Ventured out to Metrograph to catch a screening of the gorgeous new 4K restoration of Fruit Chan’s Made in Hong Kong. This stylish, anarchic, nihilistic neo-noir was the first independent production to be released in Hong Kong following the former British colony’s handover to China, and it definitely epitomizes that distinctive “indie” flavor; it is extremely film literate, owing an immense debt to Jean-Luc Godard, Paul Schrader, Seijun Suzuki, and Wong Kar-wai in terms of its narrative structure and visual presentation.
The movie’s various genre trappings (organized crime, forbidden romance, themes of honor and loyalty) merely serve as a familiar framework for its otherwise minimalistic story; the “plot” wanders lazily and aimlessly from episode to episode as our protagonist—a low-ranking Triad debt collector named Autumn Moon—searches for the father that abandoned him, protects his mentally-handicapped subordinate from assorted bullies, falls in love with the terminally-ill daughter of a woman that owes his boss a considerable amount of money, and attempts to ensure that a young girl’s suicide notes reach their intended recipients. Despite this overall lack of focus, the journey is punctuated by brilliant moments of transcendent beauty. In one particularly memorable scene, for example, Moon coolly and gracefully disposes of a murder weapon in the aftermath of a botched hit, the camera fluidly tracking his every controlled movement in hypnotic slow motion; the footage then abruptly rewinds, shifting to a rougher handheld shot to reveal the true sequence of events: Moon, stoned beyond the capacity for rational thought, panicked before he could even fire a single bullet, tripped over a trashcan as he fled (still clutching his pistol in full view of several witnesses), and proceeded to puke his guts out on the side of the road—a refreshingly honest depiction of violence in HK cinema.
Ultimately, however, I can’t adequately describe what makes Made in Hong Kong so special. It’s an entirely sensual experience; words alone simply don’t do it justice.