Last week I stumbled on this gem in the midst of a HK film binge. I’m unfamiliar with the director but it seems like this is his debut feature film, and it is exciting to see this kind of quality come from HK. I immediately gravitated towards the camera work and presentation and there were a few scenes that really stood out to me and I’m going to use this space to keep a mental note for myself and for you. Don’t be surprised if you see these elements pop up in future video projects.
I won’t go too into detail of the synopsis, which you can read here. The film’s central focus is a look at love in all manners and particularly how imperfect it is. Viewers expecting action and Donnie Yen will be severely disappointed.
Chapter 1: Eason Chan and Karena Lam
The first thing that stuck out to me about this film was its soft opening. So many HK films today open with a bang, a highly charged scene with crisp colors, booming music, fast action, and a desperate grab for the viewer’s attention. Perhaps thats because most HK films I watch these days are action style films. This film starts much more subtly and the first story focuses squarely on a dynamic acting pair.
In this scene, Eason and Karena’s characters are conversing at the corner of a pub. Up to this point it’s been a fairly normal date, they meet up and walk around aimlessly before settling on a place to hang out. It starts out pretty lighthearted. Then in these following minutes starting at 8:31, the scene switches between two perspectives exclusively. Back and forth, back and forth the frames switch until 10:45 when the conversation is broken up by a phone call.
For more than two minutes only 2 perspectives are used and in it reveals not one unified storyline but two bifurcated relationships. The body language and camera are telling the viewer two very different tales. They shouldn’t be on this date, they each belong to someone else. Rule of thirds dominate this scene.
Chapter 2: Kay Tse
This chapter of the movie evoked strong memories of Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express. This part of the film gets more artsy. Funnily enough, with all the transitions, filters, and lighting effects, it was this following scene that had me replaying it over and over again.
In this following sequence Kay Tse (who btw…is gorgeous) is walking across town to purchase something with the coins she’s picked up from the laundry mat. In a few seconds and 5 quick shots, the viewer sees her traverse HK’s varied urban landscape. It’s lovely, incredibly eye catching, and telling, all in such a short sequence. No video transitions & no fades.
Chapter 3: Jacky Cho & Mavis Fan
this scene totally caught my by surprise. In part because I never expected a movie could get away with it, but also because of how captured I still was. It sounds dumb, but in the context of this movie it was incredible.
a guy and a girl converse online (by the sounds it might be AIM) about their partners. Initially it’s paired with suspenseful and haunting music but after a while the scene consists soley of a shot of the girl/guy, text, typing sound effects, and the ding that comes from a sent/received message. That’s all. It is so ridiculously simple but somehow the director made it work…at least for me. I could see it boring the brains out of someone else.
The camera movement in this chapter is significantly jerkier than the previous two chapters and it contributes to the uneasiness in these scenes. I’ll have to rewatch again to validate this.
This movie uses many techinques such as light flares, light transitions, rule of thirds, bokeh effects. In fact, I’m guessing this film was filmed with some type of DSLR. You’ll notice in each chapter a different color grading scheme was used and it helped convey the mood of the chapter. In chapter 1 it was warm, orange tones, as two lovers converse. In chapter 2 it’s vibrant colors with a blur that indicate hope and love in a youthful manner. Chapter 3 had dark, cool tones, heavily blue/green oriented that conveyed coldness and conflict.
Perhaps the reason this movie captured my interest so intensely was due to the fact that so much of the presentation of this video is achievable. No fancy graphics, no blatant high rise rigs, camera cranes, no large light fixtures…it’s doable! There’s much to admire in this film for an amateur videographer.
I also appreciate that this film showed me that even though I could replicate this film scene for scene, the end product would be so drastically different. The quality of actors and their performances, the extreme ease of dialogue, and the soundtrack all come together to make this an awesome collaboration. If this is the beginning of a turning point in HK cinema, I’m excited for what the future holds!
*The links at the bottom of each scene direct to a youtube of the video in cantonese with chinese subtitles. If you understand either, feel free to enjoy the movie!