Miss Hong Kong
(Heung Gong Siu Che Sau Chan, 1987)
Stanley Siu Ga Wing
86 min, color, Cantonese (English subtitles)
Review © 2005 Branislav L. SlantchevThis film was originally released as Private Life and this title also shows up during the opening sequence. But it's alternative title is the one above, and that's what the DVD uses. Generally, mediocre (as opposed to awful) films seem to fall into two categories. They either start off on a promising note but then slide into banality or they plod along for a while and then pick up toward the end. This one is more of a bell-shaped variety: it begins as a brainless and inoffensive fluff, then rises close to the levels of an engaging drama, but then degenerates yet again into a silly courtroom sitcom that would make Judge Judy seem like Earl Warren.
|Joey Wang is gorgeous||This guy is "illed manner"|
Before anyone develops any ideas about what this review is going to be, let me set things straight: all the verbiage is obviously going to be an excuse to put up tons of screen caps of Joey Wang. She is among my favorite actresses, so that's to be expected. She also has the somewhat strange fascination with starring in films where her character is extremely abused (check out the odd A Hearty Response for a typical example). I don't know why this is the case, it is almost as if some directors simply cannot stomach the idea of a beautiful (and tall!) woman having a good life.
|With a wife like this, who needs an erection?||Exactly what it looks like|
Or maybe in this instance she simply enacts some of her personal attitudes. If memory serves, Joey got involved in a very public scandal because of her relationship with a married man in real life. I am not sure if that's what caused her to stop making movies for a while, but at any rate, maybe this particular film is the sort of confronting one's inner demons that one would expect from anyone with a modicum of an ability to feel guilty. Or maybe it's nothing to do with any of this and it's just a strange coincidence.
|Gratuitous shot of Joey Wang||What the Inquisition did to models|
Whatever the case may be, Joey plays the attractive Lee Shing Pui, a model who wins the coveted Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant title. The manager of her modeling agency, however, is more (or less) than it seems for his company does not just provide models for fashion shows but also classy very expensive prostitutes for high-flying clients. And what can be more attractive for such men than bagging a Miss Hong Kong? Joey makes good money (at some point, the price for her services is quoted to be $20,000, and I don't think they meant Hong Kong dollars). She supports her family which seems to be quite happy accepting monthly checks from her never quite bothering to inquire closely into what she actually does.
|Gratuitous shot of Joey Wang||Love, fun with guns, and dead birds|
One fine day, Joey runs into George (Alan Tang) who at first affects not to notice her, and this includes laughing hysterically at a comic book instead of looking at her, and then very ostentatiously lighting a cigarette without making the gentlemanly gesture of offering her a light first. Still, the guy is in trouble, as any male who ever meets the deep-eyed Joey would. He is given some excuse: his wife Joyce (Jenny Tseng) is a domineering shrew who is insanely jealous of her husband but is frigid and does not provide him with matrimonial sexual services. Yes, that's exactly how the film presents it, hewing to the script that most guys who cheat seem to adhere to with almost religious conviction.
|There's nothing going between these two!||Joey stuffed away from the public eye|
Why can't they make a film about the type of infidelity that most normal people would encounter? Why not portray George's wife as decent and caring, and then let George slip for the reason most men do: Joey is simply too attractive to pass by. It would take a lot of self-denying discipline to ignore her if she decides to go after you, and it does seem that for many men the guardian angel who is supposed to whisper in their ear not to yield to temptation is off duty most of the time. Or perhaps we're all adherents to the philosophy of Oscar Wilde and can't pass up on temptation for fear that it won't come our way again?
|Manipulating wife & guilt-ridden lover||Why would a prostitute trust her pimp?|
At any rate, the film decides to depict George as the victim of a loveless marriage. Joyce not only does not give him what apparently is assumed to be her duty to give, but also has the decided disadvantage that would unman any male in this world: she is the daughter of a rich businessman, whose company George works for. In other words, she is also responsible for getting her husband his job and because she is filthy rich, she does not actually need him to support her. In the real un-PC world, this is enough to cause any man to have doubts about his manhood, and George does just that, her constant harping on this fact moving him speedily along the road to infidelity.
|George symbolically towers over Joey...||... but she is not impressed|
So when all is said and done, we have your typical situation: married man falls for a pretty young woman, and his wife is left outside the equation to rage and maybe do something nasty to get her man back. Make no mistake, Joyce may hate her husband, may be unwilling to sleep with him, may humiliate him all the time, but she'll be damned if she lets any other woman have him. Unfortunately, Joey has neglected to let George on the secret of her own wealth, and proceeds to work while dating him. At least she seems to have become a bit pickier about her clients, which is not something that would make it easier on George when he eventually finds out just what her modeling entails.
|An unsuccessful attempt to humiliate her||Even Joyce's dad sympathizes with George|
Joyce bribes Joey's manager to set her up with a client at a known date and time, then drives her husband to see his lover leaving a hotel with another man. George flies off the handle, and we have an excellent scene in which he confronts Joey. At first he is portrayed to be standing high above her (she is at the bottom of the stairs), reflecting his righteous indignation, which is a bit funny coming from a married man cheating on his wife. Then he assaults and mocks her, but then she reacts, and it's beautiful. When he offers her cash and orders her to satisfy him professionally, she rips apart her skirt, spreads her legs, and taunts him to take her, leaving him speechless. But of course, the two are in love, and after a night of drinking George comes to his senses and returns for Joey, picking her up just after she has left another client.
|Admitting to her family that she's a prostitute||The unbearable lightness of jail|
Unfortunately for everyone, this client is murdered by Joey's gay manager who sets her up to take the fall. Joey is subjected to humiliation in jail, then disowned by her family, then tricked by her manager into signing her house over to him, then crucified publicly in the court room. At least George finally comes through and provides an alibi for her, which effectively ends his marriage. The courtroom scenes are embarrassing in the extreme, so it's better not to dwell on them (this film makes it look like there's no problem with perjuring oneself, or ignoring exculpatory evidence). Joyce gives George the divorce papers that would pauperize him and lets him make the final choice: love conquers all, however, so he leaves with Joey, letting his wife stew in her Rolls Royce.
|Law and Order, eat your heart out||Infidelity & love triumph over Rolls Royce|
Whereas one should not expect much from this film, at least Joey is superb in it, so it makes it all worth suffering through the rest of it. The Deltamac DVD is exactly what you would expect: a cheap release for a silly movie. The picture is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and is not anamorphic. The colors are washed out, the contrast is bad, and there is a lot of grain and many scratches. Nobody would bother remastering this, and the result is as good as the existing materials would allow, and as we all know Hong Kong has not been very diligent in preserving its cinematic legacy (except for the Shaws). The stereo Cantonese soundtrack is crisper than the Mandarin alternative, and the removable English subtitles are in enough English to make it possible to follow the story. Some of the mistakes are quite funny though (e.g., "You're illed manner.") Since I paid $4 for this, it was worth it.
December 11, 2005