31st HongKong Movie Awards will be live in a few hours. I CANT WAIT! It's a great year in the sense there are a few very good HK movies done with soooo much heart there for a change, it makes me weep, even if a few of the nominees do not have a shred of mass nor international appeal.
The 2012 class photo, the crew of Let the Bullets Fly is conspicuously, understandably missing, even for the best supporting nominee and last year's best actress Carina Lau. The awards is historically local biased, Let the Bullets Fly is heavy in its mainland flavored savviness. Being out so many months ago is also not working towards its chances.
Plus, the noms r mostly truly deserving for a change and there are some tight toss-up races in many categories it's breaking my heart to pick a favorite (I dont think I can be happy if there r not 3 Best supporting actors awarded).
I saw A Simple Life this afternoon. Astounding!!! It lets us, the audience, voluntarily draw our own emotions out of the scene instead of blatantly manipulates our sentiments. The amount of terrific control and pitch perfect film making is palpable, yet seamlessly unobtrusive. I don't even want a note more of story, backstory, anything, it's befittingly philosophical how life, sickness (and death) is, as it's presented in the movie. Ann Hui's visual is ALWAYS crystal clear and deftly poignant. She has never made a bad movie in her entire career. Her work can be summed up by one word: honest. Some journeys r harder to watch, seldom a popular subject, but she's so passionate about her hometown and its littler, weaker, shut off and shut up inhabitants and devotes her whole artistry in telling their stories as pure and respectful as they deserve, giving them a voice otherwise silenced. Needless to say A Simple Life has the simplest of stories: the caretaker is now taken care of.
I liked the Help enough, but I rem walking out thinking it's a TON of stereotypes and a slick too much glib for my taste. A Simple Life packs so much more emotional punch with much less calculated brownie points. I feel like I'm a labrat of an audience being flashed an Emotion! sign every time it has to be wrung out of me in The Help. I can't help but compare the 2 movies while driving back home, magnifying the flaws of one, and have lapses of wanting to make a Uturn, rewatch and savor the other right away by myself in a take2.
What I lamely put on what the movie is about is really the entire movie, and should be considered spoilerish, but that's beside the point. You watch it observing the characters at a comfortable arm's reach, their relationship is clearly presented right off the bat with very few lines of normal day to day banter between the two main characters. There is affection but there r confining boundaries of a maid and the young lordship. They share a most apparent intimacy only a meticulous nurturer devoted to, catering for every impossible detail of a man since infancy can exist, the sum of all these minute trivial interactions and dependency btn the 2 build a stronger more intricate bond not bound by blood and filial piety, but by the truest purest of love between 2 human being over the inertia of time. We do not feel intrusive, being presented every seemingly mundane details of their daily lives, on the contrary every scene is used with its purpose, just respecting our intelligence to not spell everything out, it enhances our understanding of them, because that's exactly how their bond is formed. We sit through the movie diving gingerly into their lives and their role reversal, yet spinning in our head with What will I do? at every turn. It hits so close to home in all of us, we all r indebted unrequitedly to our caregiver the day we're born into this world, we'll suffer sicknesses, grow so fragile to the point of losing all ability to care for our own most basic decency as a human being…and we all will certainly die. Nth happens out of the ordinary in the progression of the story, many crucial events in their lives r unadorned or delicately skipped over, so full of pathos and we instinctively reflect on our own condition….and it's where we insert in our own life experiences and fill our hearts with our own chock full of emotions. The theater is almost full except the first few rows to my surprise, audience arriving right on showtime r left scrambling for odd seats, splitting up their own viewing parties. The lady sitting right next to my group started sobbing 10 min in and nonstop till the end, just with increased frequency. Random fidgeting of tissues is heard throughout, the familiar fragrance of HKers favorite brand Tempo is in the air. There maybe a min for a few scenes where the almost silent refrained scene on the screen is accompanied by staccatos of sniffs fr almost the entire audience.
It's so anti-establishment of every preconceived notion you have of what you know or love about mainstream HK movies. Miss Hui's movies occupies the opposite of the spectrum fr the decadent WKW. I passionately love both, of course. She tackles her subject with such a high respect of the material, so faithful it'll speak for itself without amplifications. Like a true delicate Cantonese way of preparing steamed fish…most of the hard work is to pick the impossibly fresh, perfect specimen, it has to be swimmingly alive minutes before it's devoured, clean out the obstructing scales, the few inedible parts, prepare it most minimalistically in its entirety by steam. Her characters maybe barely keeping afloat at or near the outskirts of the real society, possessing unfairly little of the indulgent metropolitan yet living their lives as shamelessly as they deem fit for survival, or plainly the way things are. She's most nonjudgmental towards her characters.
I'm sure there will be riots if Deanie doesn't win a best actress trophy in hours, but I'm left speechless eating crows with my socks off with Andy Lau. He is understated! and subtle!!! I've NEVER seen nor everthought possible, so insanely in control in every freaken scene even in extreme closeups. He's echoing the nuanced preciousness of Abe Hiroshi in Kekkon Dekinai Otoko. Andy is my HK George Clooney, and he just bested Georgie's comparable Oscar winning role. I thought his superstardom and ego makes him absolutely un-directable (and I've heard true anecdotes…), and I must credit PD Hui some more for this dumbfounding pleasant feat. It's just a ramble or so ago when I was praising SeanLau obsessively and predicting him sure-win with his turn in Life without Principle. Sean's perf is still imo full of most pleasant surprises on a typecasted role he's done to perfection career long, that in itself is worthy of awards. But here Andy is a true revelation. It's his best performance EVER by the largest (unimaginable by me) margin. And how shocked and full of praise am I, being a sorta extreme Andy nonfan since…oh 1990s!?! I would be OKAY if he robs Sean of his almost guaranteed actor award. I wouldn't be happy IF that happens tbh, but I wont hit ppl and things. *biting nervously at nails*
What I love most about A Simple Life is how the autobiography of writer didn't delve into social commentary essaying nor milking on the sensationalized sentimentality. It's a peculiar dynamic to non-HKers between an AhMah of generations and the young heir…but that is an integral part of our society since its colonial infancy. Domestic helper is prevalent in present day HK, only the working force is phasing from the unspoken terms of slavery as AhMahs to imported foreign domestic helpers. In A Simple Life, the shifting of their relationship to the opposite of roles happen so gradually, it doesnt paint anyone more sympathetically than necessary, nor overwrought the difficulty for dramatics….and the poignancy stems from how duties are taken up as simply, without fanfare as the pragmatic way it should be for these two equally isolated, lonely people who carved out a harmonious symbiotic existence that truly can tide over whatever life throws at them with no regrets. Andy's Roger does not miraculously transform into a saint overnight, he never did, PD Hui makes a deliberate point at the very end to show us he is still this opposite of a warm cuddly naturally caring person who went through his own stunted belated maturity only when shoved and pushed after his life, as he knows it, as he intrinsically taken for granted for life, is irreversibly lost.
This movie will make you call your mom and grandma right after. It's giving me an insomnia wishing I can still physically hear the voices of my nanny and my granny in heaven, at my gadget-dependent fingertips.