Thursday, April 24, 2008

Run Papa Run

Sylvia Chang's latest film, Run Papa Run is, like most of the director's previous works, both enjoyable and deeply flawed. This story about a triad big brother's attempt to ditch the criminal life for the sake of his daughter is very much in the same vein as many recent Hong Kong triad films like Inferno Affairs and Election that deals with the gentrification of triad bosses. In contrast to triad films of the past which presented a rough-and-tumble view of triad society, the latest crop of Hong Kong gangster films are filled with such middle class trappings as designer apartments (Infernal Affairs), high end stereo (ditto), red wine and Italian cuisine (Jiang Hu).

In Run Papa Run, the very plot of the film centers round the hero's search for bourgeois respectability, replete with church weddings and Catholic school. On the whole, I am touched by Leo Koo's character's affection for his daughter, but I am disturbed by the film's unquestioning championing of the middle-class ideal of family, with dad working a 'normal', respectable job and be in a monogamous (and chaste) relationship with mom. The film, on one level, deals with the emasculation of the Leo Koo character, domesticating him and finally erasing his very identity.
It is interesting to note that the film features a plethora of old Shaw Brothers/Golden Harvest stars in supporting roles: 狄龍 and wife 陶敏明, 苗可秀, 邵音音 and 陳惠敏. Their collective presence evokes a certain nostalgia for the old order--stable, respectable, patriarchic (as such, the scene in which Koo finally calls 狄龍 'dad' after refusing to do so for years is especially poignant) .

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