Hong Kong Reviews Reviews

Film Review: Full Moon in New York (1989) by Stanley Kwan

Shall I say here I come or here I go

After taking a break to present an erotic ghost story with “Rouge”, returned to his favorite theme of exploring the mentality of women, this time transferring the setting to another massive megalopolis, New York.

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The story revolves around three women hailing from the three separate regions of ‘Greater China'. Lee Fung-jiau is from Hong Kong, and a closeted lesbian who runs a Chinese restaurant in New York and also dabbles in real estate. Wang Hsiung-ping is from Taiwan, and has come to New York to become an actress, spending much of her time and money on acting lessons. She is also living with an American artist, in an apartment they rent from Fung-jiau, who, as the movie begins, kicks them out for not paying the rent, despite their protests regarding art being above money, in a rather ironic comment. Zhaohong comes from mainland China and has just gotten married to a husband of Chinese descent, but who, along with his family, have been utterly assimilated by the American culture, to the point that Zhaohong finds it difficult to adapt. Sharing a common ancestry, the three girls eventually become friends, meeting regularly at Fung-jiau's restaurant and getting drunk together. At the same time, they try to find their own identity in the alienating, inhospitable setting that is New York, while carrying the burden of their families, although in completely different ways, as Hsiung-ping's secret about her father eventually also comes to the fore.

The antithetical chemistry of the three protagonists is the biggest trait of the movie, with as Fung-jiau, as Wang Hsiung-ping and as Zhaohong highlighting both their differences and their similarities in the best fashion, alongside their excellent chemistry. The latter, however, has the smallest part, which does not let her shine as much as her co-protagonists, even if the comments about how the American-Chinese treat her as some kind of exotic woman are rather palpable. However, she does get her moment, in one of the funniest scenes in the movie, where, during sex with her husband, she asks him ‘Shall I say here I come or here I go?' also highlighting the language gap between them.

Fung-jiau emerges as the most interesting character, probably because the still-closeted at the time Stanley Kwan could identify with her. She is the one who has adapted the best in New York, even adopting the “take-no-shit” attitude of the locals but is also still bound by the bonds of her family and overall legacy, which essentially forbid her from pursuing a relationship with a woman she seems to have a past with. Hsiung-ping is probably the most lost, as her artistic endeavors seem to lead her nowhere, with the same applying to her romantic relationships, usually with losers her father ends up slapping, in another humoristic element in the movie. The way these two start from being enemies, with Fung-jiau essentially bullying Hsiung-ping, but end up becoming best friends, is one of the most entertaining aspects of the movie, as exemplified in their drunken endeavors.

At the same time, and in an issue that was also evident in “”, while the characterization and the interactions among the characters in general are particularly well-written, the same does not apply to the main story, which adopts a faulty episodic approach that becomes meaningless after a fashion, essentially moving into directions that are rather uninteresting, as in the acting classes Hsiung-ping takes for example. In that regard, and although the pace implemented by Chow Cheung-kan and Steve Wong's editing fits the overall aesthetics, and at 88 minutes, the movie does not overextend its welcome; nevertheless, some trimming of a number of scenes would definitely benefit the narrative.

On the other hand, and again once more, the visual aspect of the movie is top notch, with Bill Wong doing an excellent job of portraying New York in a way that shows both his and Stanley Kwan's adoration for the city, while also highlighting how claustrophobic the overall lack of space can be. The fact that the movie includes a number of locations, apartments, houses, restaurants and the streets at night and during the day, all of which are excellently portrayed, is a testament to the work done in the particular department.

” has many appeals, particularly deriving from the characters and the evident star quality of the female cast and its visuals, but in the end, it emerges as an effort with many faults, which fails to retain interest after a point.

About the author

Panos Kotzathanasis

My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia.

Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute.

In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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