Review: Fruit Chan's MADE IN HONG KONG in 4K Restoration Is a Gloriously Gritty Affair

Featured Critic; Brooklyn, New York (@floatingartist)
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Review: Fruit Chan's MADE IN HONG KONG in 4K Restoration Is a Gloriously Gritty Affair

Fruit Chan's Made in Hong Kong came out right after Hong Kong Handover to Mainland China in 1997. With its youthful energy and boisterous amateur cast, the film reflects rather an anxious and pessimistic view of what lays ahead for the new generation facing uncertainty.

It's a kinetic, viseral, shoe-string budget film about a wayward high school drop out/triad wannabe Moon (Sam Lee in a star making role) working as a low level debt collector. Moon spends most of his days jerking off, going through his mom's purse, hanging out with his buddy Sylvester (Wenders Li), a big simpleton who gets bullied around by high school students. Moon terrorizes people who owe Big Brother Cheung money for living.

On one of these runs for collecting money, he meets Ping (Neiky Hui-Chi Yim), a naif with a pixie haircut and falls in love. They soon become an inseparable trio, roaming the busy streets of Hong Kong, having fun. But their carefree lives turn sour after witnessing a suicide of a high school girl named Susan in the neighborhood. Being in possession of the dead girl's suicide note haunt Moon, all throughout, as he procrastinates to do the right thing and return it to her parents.

Moon finds out Ping is dying of a kidney failure and Sylvester is always in need of his protection from the bullies. Then there is a turf war in the neighborhood involving his rival Fat Chan that he has to reckon with.

Made in Hong Kong does not only serve as an anxiety ridden, wayward youth film but also work as a time capsule. Fruit Chan has captured some extraordinary details of the places in Hong Kong in late 90s on celluloid: overcrowded subsidized housing projects, bustling city markets, decrepit corridors and alleys, long stair cases, signs and architecturally uneven skyline of the forever changing city. If Chris Doyle lensed Hong Kong in Wong Kar-Wai movies are hyper romanticized version of the city, Made in Hong Kong, shot by O Sing-pui (who went on to shoot Ip-Man), presents an energetic, ghetto punk version of the same city through a glass darkly.

There are some spectacular scenes that stands out in the film: a steep mountain top cemetery of Chai Wan as the trio runs around looking for the Susan's grave. The kinetic hit sequence where Moon fails to kill the businessmen, alternating between attempt and fantasy, Moon being attacked by a skateboarding hitman with a screwdriver sent by Fat Chan. Made in Hong Kong is filled with nervous energy all the way through its pessimistic, melancholic end.
 
In 2017, on the 20th anniversary of its release, Made in Hong Kong was restored by the Udine Far East Film Festival (Italy), starting from the original camera negatives and working under the direct supervision of Fruit Chan and cinematographer O Sing-pui. The restoration is as authentic and true to the original film as possible. The film is gorgeous to look at. Pristine images preserve Hong Kong in its uncertain times and jittery atmosphere perfectly, like in a time capsule. See it on the big screen. You won't be disappointed.
 
The film opens on Friday, March 6 at Metrograph in New York City. 
 
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on everything cinema and beyond can be found at www.dustinchang.com

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