The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Fruit Chan Day

 

‘As we near the end of not just a year but a decade, we’re becoming inundated with even more lists than usual, as we look back at the last ten years in cinema and are compelled to rank movies for some unknown, possibly nefarious purpose. My default answer for the question of which film has most defined this past decade is Fruit Chan’s The Midnight After (2014), a response which is usually greeted with benign indifference, bemusement, or confusion. But for those of us on its wavelength, no film more perfectly defines this accelerationist decade than the story of the end of the world as seen through sixteen people on a Hong Kong minibus who have no idea what has happened to them, why it happened, or what they should do next. They fumble through explanation after explanation as they are whittled down one by one in horrific fashion (disease, fire, murder, frontier justice, mysterious government agents) before driving off into the unknown through a torrential rain of blood. If that doesn’t explain what it’s like to live in a world where Donald Trump is president, I don’t know what does.

The Midnight After was Chan’s return to regular feature filmmaking after a decade of wandering. After finally breaking though in the West with his contribution to the omnibus film Three… Extremes (in which he was paired with the more well-known but no more accomplished Takashi Miike and Park Chan-wook), which he expanded into a full feature called Dumplings in 2004, he spent the next ten years producing other people’s movies, contributing to other omnibus films (Chengdu I Love You, Tales from the Dark), and directing the 2009 English-language remake of Hideo Nakata’s horror film Don’t Look Up. It was a weird turn for a filmmaker whose career to that point was already bizarre, even by Hong Kong standards.

‘Fruit Chan spent most of the 1980s working as an assistant director for filmmakers like Sammo Hung, Alfred Cheung, David Lai, and Ronny Yu. He made his first feature, Finale in Blood, in 1990, but it didn’t get released until three years later. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent debut, a ghost story in the vein of Ann Hui’s The Secret, or Stanley Kwan’s Rouge, but grimier and pulpier, evincing the darker edge Hong Kong cinema would take in the 1990s. Chan’s counterpart in this regard is Herman Yau, who made his first films right around the same time, and who similarly combined pulp crime and horror stories with grimy, realist techniques, picking up a thread of early Hong Kong New Wave films like Tsui Hark’s Dangerous Encounters-First Kind that had been abandoned as the New Wave directors attained positions of prominence in the film industry.

In 1997, after years scrounging leftover film stock from other people’s productions and working with a cast of non-actors, Chan released Made in Hong Kong, a wholly independent film that fully recaptured the spirit of the early New Wave. Another kind of ghost story, it’s about dirt poor teens in Hong Kong and their lives of petty crime, abuse, and lack of adequate health care. But unlike Tsui’s kids in Dangerous Encounters, or Ringo Lam’s in School on Fire, Chan’s heroes are completely aware that the world is totally stacked against them, and yet find romance in clinging together against the hopelessness of their situation (in this it is vastly more successful than Derek Tsang’s Better Days).

Made in Hong Kong was a sensation, winning Chan a prize at Locarno and the Best Director award at both the Golden Horse and Hong Kong Film Awards. He followed it up with a series of films in the New Wave style: realist films set among Hong Kong’s poorest communities, frequently using non-actors, blending slice of life details with familiar genre conventions, primarily gangster and ghost stories. His 1998 The Longest Summer was filmed during the actual Handover ceremonies, with Chan and his actors prowling through the crowds and capturing the celebrations, such as they were, as Hong Kong came under Mainland Chinese control. It starts as a familiar gangster movie, but as the Handover draws near and Hong Kong moves into its uncertain future, the plot dissolves in an ever-shifting series of betrayals and monsoon rains.

‘Chan’s next two films take place for the most part in a back alley in Mongkok. Little Cheung (1999) is about a boy growing up amid poverty and Triads, and his friendship with a girl who recently sneaked across the border with her family. It’s sequel, of sorts, is Durian Durian (2000), which starts with the girl’s family but centers on a prostitute who lives in the same alley and occasionally interacts with them. Halfway through the film, the prostitute returns home to Northern China, which gives Chan the opportunity to compare and contrast life in the former colony with life on the Mainland. The second half of the film bears a striking resemblance to Jia Zhangke’s Platform, which had premiered just two months earlier in 2001, as the young woman’s life revolves around her family and former friends in a provincial music and dance troupe.

