Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2023 8:35 pm 
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Jeune et joli - a Hong Kong idyll from the early eighties

This new restoration of the 1982 film of Patrick Tam, Nomad, made in Panovision, is of interest because Tam was a mentor of Wong Kar-wai of the Hong Kong New Wave, and it includes a young Leslie Cheung, before he became famous.

As Simon Abrams says in his NYAFF preview, it also features a "well-synthesized combination of sunny teen melodrama and arthouse sex comedy" - whatever that means, exactly. It's an odd but curiously fascinating mixture. The opening comedy sequence of a gang of young women disrupting the life of a young male lifeguard at a pool seems a bit unnecessary and overly boisterous but it ushers in Pat Ha (as Kathy) stealing the show as the sexy vixen who captures the heart of lifeguard Pong (Kent Tong). Most of the action, though including some oldsters, is about young couples, equally young and nubile, kissing and getting sexy, even on a bus, with a guy descending and exiting from a double decker with the girl still mounted on him. Though they get sexy, they also seem innocent and pure, especially the guys, most of all the pretty, almost feminine Cheung, who even then has something special about him. His girlfriend is called Tomato (Cecilia Yip).

At one point Louis (Cheung's character) gets pushed over a wall and badly knocked up. Only then, recovering in splints and cast, does he appear in the short shorts that the other guys are so often seen wearing, a fashion so out of style now it looks outrageous. There is a series of short scenes featuring one couple or another. Some are studying Japanese and several Japanese characters enter the not particularly organized story.

Then it turns out the "Nomad" people have been referring to is an antique sailing vessel owned by Louis' father, and the focus is what's going on on that now and the couples who remain on land. On the boat also, hiding, is the Japanese boyfriend who has deserted from the Red Army and as punishment is ordered to commit hara-kiri/seppuku. At the end that happens, in the goriest detail, the sweetness is over, and the action has turned horribly violent. Maybe this finale is "a prophetic lament," as Abrams says, foreshadowing grim developments and Hong Kong's loss of independence. It just seemed crazy to me, a punishing, doubtless tongue-in-cheek, change of genre and violation of decorum, proof that this film has been on its own wavelength all along.

Abrams points out that Nomad was Tam's third feature. It's a unique combination of sweet romance, sex, and gory violence that looks beautiful and remote in this handsome restoration.

Nomad, 96 mins., debuted Hong Kong November 26, 1982. Revived 2005 (Japan) and 2006 (Hong Kong). This 4K restoration, director's cut, debuted March 31, 2023 at the Hong Kong festival. Screened for this review as part of the 2023 New York Asian Film Festival.
Friday, July 21
3:45 PM Buy Tickets
Venue: Walter Reade TheaterP

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