Film Review: Made in Hong Kong

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Made in Hong Kong is a 1997 film written and directed by Fruit Chan. On the 21st of September 2020, it will be made available on Blu-Ray for the first time in the UK. This being through Eureka and their ‘Masters of Cinema’ series (of which it will be number 238).

The film was released in 1997 on a very low budget. This meant that non-professional actors were used and discarded film reels were used for camera stock. It follows a group of characters during the year of the Hong Kong handover. In 2017 (the film’s 20th anniversary), it was restored to 4K by the Far East film festival and Focus Film (which is Andy Lau’s production company). 

The film itself is very interesting and I found a lot to enjoy about it from many different aspects. The film follows the character Autumn Moon (played by Sam Lee). Moon lives in subsidised housing around the time of the 1997 handover. The film also follows two of his friends. One being Ping (Neiky Hui-Chi Yim) and another being Sylvester (Wenders Li). After they witness the suicide of a young girl – the film follows their attempts to deliver letters that she carried as she died.

The film does, however, become more than this. I see it as a coming of age film in some respects. It’s a film about friendship and love that is extremely emotionally impacting. There’s a wonderful sense of aimlessness in the film. The three leads don’t really know what could come next for them. It mirrors the feelings of many people in Hong Kong at the time. Their futures are very uncertain. There’s a really impacting feeling of both hopelessness as well as alienation. As we follow Autumn Moon throughout the film, we see that his life is becoming more of a downward spiral of violence with no feasible end in sight. While that does sound dark, this film does have some really nice scenes of our three leads together where there is a really beautiful feeling of hope. 

The acting of the three leads is superb. Sam Lee is excellent at capturing the very conflicted nature of Autumn in the film. He is great throughout the film but in its final 20-30 minutes, he really shines and provides a very emotionally impacting performance. Neiky Hui-Chi Yim (in what, according to my research, is her only acting role) is also very good as Ping. Her relationship with Autumn is believable and she really captures the feeling of not knowing how long she has left well. Wenders Li is great as Sylvester. He almost feels like the child of the group in a way. The other two characters really care for him. He portrays the general obliviousness of his character very well. 

In terms of technical aspects, the film is very well done. While there are a few moments where the budget does show, the film is more than competently shot and directed. There are some really beautiful shots in this film depicting the urban jungle of Hong Kong. There’s an air of realism to the film that I found very compelling. The music in the film is also fantastic. It’s not used often but when it is it’s very affecting and fits the scenes perfectly.

This release of the film has been presented in 1080p from a 4K restoration. It looks really nice and while the image is sometimes a little grainy it still looks nice. There are some moments where it looks quite sharp. Given the film was shot using discarded film reels it is very impressive that the transfer looks as good as it does. It looks a lot better than some other older lower budgeted films that have been released on Blu Ray. 

The film sounds good for the most part. The release has uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio on it. The dialogue is audible and the background music is not too loud either. If I was to take one issue with this sound mix, it would be that sometimes the audio quality can be a bit shaky. For example, there is a scene on a staircase where the audio changes as the camera cut between different characters. It goes from quite clear to lightly muffled and I found that slightly distracting. Overall, the sound is good on this release and it contains English subtitles.

The release of the film comes with some very interesting bonus features. On the disc, there are four recently recorded interviews with Fruit Chan (Director), Doris Yang (Producer), Daniel Yu (Producer), and Marco Muller (Director of the Locarno Film Festival). Each of these interviews is very interesting and informative. They help to shed some light on the film’s production as well as it’s legacy. 

In conclusion, the film looks great and it’s bonus features cover a lot of what one would like to know about the film. The film itself is strong and impactful. It does an excellent job of capturing a mentality of a moment in time for the people of Hong Kong. It balances dark and light effectively. It contrasts with pitch-black darkness as well as some moments of hope that things may get better.

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