His next film, 2001’s Hollywood Hong Kong, is similarly about a prostitute, played by Zhou Xun (the first real star actor Chan ever worked with) who scams her way through and out of a Hong Kong slum, and the family of pig butchers she leaves in her wake. It takes Chan’s love of grotesque and black comedy across the line into mean-spiritedness, though it’s impossible not to applaud the happy ending Zhou makes for herself. He followed it up with what is his most idealistic and utopian film, a movie about the one thing that surely unites the world, rich and poor, Asian and European, men and women: pooping. Public Toilet (2002) is set in and around restrooms in Hong Kong, Beijing, Busan, New York, Rome, and the Ganges. It’s very gross, very goofy, and the closest Chan ever got to being hopeful. Then, in 2004, he made Dumplings, which, in both its short and feature length forms, is about a former abortionist who sells fetuses to rich women to help combat the effects of aging. Aside from an exceptional performance from Bai Ling, and a fine sense of atmosphere from Chan and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, it doesn’t have a lot going for it. Chan seems content with the outrageousness of the premise, as if that were enough to sustain a whole feature (it isn’t—I haven’t seen the short version though, I imagine it plays better that way). And then it was a decade before The Midnight After.

‘Based on an unfinished serialized web novel written by someone known only as PIZZA, The Midnight After is about a late-night minibus to the Taipo neighborhood of Hong Kong. After the bus passes through the Lion Rock Tunnel, everyone but its passengers seems to disappear. Chan’s mines the surrealness of empty Hong Kong streets for all the eeriness he can, while strange fates befall the passengers. One young man sees ghosts and demons, another decodes a mysterious message as a David Bowie song, Simon Yam tries to take charge, but only reveals his failures as a friend and father, while Kara Hui rants about aliens and bad vibes. Lam Suet, the bus driver, fights off a zombified drug addict with a machete, while a pack of college students dissolve in an inexplicable disease. Theories abound as to what’s happened: something to do with Fukushima, or North Korea, or the impending elections. But none prove satisfactory and all ultimately fade away into a mood of paranoia and fear, the only escape being a wild drive out of the city and into the unknown. It’s Chan’s masterpiece, and it only took on more resonance as, later in 2014, Hong Kong itself erupted in protests regarding the very elections referenced in the film. Looking back at it now, in the era of Trump and Brexit and a Hong Kong more radicalized and wracked with protest than it has ever been, The Midnight After isn’t just one of the great movies of the 2010s or about the 2010s, it is the 2010s.

‘In the years since, Chan has worked steadily, though none of the three movies he’s made since have been released in the U.S. They’re also the three least interesting movies of his career, and collectively show the kind of bind Hong Kong filmmakers find themselves in now that the industry has become almost wholly reliant on the Chinese market.’ — Sean Gilman

 

___
Stills
















































 

___
Further

Fruit Chan @ IMDb
Interview Fruit Chan
Fruit Chan @ Senses of Cinema
Hong Kong’s real estate market madness
Fruit Chan @ Chaos Reign
Fruit Chan’s Uncanny Narrative and (Post-)97 Complex
Fruit Chan @ Letterboxd
Fracturing, fixing and healing bodies in the films of Fruit Chan
Book: ‘Fruit Chan’s Made in Hong Kong’
Revisiting Hong Kong: Fruit Chan’s ‘Little Cheung’
Discover this anarchic ’90s portrait of youthful despair
The class imaginary in Fruit Chan’s films
Fruit Chan @ Asian Movie Pulse
A Unity of Fragments: Fruit Chan and Hong Kong Cinema
Fruit Chan’s Made in Hong Kong Essay
The representation of Hong Kong identity in Fruit Chan’s films
The caution of cannibal capitalism in Fruit Chan’s Dumplings
INTERVIEW: FRUIT CHAN, 20 YEARS ON FROM MADE IN HONG KONG
Fruit Chan on Balancing Independent and Commercial Filmmaking
The Immortality Blues: Talking with Fruit Chan About Dumplings

 

___
Extra


Masterclass Series: Fruit CHAN

 

____
Interview

 

Do you acknowledge any influences in terms of directors, movie currents?

(Smiles) I appreciate directors who make really good quality movies, whoever it is and which country they are from. The directors who have really influenced me, I think, are Japanese. Directors of the sixties, like Nagisa Oshima. Because they make realistic movies that talk about society problems. I like the era of the sixties in Japan, when young people, young directors were really hot to change the system. So when I made Made in Hong Kong in 1997, I suddenly thought about Oshima. It was a very uncomfortable era in Hong Kong, leadership was taking a new shape, from capitalism to, maybe, communism. Maybe! (Laughs) So we were really worried about that. Even the mainstream movie industry could not deal with such a subject matter, so I suddenly thought :”OK, let me do it!” That’s why Made in Hong Kong came into being. (Smiles)

It is said in your biography that you worked with mainstream directors such as Jackie Chan and Kirk Wong in the 80’s.

