Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hong Kong Cowboy

by Michael D. Klemm

(originally posted on pages 3/endoflove.html)

End Of Love, written and directed by Simon Chung, is the second feature film from the out Hong Kong filmmaker. It is an uneven, but mostly engaging, look at the journeys undertaken by a young gay man, aged 22, whose drug addiction leads to arrest and a mandatory stay in a Christian rehab camp.

Ming (Chi-Kin Lee) is an emotional train wreck who hung out with the wrong crowd during the aftermath of his mother's death. He views the rehab center as a prison but his sponsor, a former heroin addict named Keung (Guthrie Yip), shows him the ropes and helps the time pass. Ming soon develops feelings for his new best friend but Keung is straight and doesn't even notice that his acolyte only has eyes for him. Keung is there voluntarily and, when he decides that he is ready to return home, he invites Ming to come stay with him when he is released.

Ming takes Keung up on his offer but is disappointed when he discovers that his comrade has a live-in girlfriend. Her name is Jackie (Joman Chiang) and she makes no effort, at first, to get along with their new roommate. Ming, still smitten by Keung, finds it hard to listen to the sounds of their lovemaking in the next room. Jackie figures out that Ming is gay and delights in throwing herself at Keung in front of him whenever she can. She turns out to be quite the party girl and her actions become the catalyst for disaster.

Director Chung wisely breaks up the scenes at the camp with a series of flashbacks that detail the events leading up to Ming's incarceration. Ming led a double life, juggling a sweet relationship with Yan (Ben Yeung) while indulging his inner Mr. Hyde as a drug-fueled rent boy. Ming's roommate, Cyrus (Clifton Kwan), plays Lord Henry to Ming's Dorian Gray and leads him down the dark path, supplying him with both sex clients and drugs. There's always a party going on in their apartment and, before long, Ming is spiraling out of control. Yan's attempt to intervene horribly backfires.

End Of Love's non-linear structure is effective but not without its drawbacks. A twist involving Ming's mother's death isn't revealed until the final minutes. The withholding of this information makes for a dramatic finale but also causes some head scratching in a few earlier scenes. This is not a fatal flaw however, and there remains much to commend. There is often an overabundance of teen angst in queer Asian films and this certainly isn't the case here. No one struggles to come out of the closet in End of Love and Ming's problems do not stem from queer self loathing. We see one ugly moment of homophobia and, aside from that, the characters' sexualities are incidental.

Instead, the issues involve drugs, and hustling, and these are topics that aren't restricted to any gender, sexual preference, or country of origin. There is, thankfully, really nothing "fabulous" or cutesy about this film's approach. (The last Chinese queer film that I tried to watch featured a Taiwanese boy band - I have my limits.) The story, even if it could sometimes use a little more punch in spots, is a realistic one. Chung takes us down darker alleys and, while it might not be harrowing in a Trainspotting way, End Of Love lays bare the horrors of addiction. With more than its share of melodrama, End Of Love manages to be creepy and erotic at the same time.

There is fairly explicit sex with lots of jump cuts, and fans of Asian eye candy won't be disappointed. The film isn't all grim and there is a nice From Here To Eternity styled beach scene between Ming and Yan. Ming's first trick with an older john is also rather touching. The score is western but the accoustc guitar's squeaky strings provide an Oriental flavor. I'm sure I missed a few things that would have been obvious to an Asian audience. Undoubtedly there was much cultural significance to the shot in a hotel room where Ming, Cyrus and their john share the frame with their shoes looming large in the foreground. There are many such memorable images. The first time that Ming takes E (or K, I get those designer drugs mixed up), he watches Cyrus and their john's lovemaking distorted through a cocktail glass.

I've seen several American variations on the drug and hustler theme (too many actually) and this one has a nice edge to it. Maybe it's the subtitles but End Of Love seemed more serious than the ones I'm used to. The viewer is treated to a glimpse at another culture with the comfort of a universal storylne that knows no borders. Hong Kong isn't subject to the same censorship laws as mainland China and so the director's vision comes delivered without compromises. Chung is a filmmaker worthy of our attention.

Saturday, April 24, 2010



曾幾何時羅啓銳的電影不是這樣的。我最愛的羅啟銳作品是92年的《我愛扭忟柴》,周潤發飾圍村村長,未婚妻鄭裕玲從英國回來,見過世面的她不甘在圍村生活,與村長鬧翻後決定到中環闖天下。片中突顯圍村舊價值與中環新價值的衝突,但故事沒一面倒的懷舊,村長意識到自己不能一世困在圍村,走到中環學英文、做生意。但電影對中環價值也批判,不斷嘲諷代表城市知識份子的鄭裕玲的醫生男友。最後周與鄭這對歡喜寃家meet half way,兩人各自作出一些改變,發揮另一種香港精神:妥協與包容。片末兩人被困在一輛掛在樹頂上的車是一個很好的,很屬於香港的metaphor,這種妥協與包容是一個precarious balance,需要大家努力維持--現在香港面對的困局不就是新與舊、東與西、貧與富之間的失衡嗎?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010



其實我總共只喜歡兩隻王宛之的歌,包括在Sammi極有份量的Faith大碟內我認為最好聽的一隻歌「結果」,王菀之作曲作詞,寫宗教難得地真摯而不濫情、有深度而不故弄玄虛(yes,林夕,I'm talking about you)、誠懇但不preachy,除了開首那段organ與其餘部分格格不入外簡直是一首perfect song。另一首是她未紅時為蔡一傑那隻很underrated的個人大碟寫的「上癮」,當時還沒有人認識她,MV還把她的名字寫錯。至於她收錄在自己大碟的歌,so far還未找到一隻喜歡的。

Saturday, April 10, 2010

蘇絲黃@Home Sweet Home

阿旦肯請蘇絲黃上他的「Home Sweet Home」節目討論她的愛情觀,對一個曾拍「姊妹情深」的人來說已是一種突破--雖然由頭到尾阿蘇都很小心地用中性的詞語"partner"去形容另一半,反正大家心照便可以。我一點也不驚奇阿旦的第一個出柜的同志嘉賓會是lesbian,畢竟他曾在商台在俞琤之下工作多年,我也不會hold my breath for 他請一個男同志上這節目講家庭:還記得不久前他在同一節目訪問草蜢,與蘇志威和蔡一智大談老婆仔女,但正眼也沒有望坐在旁邊的蔡一傑一眼。

以「家庭」作為節目的theme沒什麼不對,但為何他歌頌的獨孤一味都是一夫一妻/父慈子考/兒孫滿堂的異性戀家庭,從來沒有試圖伸延「家」這個概念去涵蓋不同形式的家庭?我不單指同志家庭--這世界有很多不同形式的家庭:一班年青人住在一起可以是個大家庭,兩個沒有性關係的老人家(but then again,一夫一妻的老人家很多也沒有性關係)住在一起互相照顧也可以是一個家庭,把家庭的概念擴闊可以是一個很progressive和包容的舉動。我不期然想起《天水圍的日與夜》,一個中年單親母親和兒子受其他親戚白眼,女人主動結識獨居老婦,還請她來家裡一起吃飯。一切來的自然親切,沒半點濫情老土--這才是令我感動的家庭觀。

Friday, April 2, 2010

We don't need no education