Monday, January 18, 2010

Young People with David Chiang

A 1972 look at the "gangs" of rival friends David Chiang, Chen Kuan Tai, and Ti Lung, Young People is a fun attempt from director Chang Cheh to get in touch with the kids.

Ho Tai (Chen Kuan Tai) is the martial arts enthusiast leader of one gang who has a rivalry with the gang of Lam Tat (Ti Lung). Ho Tai is also a man of few words, preferring action to expression. His girlfriend, Princess (Irene Chen), doesn't seem to mind.

Add to this mix new folksinger Agnes Chan who opens the film with a rendition of Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game" as her audition into drummer David Chiang's gang.

Soon, Lam Tat is playing in the big basketball game. Princess has promised to kiss him if his team wins. Lam Tat gets injured and Ho Tai fixes the player's leg with some Chinese orthopedic magic. His team wins, Princess kisses him, and soon enough she is smitten with Lam Tat.

The scene where Ti Lung and his crew ride up to Irene Chen's house on a dune buggy is terribly dated. Not only does it seem like a 7-Up commercial but you've got Ti Lung in shades using a walkie-talkie to whistle at Irene Chen who is in her bedroom gazing longingly at a monstrous poster of Ti Lung and herself after the basketball game.

It's all a bit silly but, if you are like me and enjoy this sort of dated picture of a different era, it's also a bit intoxicating. The real locales and the studio lots and the clothes and the fashions and the soundtrack just all scream "early Seventies" but it's so straightforward and innocent.

After a trippy dance montage rolls as Agnes sings "You've Got A Friend", Gou (familiar Shaw heavy Wu Ma) strides in and interrupts the girl's next song after having his pride insulted by Ho Tai's martial arts club.

It's then up to Hung Wai (David Chiang) to finally reveal that he is the son of a martial arts master and set about to train his boys so they can beat Ho Tai in the kung fu competition.

More episodes like this and soon there's a fight in the street between kung fu champion Ho Tai and Lam Tat. Irene Chen runs and gets the help of David Chiang to stop the fight -- even looking still cute and stylish as she does it.

David Chiang then gets the two to be friends. Now everyone is friends and the film still has 30 minutes left!

Well, time enough for a go-kart race! Now the trio of buddies set off on their go-karts for the big race the next day!

It's like director Chang Cheh just threw everything into this film except a plot; the whole enterprise seems suspiciously like the effort of someone being told what "young people" do and not knowing otherwise.

If I am making it sound like the film is corny and dated and a bit silly and unfocused that's is! However, that's not to say that I didn't thoroughly enjoy the whole thing.

The lack of a bigger plot lets the film work as a sort of time capsule of Hong Kong in 1972 as well as what filmmakers thought the kids of Hong Kong in 1972 wanted to see.

And with 5 appealing leads, the film is a pleasure to watch. It is worth noting that any viewer who has an Irene Chen I-Ling jones like I do will be amply rewarded as the actress gets to wear quite a few different outfits in her scenes as well as play a bit of an airhead.

You can order Young People on DVD here.

[Pictures: YesAsia/Celestial Pictures]