I have worked in Hong Kong during the early 80’s. I followed many, many different directors, including the mainstream directors : Jackie Chan, Kirk Wong, Ronny Yu, Shu Kei, many mainstream directors. Honestly, they’re different guys, with different styles. But one thing that is always quite the same in Hong Kong is action ! (Laughs) The eighties were a glamorous era in the Hong Kong film industry, I think. From every director, I learned their skills, how to make action films, how to make comedy films, love story films, different things. I cannot measure who the best director is.

When you were younger, you ran a movie club…

Wow, you’re mentioning this! (Laughs) Let me remember… I was working in a small club called Hong Kong Film Culture Center. This club gathered many new directors from the early 80’s : Yim Ho, Ann Hui, all educated in film and stage in the UK. I think the early eighties were an embarrassing moment for the Hong Kong film industry, but this new group made things very exciting again for us. So I was glad to work in this film center, to work with them. This center also allowed me to learn a little more about film techniques, production, script-writing, and make short films. Because I was so young, I didn’t really know who the best directors were, which one was the good guy, you know. But after one year, I went into the film industry and had the opportunity to work for them. I think that time was quite exciting to me. The film culture center was my first step for me to go into the film industry.

How did you cast the two juvenile stars of Little Cheung ?

For Little Cheung, I picked up two kids from the street, from different places. I picked up Little Cheung himself in a poor village in the Kowloon area. It’s one island quite far from Hong Kong. When I first found that couple of children, honestly, I didn’t know how I would direct them, because they didn’t have any experience as actors. I started by getting acquainted with them. I gave them time so that we could in a way begin to feel like a family. When we started filming, they hadn’t seen the script. Because kids don’t always understand what you want to say through a movie. So, you know, in Little Cheung, there are some stunts and action scenes like the bicycle chase. So Yiu Yuet-Ming had to learn how to ride the bicycle, which was an adult’s bicycle. So I had to worry whether the kids could follow me through everything I wanted to do in the movie. Could Little Cheung ride that bicycle and chase the ambulance in the final scene ? That was very difficult.

But I was lucky. When we were going to start filming, I carefully taught them how to act their roles naturally. But after ten days, the children became more mature, they knew how to act, they liked to work with us. They certainly became more mature, but I don’t like children to be mature, I just want them to act naturally. So sometimes, I didn’t like their performance. Sometimes, they asked me : ” Could you show me how to do this ? “, as if they were models. But I never did that. Children learn so quickly that if you do that, they’ll want to copy exactly what you did. I’m not a stupid guy ! (Laughs) But we had great fun on location. Finally, I was very lucky and we did a very good job on Little Cheung. That’s why I’m proud of that film.

Let’s talk about Sam Lee, who’s again in your latest film, Public Toilet.

After Made in Hong Kong, Sam Lee became very active professionally. For the ending of Little Cheung, I invited him for one shot. I felt he had already grown up, become a very mature, professional actor. For my latest movie, Public Toilet, I invited him again for one small role in the New York part. But, you know, in fact, I don’t like his acting, he’s become too professional. He’s very busy now. It’s not like the old days, when we were working together like a family. I could call him any time, to be together and discuss movies. Not any more. This time, it was different.

Why did you settle for a techno soundtrack in Made in Hong Kong ?

The music in Made in Hong Kong is a special case. I didn’t know what kind of music I would use. But my cinematographer could play the music, but not as a professional musician. He had composed music tracks in his computer and he gave me a tape. When I listened to it, I thought it was very exciting. So I used the music for two scenes, Sam Lee holding a gun in the room and his mission in the mountains as a killer. For those scenes, I already had the music in my mind. It influenced me to create more visuals. But at that time, I had no idea what kind of music I liked. But I was sure that this music could perfectly fit my scenes in Made in Hong Kong. Otherwise, I like several kinds of music, not just one.

Let’s talk about the representation of gangsters in your films.

