Monday, October 20, 2008

[TIFF 2008 Review] Trivial Matters (破事兒)

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After watching Pang Ho-cheung's Trivial Matters, the stark reminders I have been keeping in view have now gone into red alert, that I've been missing plenty from this Hong Kong director, and I should really take some time off to plough through his filmography to date. Containing a series of 7 shorts that cover a spectrum of genres dealing with love, sex and death, one could only imagine the number of entertaining stories that are brewing within Pang's head, being a writer-director to look out for, as well as his clout in rounding up plenty of stars to take up roles in this collection of shorts.

Perhaps too I was naïve to think that both Edison Chen and Gillian Chung would be sharing the same screen pre-scandal days, as they have roles in different shorts instead. Civisim is the shortest of the stories here, and I thought he might as well be playing himself, speaking in English and trying to impress a beautiful girl in a disco about his active role in civic responsibility, which I'm sure some of us guys would probably partake in (which involves pee and manure), but to brag about it, who knows?

Chapman To, who also serves as producer for this movie, plays a character mimicking himself when talking to Eason Chan for a role in what would be It's a Festival Today. But in the short Recharge, Pang again weaves a sensitive tale for Chapman's character, about a man who shares a moment of compassion with a prostitute, despite what would prove to be a scare at first, and whether it's possible to be disconnected between sex and genuine concern for a fellow human being. Simple and sweet, somehow.

Eason stars in one of the two longest shorts in the film. In It's a Festival Today, his Fu has started a one-month long relationship with Wai Ying (Chan Yat Ning) and they have begun to cohabit. But Wai Ying refuses to get intimate with Fu, making him miserable and constantly pining like a puppy dog to want to get it on with his girl. It's an outright comedy thanks to Eason's hilarious take as a desperado, in how he finally convinced and cultivates Wai Ying's agreement to provide oral sex, but the payload (pardon the pun) comes toward the end with a very stark but effective change in genre from comedy. Definitely one of my favourites, and I thought Eason was probably having a field day with this role, going from constant frustration to finding bliss.

The other longer short was Ah Wai the Big Head staring Gillian Chung as the titular character, and Stephy Tang as Kate, two friends from schooldays, with the former treating the latter as her best friend, but with the latter thinking that Ah Wai is an emotional leech, and often dispenses any advice that would get her off her back. Encouraging her to go for Eagle (Juno Mak), a tattooed garage repairman, this short traces the parallel lives and differing fortunes that both girls would experience, against a backdrop of famous singer Danny Chan songs. I'm pretty sure you could identify with one or the other characters here in their motivation and intent, and it's a reminder about karma as well, that what goes around comes around, so you'd better not harbour any ill-feelings toward anyone else!

Junior is actually a two-act short, the first with Chinese director Feng Xiaogang lending his support as a Customer Relations Officer for a professional hitman outfit, where their company starts to offer some outrageous promotions, which involve an apprenticeship programme for new hitmen who can chalk training hours each time key clients utliize their free-kills coupon. Shawn Yue then takes over the film as one of such rookies, and I'd like to think that it was a statement about how young employees these days don't take their career too seriously, and despite lip service paid on how professional they are, when it comes to the crunch it's anything else but.

Probably the weirdest short would be Tak Nga which is a sort of science fiction tale narrated by Patrick Tam about how the present 4715AD world had inherited its name, which stemmed from NASA having to auction off its planet naming to enterprises, and the magazine Easy Finder being convinced by schoolboy Ah Chi (Kenny Kwan) to name it after his love Tak Nga (Angela Baby). Nothing too special about this short, except for the visual effects and the sepia tones in accounting this little love story about the lengths a boy would go to surprise the girl he fancies.

And of course, this movie started off with a big bang with Vis Major, where a middle-aged couple talks about the different expectations about their love and sex life, through a very novel narrative structure, cutting from talking heads documentary to fantasy segments, and the very famous picture that you see here when the man compared the reaction of his wife during sex as one of a dead frog. Genuinely hilarious and riotously vulgar, this is one no holds barred exploration of the breakdown in communication in bed, leading to dire consequences for those suffering from it.

By the way, watching this Hong Kong movie in Cantonese was nothing but pure unadulterated bliss. Given the subject nature, I doubt it would make its way back to our shores, and even if it does (with a highest rating possible), having it dubbed intco Mandarin just loses its charm in the language. But in any case, do watch this if you can, for some simple, effective and entertaining stories!

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