Some movies are as interesting due to their theme and aesthetics as due to the context that surrounds them. “House of the Rising Sons”, a biopic about The Wynners, an extremely popular during the 70’s, Hong Kong teen idol group definitely falls under this category for a number of reasons. The group itself is the first, since their success was responsible for kick-starting the career of Alan Tam and Kenny Bee, both musician and actors. The second one is the director, Anthony Chan, who was actually the drummer of the original band, who returns to the seat of the director after ten years and “My Americanized Wife”. The last is the cast, which includes HK legends Kara Hui and Simon Yam. Let us take a closer look at the film itself though.
The story begins from the forming of the group in a small neighborhood, when their name was the Loosers and they were considered a mere nuisance due to their lengthy and extremely loud rhearsals. The film tracks the way they came together, the hardships they faced due to their parents and other issues, their leap to stardom after Kenny Bee joined them and they transformed from a rock/garage band to a pop group, their breakup, and their continuous reunions that take place every five years.
Anthony Chan implements a delightful approach towards his subject, which includes drama, comedy and much surrealism, while the narrative unfolds much like a comic. Evidently, some knowledge of the actual story of the group is demanded, although this does not mean that one cannot appreciate the film without it. I also enjoyed the fact that the focus, although not exactly obvious from the beginning, is on the “lesser known members of the band, not Kenny Bee and Alan Tam, particularly after the band was split. This aspect gives a very interesting dramatic tone to the movie, particularly regarding Anthony Chan’s own story. In the end though, this is a tale of male friendship, with the events that form the finale of the movie being a testament to the fact. Some elements of idealization do exist, but these also fit the general aesthetics of the production.
I also enjoyed the way Chan used “The House of the Rising Sun” song by the Animals, with its repeated performances shaping the beginning of the group (as usually, a girl was involved) and occasionally fitting the narrative of the film, since Bennett Pang’s father, played by Simon Yam, was actually a tailor. The same applies to the actual footage of reunion concerts and the finale that includes all members of the group.
The acting is also in complete resonance with the film’s aesthetics, with Jonathan Wong (who actually looks like an amalgam of James Franco and Hwang Jung-min) as Bennett Pang and Eugene Tang as Alan Tam being the ones that stand out, although the whole of the cast does a nice enough job.
The cinematography is also impressive, with the screen being almost constantly filled with intense colors, in a tactic that reminded me the visuals of “Memories of Matsuko”. The editing, as is the case with the narrative actually, seems to follow the songs presented in the movie, in another tactic that benefits the entertainment element of the film.
“House of the Rising Sons” is a very interesting biopic, as much as a delightful production that is quite easy to watch.