In my movies, indeed, I always have a gangster section. But my gangsters are usually different from the mainstream gangster description. Because I don’t like gangsters! (Laughs) But in Hong Kong, you live with gangsters all around (Smiles). But sometimes, they are not very bad, they can be good, quite human, sometimes good, sometimes less good. Because in my movies, I try to pick up realistic life styles in Hong Kong, this is why I want to show them as human beings. So in my movies, even a gangster is quite a human being. I guess it’s different from mainstream movies.

What do you think of Hong Kong’s film production between 1995 and 1999, in the midst of the economic recession ?

From 1995 to 1999, it definitely wasn’t the best period in the Hong Kong film industry. But many filmmakers became mature and their productions were successful, like UFO’s productions and even Wong Kar-wai’s productions were quite successful in those years. From 1997 onwards, the economic crisis came, the production of mainstream movies declined. Even UFO’s productions were going down. But other films like Made in Hong Kong certainly made a strong appearance at that time and proved that new films could be born in Hong Kong. So I was very lucky even though the market was down. That was my moment ! (Laughs)

All in all, UFO’s movies went down, Wong Kar Wai got along better. From 1995 to 1997, things were basically OK. But 1998 to 1999 was the worst time in Hong Kong. My situation was a bit different, because I am independent. After 2000 until now, the HK film industry certainly became better, because the internet industry got involved financially. They made the market more energetic, many new companies started making movies for their portals. I don’t know why, actually ! (Laughs) But later on, many Internet companies started to disappear. However, the movie industry kept going better and better ! (Laughs) At the film markets, the ratings for Hong Kong films have already upped by 20%. It’s better than 1995 to 1997. You can’t believe that ! (Smiles)

Does the genesis of Durian Durian stem from your encounters with prostitutes when shooting Little Cheung?

Yes. When I was making Little Cheung in Kowloon, there were many gangsters and prostitutes around. Common people also, indeed! (Laughs) As my location was very close to my office, every time I could walk my way to the shooting. And every time, I could see many girls walking around the streets. So I certainly got interested in their behavior, what they were doing. So I went after some girls and inquired about them. Finally, I found the subject matter of Durian Durian, prostitutes from mainland China in Hong Kong. So I thought, if I make my movie on this subject matter, maybe it will give me a new vision, a new inspiration. You know, Little Cheung was the last part of my 1997 trilogy. So I had no idea what I would do afterwards. But I found myself interested in making movies about the prostitution topic. So immediately after finishing Little Cheung, I did more research on that topic. I interviewed over 100 girls, went to their places, asked them where they came from, what was their ultimate destination. So finally, I made my decision : this subject matter could make my second trilogy ! (Laughs) So Durian Durian is the first part, Hollywood Hong Kong is the second part, but I don’t know exactly when I will make the third film.

I think the topic of prostitution also has to do with the fast evolution of mainland China. The communist system is changing, and the economic structure is changing also, forcing women to come to Hong Kong and earn money as prostitutes. But they feel quite lost and don’t always know why they are doing what they are doing. They could not always give me the answer to this question. But I think it’s also a question of changing morals. Anyway, life is also about earning money, as you know! (Laughs)

To shoot some scenes of Durian Durian, you used hidden cameras…

Yes, and that was very difficult. There were many gangsters standing in the streets, like watchmen, you know. Because they were keeping watch for policemen coming. So I thought, if I need the girls walking around the places, how could I do that? We thought of many ideas, like hiding the camera in a car, on a bicycle. Sometimes, we needed one long shot, not fast edited shots. So this was our big problem. One day, suddenly, there was a big typhoon in Hong Kong. It’s like a holiday day in Hong Kong. When there is a big typhoon, you don’t have to go to work. But the prostitution industry doesn’t stop, no, no, no ! (Laughs) So immediately I called my colleagues to film the prostitutes. I said to them to go anywhere, and I followed them. But finally, we watched the footage and thought that it was too calm, like a country after war, with nothing, as if everybody had died ! (Laughs) So I didn’t like it. In Hong Kong, there are always many people in the streets. So I said OK, I decided to throw away this part and shoot everything again. Finally, we thought about making a wooden box with just small hole to fit the camera lens. The only thing was, the girls had to keep a certain distance while walking to ensure that the focus was correct. In the end, nobody knew we were filming ! (Laughs) This idea was very good. I could finally fulfil my job.

