Shot in true guerrilla style, using spare pieces of film from the movies he worked at, with five crew members loaning money for the equipment and only two months of production, “Made in Hong Kong” became one of HK and Fruit Chan’s trademark films, as it managed to win a plethora of awards, both in Hong Kong and internationally.
The recent, 4K restoration of the film was promoted by the Far East Film Festival (Udine, Italy) on the occasion of the 20th anniversary since the film’s first public screening in 1997, the same year as Hong Kong’s handover to China. The restoration was made from the original camera negative with the supervision of director Fruit Chan and cinematographer O Sing-pui and was carried out in 2017 in the Hong Kong and Bologna headquarters of L’Immagine Ritrovata.
Moon is a young delinquent who spends his time roaming the streets, and doing some minor work for local gangsters, while he also functions as the bodyguard of Sylvester, a mentally challenged young man who seems to get bullied whenever Moon is not around. In one of his odd jobs, Moon meets Ping and her mother, a cunning duo that has been escaping the claims of loan sharks for years. Moon and Ping become a couple eventually, and the three of them form a peculiar company, as they spent their time mostly doing nothing. Things take a turn for the worse when Sylvester picks up the suicide letters of a girl he found lying on the street after jumping off the roof of a building.
Fruit Chan directs and pens a film that begins as an effort to portray, realistically, the lives of delinquents and small time triad members, but is soon swamped in a permeating nihilism which induces it with a punk essence that seems to fit its visual style to perfection. In that setting, almost everybody is a victim, with the fact presented quite eloquently in the film’s finale. However, this does not mean that Chan allows us to feel sorry for the characters, apart from very few exceptions, since everyone is filled with faults and willing to go to extremes to achieve his goals. At the same time, Chan seems to put the blame for the faults of the new generations to the previous one, who do not seem to know what to do with their children, thus abandoning them.
Through his extreme sense of humor, Chan seems to mock every aspect of HK society, starting with the health system, continuing to concepts like family, friendship and the respect towards the dead, and ending with the mob, in a number of social comments that could be synopsized in two phrases uttered in the film: “Poverty begets evil” and “I want to do something to shock the world”.
Through his own dynamic editing, Chan retains a rather fast pace in the film, which, along with a number of punkish tracks, a number of extremely violent scenes, and some crude humor make the movie function as an extreme music video, quite frequently. Lam Wah-chuen and O Sing-pui’s cinematography captures both the claustrophobic essence of the interiors and the sense of freedom emitted by the exteriors (with the scene in the graveyard being the apogee of this tactic), in a way that mirrors the psychological status of the protagonists.
Fruit Chan based the film on Sam Lee, who debuted here, and he delivered in impressive fashion, in a role that seems to benefit both from his acting and his overall appearance, with the Arnette glasses (an imitation of course) and the short shirts becoming a symbol of his “coolness”. Wenders Li plays the mentally challenged Ah-lung convincingly but excessively, while Neiky Yim Hui Chi as Ping appears adorable and mischievous throughout the duration of the film. Carol Lam as Ping’s mother is also great, as a cunning and strict woman who goes to extremes to achieve her goals.
“Made in Hong Kong” is a great film, and since the visual aspect seems to have benefited the most by the restoration, it truly deserves a watch, even from people who have seen the original version.