Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A Simple Life.

A Hong Kong drama that felt more Japanese than a Chinese was this weeks Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre Film Club offering. A Simple Life (2012) showing for one night only, turned out to be a real treat. Based on the true-life experiences of Roger Lee, the producer of the film, it’s about a retainer who had served the same upper middle class family as housekeeper and nanny for 60 years. Ah Tao now has only one member of the family to look after as most of the others have emigrated to America. Roger Leung, a busy producer working in the Chinese film industry, still relies on the services of Ah Tao for all his house hold tasks until one day he returns home to find that the old servant has suffered a stroke and has been rushed to hospital where she announces that she wants to retire and spend the remainder of her life in a nursing home. Its now that Roger realises how much he relied on Ah Tao and more importantly how fond of her he was. A beautiful loving ‘mother and son’ relationship develops between the two, and it’s this relationship that forms the backbone of our film.

Our host for the evening was Julie McMoran who introduced the film telling us a little about the Hong Kong/Chinese film industry and how movie making in Hong Kong had changed considerable since the 1997 hand over of the island to China. The fear is that China will excerpt more and more control over Hong Kong’s film output and eventually take over its complete film industry. Also the takeover has presented problems with censorship with the mainland imposing more political control.

She also informed us that Ann Hui directed the film who has worked in the industry for 30 years making 26 films but is little known in this country through lack of exposure. 65 year-old Hui originally studied at the London Film School for two years before she returned to Hong Kong to take up a post as assistant to the Chinese film director King Hu before becoming a vanguard of Hong Kong’s New Wave in the 1970’s a movement that draw attention to realist contempory social matters.

A beautiful loving relationship gradually develops.

In this relationship drama you are allowed the time to really get to know the characters and one can’t help observing the empathy the director has for the elderly inmates of the nursing home all of which are treated with gentle concern. Beautifully observed and extremely moving without being overtly sentimental Ann Hui can also be very proud of the performances she elicited from all concerned. But special mention must go to the two main leads Deannie Ip, someone else not particularly well known in the UK, deservedly won a Best Actress Award at this years Venice Film Festival for her very believable and poignant portrayal of Ah Tao putting many better known actresses in the shade. The part of Roger Leung was played by the Hong Kong born actor Andy Lau who most of us will know from films like Wong Kar-wa’s As Tears Go By (1988) Johnnie To’s Fulltime Killer (2001) Infernal Affairs (2002) and of course the award winning House of the Flying Daggers (2004). One of the points noted in the discussion that followed the film was the role food played and may put you off ox tongue for life but don’t be put off this wonderful film. This is the third week of the Film Club and we have been very lucky with the choice of films thus far. 

The film swept the Hong Kong Film Awards.

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