Then comes Hollywood Hong Kong, in which you employ a young professional Chinese actress. Quite surprising. The setting of the film is also quite surprising…

Making the second installment of the “Prostitution trilogy” was more difficult again. You know, in the film industry – though I don’t know the Western system – in Hong Kong at least, everybody is worried when it comes to employing animals and children ! (Laughs) But for Hollywood Hong Kong, I had to cast my animal first (a big sow). And the area in the movie is a very poor village in Hong Kong, just in front of tall middle class buildings. So the scenery was fantastic for me. For the role of the young prostitute in this movie, I needed a girl who was exactly from mainland China. So while making Durian Durian, actually, I was already casting my new actors for the next movie. To find the mainland girl, I went to China, Beijing, Shanghai, but failed to find the right girl, because many Chinese girls could not speak Cantonese. I was mainly looking for a non-professional actress, because I usually don’t like professional actresses’ performances. But shortly before the movie went into production, I changed my mind and decided to search for a professional actress from mainland China. So Zhou Xun, who is in the movie, is quite famous in China.

About playing in the movie, I told her that she would have to be very patient, because her partners would be non-professionals. (Laughs) I said to her : “Don’t complain, I won’t have time for your complaints!” (Laughs) But she’s good. She overcame the problems, the mistakes of the non-professional actors. But we had to shoot a lot, repeat takes many times. Very difficult! (Laughs) The other thing is, I made this in the summertime, which is the hottest season – July, August – living in the wooden and corrugated iron shacks below, in this poor village was terrible, because the sun is very strong. And since the top of the houses is made of steel, it reflected the sun and was burning hot. So everybody started to take their shirts off ! (Laughs) That gave them an interesting look any way. It made things funny. Anyway, even though we had all kinds of problems shooting this movie, when you see it, you laugh and you don’t know how hard it was to make it. By the way, the village was torn down right after the shoot. That’s too bad, because maybe I could have shot Hollywood Hong Kong 2 in the same place ! (Laughs)

How did the strange subject of Public Toilet come about ?

When I was making Durian Durian in mainland China, we went to many public toilets in mainland China. These were terrible places, completely different from toilets of other countries. So I thought, maybe this could be a good subject for my next movie. Because when I was making Little Cheung, you know, I found the subject for Durian Durian. So this is basically the same process. When I’m making a movie, I can usually find the subject matter for my following project.

This time, you had to use digital video. Did you enjoy the experience ?

The investor, Digital Nega, emphasized that I had to make the movie with digital video. Personally, I don’t like digital video ! (Laughs) When I first saw the image on the monitor in the studio, I hated it. The texture is not the same. I like film. But as I used it more and more, I found out that it was very convenient for shooting in complicated places. Like for instance, in New York, I could shoot anywhere and nobody could stop me, because it was like shooting a family movie! (Laughs) Nobody knew what I was doing! (Laughs)

 

____________
15 of Fruit Chan’s 25 films

____________
Finale in Blood (1993)
‘Fruit Chan’s second film, I’ve been unable to track down his first, 1991’s Five Lonely Hearts. This one’s a ghost story, basically a scuzzier version of Stanley Kwan’s Rouge (Ann Hui’s The Secret comes to mind too. This might be the last Hong Kong New Wave film, in that it feels like it should have been made a decade earlier). Lawrence Cheng plays a nerdy radio announcer who happens across an umbrella that’s possessed by the spirit of a woman who died because her cop husband (David Wu, the lust object from Starry is the Night), couldn’t stop sleeping with his favorite prostitute. Right from the start Chan is doing the thing he’s best at, smashing together a pulpy comic horror story with a view of Hong Kong at its grimiest: sudden torrents of rain, sweaty buildings, and desperately hopeless people alive and dead.’ — Sean Gilman


English Trailer


Chinese Trailer

 

______________
Made in Hong Kong (1997)
‘An independent film in every sense of the word, Made in Hong Kong was shot on a shoestring budget in authentic locations, using non-professional actors and leftover film stock collected by director Fruit Chan while he was working as an assistant direc­tor. Completed with financial assistance from superstar Andy Lau, Chan’s film dazzled audiences and critics with its stylish, allegorical story of a doomed triad youth whose struggle for relevance rings far and true. Made in Hong Kong won Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, and is widely considered one of the first great Hong Kong films released following the 1997 handover.

