Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Simple Life (桃姐).

Confession. I sometimes cannot stomach Ann Hui (許鞍華) certain movies. No, don't get me wrong. She is a not a director of those B-grades slasher/torture/horror genre movies. She is a formidable veteran Hong Kong film director, producer and screenwriter is one of the best Hong Kong New Wave directors whose peers are the likes of Tsui Hark (徐克), John Woo (吳宇森), Patrick Tam  (譚家明) amongst others. There is a "second" New Wave, lead by Wong Kar-wai (王家衛) but that had been covered in this blog (and probably I would have to wait until year 2046 for his latest film, The Grandmasters to be shown hehehe). These New Wavers are the major factor in the creation of a  Hong Kong cinema with a contemporary Hong Kong identity and in the Cantonese dialect of most residents. thus setting the backbone and foundation for all up and coming HK movies. They are technically proficient, dare to experiment, with grittier feel to all their films, usage of actual locations and explorations of various genres - from martial arts to hard hitting political and social comments. It is the latter two genres of which Ann Hui works are popular for. I was still young when most of her works came out. But I re-explored them and yes, watching them is like a stab into the heart. You feel for the characters, the nihilistic social, political surroundings and environments which they are trapped, like a foreigner in an unforgiving world, struggling to survive and/or adapt to the changes. The Story of Woo Viet (胡越的故事 - 1981), Boat People (投奔怒海 - 1981), Night and Fog (天水圍的夜與霧 - 2009) are some of the ones which makes me feel sad. But there are some which gives hope, not in the strictest sense but to accept that certain things are parts of life. This include Summer Snow (女人四十 - 1995), The Postmodern Life of My Aunt (姨媽的後現代生活 - 2005), The Way We Are (天水圍的日與夜 - 2005) are some examples. Ann Hui also made some other genres movies -  one or two horror comedy and martial arts genre, more on exploration about personal relationships such as July Rhapsody (男人四十 - 2003), Jade Goddess of Mercy (玉觀音 - 2003), All About Love (得閒炒飯 - 2010). 
The latest from the veteran director is A Simple Life ( 桃姐), a 2011 drama about the relationship between a servant and her master. The evergreen Deanie Ip stars as the loyal servant, Sister Peach whom has served Andy Lau's character, Roger Leung, a young master of a rich and big family since the day he was born. Sister Peach is the last of her kind, you know those "Ah Mah" whom forsake everything, maintaining their chastity, always stereotypically depicts as wearing white shirt and black pants with a pony tail, loyally serving her master and mistress and their families. The movie is moving at a steady pace, from the timeline capturing Sister Peach everyday duty of ensuring Roger, a movie producer (and said to be based on the true story of producer, Roger Lee) well being to sufferring her first stroke and subsequent personal insistence to stay at an old folks home, her new found experience of other old folks and their different characters, some eccentric, some with sad histories, Roger regular visits and bringing her out to functions or a meal (there are several popular cameos by veteran directors and actors) to the finale when she finally succumbs to the disease after a second attack. There is no overtly emoting acting in this movie. Everything is calm but that's the beauty of it. The movie also shows, nay, comments on the conditions of old and those whom are "abandoned" by their children at the old folk homes. The final decision of which Roger has had to make is one which is the hardest.  Again, my eyes well with tears long after the credit rolls... 

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