Monday, September 7, 2009

Two More Cherie Chung Gems

The Yuppie Fantasia

1988's The Yuppie Fantasia is an interesting film. Less shrill and silly than many of the HK films of this era, it presents a portrait of married life that is not too flattering but is realistic and a tiny bit optimistic.

Lawrence Cheng plays Leung Foon, a businessman who's been married to Dodo Cheng's Ann Hui (!) for 7 years. The marriage seems loveless, with Ann dictating the terms of the couple's life including their sporadic lovemaking.

Leung Foon works with Big Cunning (Anthony Chan), the office Lothario, and Q-Tai Fong (I think I got that character name right; played by Manfred Wong). Q-Tai thinks himself a ladies man but ends up getting stuck "like glue" to office girl Louise.

At this point, Cherie Chung enters the film as the company's new boss. I think her presence was simply to sell this film as her role is quite small and the plot points involving her character and Leung Foon are never fully developed. There's a bit of comedy business as Foon helps Cherie find her contact lens on the office carpet, with Cherie posed suggestively.

And another bit of business as the couple get themselves locked in a closet overnight.

Given the era, these bits of comedy business are handled in a somewhat restrained manner; I was surprised as a HK film fan, actually.

As Leung Foon and Ann get a divorce, they both find their new solo lives to be less than exciting. Ann takes up with a new beau, played by Shaw veteran Paul Chun, while Leung Foon runs into an old schoolmate and former girlfriend, Jenny (played by Elizabeth Lee).

The film isn't a masterpiece but it is a nice picture of Hong Kong working life, circa 1988, and it is certainly a wonderful example of how to make a semi-realistic film that avoids the usual HK cinema silliness. For the most part.

Credit must go to director Gordon Chan, who recently finished shooting the international blockbuster, King of Fighters, according to Francoise Yip.

Without revealing too much, I'd also add that the film ends on a nice note that mixes realism and optimism; the ending felt natural and not the least bit cloying.

One Husband Too Many

In this 1988 film, director Anthony Chan stars as Hsin, an actor trying to bring Shakespeare to the masses. As the films opens, we see Hsin and his wife (Anita Mui) undertaking a rough performance of Romeo and Juliet in the countryside -- the New Territories? -- with an unruly crowd not appreciating the Bard's tale. With one patron throwing a sugarcane stick at Hsin, a fight is sure to follow. Look for an appearance by HK stalwart Bolo Yeung and a host of other musclemen in this funny sequence that sets up Hsin's plight.

Soon, Hsin's wife has left him and he's seeking solace with his ex-wife, played by Pat Ha, who's now married to Hua (Kenny Bee). Hua's wife now leaves him because he's too committed to his career and soon Hsin and Hua are living like The Odd Couple. The fellows are sitting on the balcony recounting their woes with life and women when the balcony breaks and they end up on the ground.

In an almost cartoonish following sequence, Hsin and Hua both have both arms in casts and are arguing as they attempt to do the everyday household tasks that they previously relied on their spouses for.

Somehow, Kenny Bee's Hua "gets religion" and takes to dressing a bit looser, carrying prayer beads, and quoting Buddhist aphorisms.

Meanwhile, Hsin has started up another acting troupe and is mounting a new colloquial take on Shakespeare called East Tsim Sha Tsui Romeo and Mongkok Juliet.

Enter Cherie Chung. Cherie is Frances, an actress in the play, who immediately attracts the smitten Hsin. After a night together, he is in love.

Unfortunately, Frances is an old schoolmate of Kenny Bee's Hua and, sure enough, the two are soon a couple.

The rest of the film consists of Hsin trying to deal with this new circumstance or break up the romance.

When Hua and Frances go to Macau, Hsin follows secretly behind, disguising himself in a pig mask and calling himself Elephant. There's a funny bit where he greets the couple in his mask and then drops off the balcony to approach Frances, seriously and sans mask, in a black turtleneck on the street below.

Of course, given the couple's legendary on-screen chemistry, Kenny Bee and Cherie Chung are the ones who go off into the sunset together with Anthony Chan left to grin alone as the credits roll.

Look for a brief cameo by Michael Chan in the final Macau restaurant scene.

I'm not entirely familiar with Anthony Chan Yau's work as an actor or director -- I did love A Fishy Story which he also directed -- but I'm now a fan. He's an odd presence and there was enough real heart in this silliness to make me want to see his other films as star and director.

One Husband Too Many was written by Alfred Cheung and Alex Law. Law wrote City of Glass, which I liked a lot, among many other titles, and Cheung has had a long career in Hong Kong film as a comic actor, writer, and director with a recent "triumph" being Contract Lover which this blogger liked quite a bit despite its obvious shortcomings.

Both this film and The Yuppie Fantasia are the new Fortune Star/Legendary re-issues and both look quite good in their new anamorphic widescreen DVD presentations. Subtitles are good with only a few typos in each feature.

You can order The Yuppie Fantasia on DVD here.

You can order One Husband Too Many on DVD here.