Made in Hong Kong is considered the first film in Fruit Chan’s ‘Handover Trilogy’ – a loose grouping that places it thematically alongside Chan’s The Longest Summer (1998) and Little Cheung (1999) – but the film possesses themes and ideas that are universal, and carry weight no matter time or place. In the wake of recent world events, as divisions between people grow and the future seems hopelessly uncertain, the story of a nobody struggling against his powerlessness is acutely appropriate. This is as must-see as Hong Kong cinema gets.’ — Ross Chen


Trailer


Excerpt


Excerpts

 

_______________
The Longest Summer (1998)
‘Many a Hong Kong gangster film, dating back to Johnny Mak’s The Long Arm of the Law, released in 1984, the year of the Joint Declaration that set 1997 as the date of the Handover, has tapped into the apocalyptic fear and dread of the colony’s doom, but Chan’s underworld saga has an immediacy to it rare in the genre, attuned to the climate both literally and spiritually, seamlessly incorporating footage he shot during the actual Handover events with staged scenes of violent and romantic longing. The fictional world, tightly-plotted and -characterized in its first half, dissolves in the second in a dizzying unraveling of loyalties, national, societal, familial, all melting away in the black humidity of an unending monsoon. It’s a long summer and it’s the last summer, its many, many fireworks (the Chinese title roughly translates as “Last Year’s Fireworks Were Especially Big”) celebrating with loud authority an uncertain future.’ — Sean Gilman


Trailer

 

______________
Little Cheung (1999)
‘There are three Cheungs in Chan’s complex and inventive film: the dying Cantonese opera star Tang Wing-Cheung (to whom the film is dedicated), the original Kid Cheung (child star Bruce Lee in a ’50s movie) and the film’s nine-year-old protagonist, who helps out in his family’s restaurant in the working class district of Mongkok, surrounded by hookers, gangsters, coffin makers and illegal immigrants from China. Framed as an investigation into the community’s economic structures and dynamics, the film (set in 1996, on the eve of the handover) uses a non-pro cast and a free form plot to assert what’s specific and distinctive about HK’s culture – albeit defined across Chan’s now-familiar scatological obsessions. With a Kieslowskian flourish the protagonists of Made in Hong Kong and The Longest Summer turn up in the closing moments, making this the third part of an informal ‘handover trilogy’.’ — Time Out (London)

Trailer


Excerpt

 

________________
Durian Durian (2000)
‘Playing with contrasts, metaphors and docu-style observations, “Durian Durian” is yet another significant tile in the larger “Hong Kong mosaic” that Chan’s films of the post-handover years, have created. After the marginalized youth of “Made in Hong Kong”, the destructive path of the left behind in “The Longest Summer” and the family and community’s economic dynamics in “Little Cheung”, with “Durian Durian” the director goes beyond the subject matter of the the increasing phenomenon of Chinese immigrants working as prostitutes in Hong Kong, to observe the fragile equilibrium between Hong Kong and China, from the perspective of a specific class, and how the social reality translates from one side to the other.’ — Adriana Rosati


Trailer


Interview with Fruit Chan on Durian Durian

 

_______________
Hollywood Hong Kong (2001)
‘Following “Durian Durian” at a short distance, “Hollywood Hong Kong” is billed as the second instalment of the Prostitute Trilogy. A personal favourite, the film has a playfulness and a blend of comedy, sleaze, horror and Cat III flavours that make it rather different from the more realistic previous one. In fact, the only evident similarity is the protagonist being a Mainland prostitute working in Hong Kong to make money to fulfill her dream. With this flight of fantasy that is “Hollywood Hong Kong”, Fruit Chan has managed once again to push his political agenda and create a piece of resistance against China-centrism, while at the same time, still succeeding in entertaining, amusing and captivating.’ — Variety


Trailer

 

______________
Public Toilet (2002)
‘“It’s clearly Fruit Chan’s weakest effort to date, but it’s the only film here that shows any interest in the real word so far”. That was in essence my somewhat defensive appraisal of Public Toilet, published in a report of last year’s disastrous Venice Film Festival. “It’s not for the public, not for the critics, but for himself”, the film’s press agent told me after the screening, whilst I scanned the premises in vain for any colleagues or acquaintances who hadn’t given up early, “that’s why I like it.” I couldn’t help agreeing, still somewhat clueless concerning the 102 puzzling minutes I’d just sat through. In a year when Sokurov’s Russian Ark or Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Elsewhere achieved cinematic beauty with Digital Video (not to mention Michael Snow, who carved a singular aesthetic out of the medium in *Corpus Callosum), Chan seemed to have embarked on a mission to prove the DV detractors right – Public Toilet looks, a few bold experiments notwithstanding, shoddy, messy, ugly, patched together, whatever you name it, like something you’d just found on the floor and, moved by curiosity, want to pick up, though not with anything smaller in size than a ten-foot-pole.’ — Christoph Huber


