Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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LEUNG MIND-KAI, KATE REILLY: MEMORIES TO CHOKE ON, DRINKS TO WASH THEM DOWN 夜香‧鴛鴦‧深水埗(2019)

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GREGORY WONG AND KATE REILLY IN MEMORIES TO CHOKE ON, DRINKS TO WASH THEM DOWN

A collection of segments set in Hong Kong fails to engage

This is an odd collection of shorts with a Hong Kong setting and a wealth of opportunities not quite seized.

1. "Forbidden City." An old woman with mild dementia spends a few hours with her pretty new Cantonese-speaking Indonesian caretaker who consents to take her on a bus trip ("Forbidden City" because she's not supposed to go out), knowing that if they ride around in a circle her charge will not know the difference and will think they're been on an outing. This seems to be about the repetitious dialogue. We feel for the caretaker who has to listen to the same stories five times in a couple of hours. Greater humor and greater poignancy in the writing were needed; the two actors are fine.

2. "Toy Stories" focuses on two brothers in the Japanese toy shop of their mother. The information they exchange about various toys is quite precise. Each toy refers to an experience of their childhood or an aspiration of their adulthood. But the main interest is the sudden revelation that the younger brother has lost his job and would like to take over the store but has just learned she wants to turn it over to somebody, and he hasn't told her about his situation.

3. "Yuen Yeung." A female American English teacher and her local math teacher male colleague meet regularly to eat Hong Kong food, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and drink (Yuen Yeung is a coffee-tea mix with a local labor history connection). This could be a low-keyed romance about shyness, frustration, and disappointment - if the writing were better and the acting more expressive. This seems a collection of narrowly missed opportunities for greater humor and warmth.

4. The oddest segment and most unexpected, since it's a documentary. It cuts back and forth somewhat confusingly between campaigning and personal moments as Jessica Lam, a young Hong Kong barista and cat fancier of and also someone running in the city election in 2019 - one in which, we are told by story cards, the DAB Pro China party lost big. But we are shown that Jessica, though ostensibly on the winning side, herself lost, if by only 102 votes. We learn that she not only likes cats in some sense doesn't like people - or at least doesn't care to have them sit close her at the bar. She also tells us she didn't want to serve on the political committee much anyway. Two videos by Teenage Riot are inserted in this segment in which Jessica appears. There is some information about Hong Kong politics in this segment, obviously, but it seems confusingly edited and lacks depth.

Each of these segments has strong story possibilities that, in a revised or expanded form, might have emerged. In the present form however they are underwhelming.

Memories to Choke on, Drinks to Wash them Down, 77 mins., presented by Golden Scene Co. Ltd, was an extra at the 2020 all virtual NYAFF.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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