This is one of those films that really I should not like, it’s a very cynical set of tales about relationships that does not exactly warm the heart. But then not only do i get a good recommendation from Best Friend, but I have a look at the pedigree – a bit of Karena Lam, Kay Tse, Eason Chan, produced by Edmond Pang, and co-directed by Eris Tsang’s son Derek. It would just be rude of me not to check it out.
I’ll explore this one story by story – although they are interconnected to varying degrees. “Lovers Discourse” opens up with a naturalistic style meeting between Nancy (Karena Lam) and Ray (Eason Chan). They meet on a busy evening in Hong Kong – is it a date? As the night progresses we find from their conversations that they have known each other a while, and maybe been out of touch a little. They talk about their relationships, and only after the night begins to wind down we find out they are ex-lovers. It’s just a really lovely piece of mood, no flashy gimmicks, just two people getting along with each other. They obviously have some closeness still, but they stay apart as they don’t want their relationship to fall into the trappings of the mundane. Lam and Chan have an easy familiarity with each other, and it is hard not to like them – even when they have to return to their lovers.
We then move onto my favourite segment. Gigi (Kay Tse) works in a Laundry, and has a rather obsessive one way relationship with one of her customers, Sam (Eddie Peng). She will never approach him, but instead creates a shrine from the detritus she finds in his Laundry – we see he go see the same film he has left the ticket stub for in one of his pockets – the same seat, the same showing. We get to see a number of fantasies that she has containing them both – but Sam is merely a plastic mannequin. This whole sequence is just delightful and inventive, and even though Gigi is actually a rather scary and obsessive individual, she is utterly charming. It feels like the second story in “Chunking Express”, but done with its own wit and charm. In keeping with the film, we know nothing is going to come of this, and moreover, we know that this infatuation is only fleeting, and that she will fill the void with another unknowing subject.
The most disturbing segment follows. We travel back 12 years, to a time where a young Paul (William Chan) has an unhealthy obsession with his best friend’s Mother (Kit Chan). To start with this is nothing more than longing looks, but when he discovers her husband (Eric Tsang) is having an affair, he gathers evidence to show her, thinking this will bring them together. Of course, this is also doomed to failure.
Finally, we come back to the beginning. We find that Paul is actually now the boyfriend of Nancy (and has become Jacky Heung), and he gets a mysterious message on his MSN one night, from a girl (Mavis Fan) who says that her boyfriend is having an affair with his girlfriend. At first he just tells her she is being paranoid, but soon he slips into the world of cyber-stalking, checking the trail left by social networking. Together they hatch a plan to investigate. This segment is maybe a little overlong, but is certainly suspenseful. It probably only really fails because the conclusion is just too obvious, and whilst we saw the genuine affection between Ray and Nancy in the opening segment, we never really get any feeling for the relationships between them and their current partners.
It’s not exactly a date movie. You get a lot of one-way obsession, and infidelity. No-one here gets what they want, and other lives are ruined. Yet, each segment is filmed in a unique way, and is utterly winning. Any single story told on its own would be nothing more than OK – and frankly I think we have seen all these stories before. But by taking an anthology approach, by linking each story, however tangentially (yes, I did spot the young Gigi 12 years ago), the film is able to rise above the potential story weaknesses. Visually it is a treat, and I enjoyed the soundtrack too. Add in some really classy performances, and if you can handle the cynicism, you are onto a winner.
Its just a great debut for the joint directors Derek Tsang and Jimmy Wan – showcasing a number of styles and an ability to hand both experienced and new actors. I look forward to seeing the next films they produce with much anticipation. Recommended.