Trailer

 

_______________
Dumplings (2004)
‘Remains after a 90-minute feast of fetus-filled dumplings concocted by director Fruit Chan is not the horror that typically follows a movie classified as such. Instead, it’s a farrago of trepidation (indeed), unrelenting sadness, and nostalgic longing. Embellished by Christopher Doyle’s mesmerizing visuals, Chan’s “Dumplings” elevates a gruesome tale of cannibalism to a classy metaphor of Hong Kong after 1997, caught amid hysterical attempts by its dwellers to hold onto bygones.’ — AmselLuu


Trailer


Excerpt

 

______________
Chengdu, I love you (2009)
‘This film was designed to heal the pain of the great Sichuan earthquake. Fruit Chan and Cui Jian each produced an episode. Fruit Chan’s [1976] is the story of a tea master who returns to a tea house in Chengdu in 1976. Chengdu is famous for its roadside tea houses. Tea master Zhao Lei, who lives as a madman because of the guilt he feels from writing an accusation letter about his uncle that imprisoned him during the Cultural Revolution, trains Xiao Hong to become a tea master, and falls in love with her. 1976 is the year of the great Tangshan earthquake, and the year the Cultural Revolution came to a close. While everything is being destroyed, the beautiful tradition of tea ceremony and love remains alive. In the movie, the tea ceremony becomes a dance as well as an act of love.’ — BIFF


Trailer

 

______________
Don’t Look Up (2009)
‘Had you told me in 2008 that Hollywood would import Fruit Chan, the director of the phenomenal little flick Dumplings, to do Yet Another Asian Horror remake, I’d have laughed at you. If you then told me that Chan would bungle the movie almost completely, I probably would have been laughing so hard I wouldn’t have been able to breathe. And yet here we are with Don’t Look Up, a remake of Hideo Nakata’s 1996 flick Jôyu-rei. And it is almost as horrible as the critics would have you believe.’ — Robert “Goat” Beveridge


Trailer

 

______________
The Midnight After (2014)
‘Since the wickedly grotesque “Dumplings” (2004), the once-prolific Chan has dabbled in short and medium-length films that suggested he might have lost his creative edge. But by adapting Pizza’s “Lost on a Minibus From Mongkok to Taipo,” a Web novel that went viral, Chan has found an ideal vehicle for his deep affinity for his city’s culture. Referencing everything from SARS to “cha chaan teng” (local diners), and even a veiled connection between Fukushima and the Daya Bay nuclear power plant in neighboring Shenzhen, “The Midnight After” reps a hodgepodge of what defines the Hong Kong experience. Blithely unconcerned with subtlety, coherence or the Chinese market, the film sizzles with untranslatable colloquial wisecracks, trenchant social satire, and an ensemble cast of character actors and young up-and-comers at their freaky best. A mercurial ride that is decidedly outside the mainstream, it should nonetheless delight genre aficionados and bonafide fans of Hong Kong cinema.’ — Maggie Lee


Trailer

 

______________
Kill Time (2016)
‘The self-serving tendency of China’s lost generation – the former young adults “re-educated” in rural areas during the Cultural Revolution – forms a quietly simmering backdrop to Fruit Chan Gor’s new China-set film. Adapted from Cai Jun’s eponymous mystery novel, whose Chinese title literally puts “murder” into Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (also known as In Search of Lost Time), Kill Time is a frustratingly fragmented film that doesn’t always convince with its sprawling, decades-spanning saga of illegitimate desire and unconsummated love.’ — Edmund Lee


Trailer

 

_____________
Three Husbands (2018)
‘Maverick filmmaker Fruit Chan paints a grotesquely satirical picture of Hong Kong in “Three Husbands,” a heavily allegorical comedy-drama about a mentally challenged and virtually speechless prostitute who travels around the Special Administrative Region on a fishing boat and is relentlessly pimped out by her three “husbands.” Infused with Chan’s trademark absurdist humor and cheerful vulgarity, this fevered concoction is agreeably raunchy to start with but becomes a much more challenging and troubling proposition in a second half that’s light on laughter and heavy on extremely confronting sexual situations. Guaranteed to provoke discussion and even some outrage wherever it plays.’ — Richard Kuipers


Trailer

 

