Written and directed by Fruit Chan
A perfect marriage of style and subject matter, Made In Hong Kong is for those with a soft spot for disillusioned youth, irreverent filmmaking and energy, energy, energy.
Amateur actor Sam Lee stars as August Moon, a high school dropout turned layabout who scrapes together a living collecting for more sinister criminals. He’s brash, hiding himself behind street-tough mannerisms and threats with varying degrees of success. He’s not totally gormless, however, as under his wing he’s taken the hulking but meek Sylvester, a person with a mental disability. Together they’re headed nowhere fast.
One day while on a collection run, they meet Ping (Neiky Hui-Chi Yim), a teen suffering from an illness that threatens to kill her. Moon falls for Ping, and an intense romance develops, made more so by the fatalistic air that hangs over everything. Moon’s days become about Ping, as he vows to save her. Meanwhile, a local young girl’s suicide takes similar hold of him, his nights haunted by this girl and her decision. With both a purpose and a puzzle to solve, Moon must ponder what life is leading to in a Hong Kong newly released by the British to China.
Made in Hong Kong is less refined than Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express, the movie that’s more synonymous with Second New Wave Hong Kong filmmaking than any other, but it’s a standout example alongside it. It has the same firebrand vitality and irreverence for what came before, with fast cuts, no loyalty to narrative, sensuous yet aloof. It’s inner life set to music.
It’s striking to have a localized style come together with such speed and intensity, but Made is proof that Chungking galvanized something that also resonated. Made In Hong Kong takes a freewheeling approach to its very real outlook however, telling a story of a parent-less society that’s growing up without moral authority and compass. Chan just lets it slowly creep up on you, distracted as you were by the outsized antics of Moon and street gang buddies.
Full of ennui and melancholia, Made In Hong Kong is the rare movie that’s an energetic drum solo as it goes along but leaves you downbeat. A film committed as much to style as it is to its message, and they can’t be separated. That Chan did this by the seat of his pants, doing it independently, is all the more noteworthy, and the historic nature of its existence only adds to it.
It’s fun, vibrant and colorful, possessing the charm of unrefined overzealous acting by its lead, but with real social consciousness fueling this story of youth in revolt, landing at the right time in history, a real moment where life and art imitate each other. That it’s also evergreen entertainment is just icing on the cake.