
Awards:  Won 2 Golden Horses - Best Director & Best Original Screenplay.  Nom. for 3 Golden Horses - Best Feature Film, Best Leading Actor, Best Film Editing
Runtime:  109 mins
Rating:  NC16 (passed clean) for mature content
Source:  Focus Films Limited

Regarded by many to be the quintessential indie film from Hong Kong, Made in Hong Kong is a startling breakthrough for writer-director Fruit Chan, whose subsequent works such as Little Cheung (1999), Durian Durian (2000) and Hollywood Hong-Kong (2001) would solidify his status as one of the preeminent filmmakers to emerge post-1997 handover.  

While his overall output hasn’t been consistent enough, Chan continues to remain in the eyes of cult movie lovers, particularly with Dumplings (2004) and The Midnight After (2014).  But it is Made in Hong Kong, now lovingly restored in 4K by L’Immagine Ritrovata, that is arguably his greatest contribution to HK cinema, winning him two Golden Horse awards for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Sam Lee, whose raw performance here landed him a Golden Horse nomination, stars as Moon, a lowly triad member whose tough persona sees him become the master of his own fate.  With an absent father and a mother at wits’ end, Moon carves himself a special space when he meets a girl he fancies whilst collecting debt.  Her name is Ping, and together with Sylvester, a mentally-disabled friend under his care, the trio try to make meaning of their fleeting lives.  Chan weaves their narratives poetically with that of another girl who commits suicide at the start of the film.  

Made in Hong Kong says much about the burden of youths operating in a vastly changing world, and it doesn’t require a deep analysis to sense the socio-political allegory that Chan is trying to draw.  Should a new generation of youths believe in a new HK, or is it simply the beginning of an end to a hopeless existence?

What I admire most about Chan’s film is its relentless energy that never seems to dissipate.  With buzzing camerawork and extraordinary editing on show, Made in Hong Kong is a technical feat that captures the rough-edged, neorealist feel of an indie movie made with a low budget and scant resources.  

The fact that it was shot with leftover film stock collected by Chan is as impressive as some of the film’s most iconic moments, in particular the sequence in the cemetery, which is my favourite.  Despite the bleakness of its themes, Made in Hong Kong is occasionally funny, with its black humour especially striking, giving it much needed levity amid the ‘daily grind’ of violence and nihilism. 

Verdict:  This cult indie Hong Kong film by Fruit Chan says much about the burden of youths operating in a vastly changing world, yet what one remembers most is its relentless energy and extraordinary editing.





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