_____________
Invincible Dragon (2019)
‘There is something fascinating about having a director who has become known for independent and/or arthouse films directing a movie that falls under the action category, with Hou Hsiao-hsen’s “The Assassin” and Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster” being two of the most distinct samples. In that regard, I was somewhat eager to watch Fruit Chan’s effort in the martial arts genre, despite the fact that most of his studio-produced movies were mediocre, to say the least. Max Zhang’s presence, who has been groomed for Donnie Yen’s place in HK/Chinese action cinema since the aforementioned film, the script that also followed in that direction, the big budget, and Anderson Silva’s presence all pointed towards a movie, which, even if it ended up being a flick, it would at least be impressive and entertaining. Alas…’ — Panos Kotzathanasis


Trailer

 

_______________
Coffin Homes (2021)
‘Chan had taken jabs against the property business in his previous film The Abortionist (2019), and this time he lunges at it with full force. The satire is unrelenting, and the filmmakers go bananas with the horror. An early death scene features a crazy escalation of weapons as people strike each other with knives, barbecue forks and axes. And later stabbings and dismemberment come with great sprays of blood, as if the crew took cues from Monty Python’s “Salad Days” sketch. Traditional Hong Kong horror keys in too, with sights like extending limbs and an appearance by the underworld’s Ghost King. Coffin Homes’ lead cast including Wong You-nam, Tai Bo and Loletta Lee capably channel dark and grisly material, and veteran Paul Che is especially distinctive as the ghost of a butcher.

‘Squeamish viewers could do with a blood-and-guts alert for Chan’s movie – this is, after all, the type of film that proudly sports lines like “Stop! Why are you biting my intestines?!” But just as unpleasant is Coffin Homes’ real-life background: a property-market mess that burdens many Hongkongers day after day, year after year.’ — Tim Youngs


Trailer

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** Misanthrope, But a lifelike Timothee Chalamet sex doll might be the perfect cherry on the top of your teenaged boy/girl bedroom. Writing-wise, what’s that saying? The (something-or-other) wins the race? And 20 pounds isn’t bad at all. Well, unless you began losing at 400 pounds, which I’m assuming you didn’t. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Good! Body Worlds should be a corpse’s sworn enemy. I’m glad my love of yesterday arrived in tact. And I’ll certainly watch for the mail deliverer in hot anticipation your yesterday’s love. Love typing himself into the English -> Hungarian option on Google Translate and becoming ‘Dominick tulajdona’, G. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Ah, good catch! Everyone, If you want to watch that ‘Guys and Dolls’ documentary that was amongst yesterday’s post’s offerings, _Black_Acrylic to the rescue, i.e. he has discovered that you can watch it free of charge here. Great that your writing has returned to the front burner with excitement built in. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Everyone, Mr. Ehrenstein’s FaBlog has refreshed itself with a little quickie of a thing titled Oh No Joe!. ** Bill, I am in agreement with you. So happy you and Maryse hit it off so famously. Yes! And lucky you who got to slip into the great Quimby’s. I miss that place. And a couple of awesome scores there, man, yep. ** Right. Do you people out there in the world know the films of the cool, wonderfully named Fruit Chan? If not, you do now if you can spare some time and interest. See you tomorrow.

6 Comments

  1. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Fruit Chan is…wait for it…new to me! Surprised? Me neither. 😀

    Hahaha, nah, had gotten up to 235 somehow. And then was like, nope, not doing this. Not really pandemic-related at all, just lazy bones about things, which happens.

    Yeah, somebody wins the race eventually. I wonder what it’s like to win a race. 😮

    Man, you had to go there, didn’t you? Hahaha. The Timothee Chalamet sex doll. Okay, I’ll make an exception. 😉

  2. Dominik

    Hi!!

    I’m sure we’ve already talked about this, but I can’t remember what was said: do you like Xavier Dolan’s work?

    Aaawh, I really appreciate all the effort your love put into this! It was so weird to see a Hungarian phrase here, haha. I’m a proud owner. Love finally coming up with the perfect OnlyFans username Fruit Chan and starting to scream inconsolably when he finds out it’s an actual person’s name, Od.

  3. _Black_Acrylic

    I’m gonna rent Dumplings on DVD, alhough lately I have been skating on some thin ice with regard to my family viewing choices.

    One film going straight to the top of my wish list is Censor which opened here last week. Seems to be getting some major acclaim plus it has an intriguing premise too.

  4. Bill

    Being spacey, I’ve always associated Fruit Chan with uninteresting action movies. (I’ve seen 3 Extremes though.) Will definitely check out some of his films soon. They’re not easy to come by on the usual streaming services, but I see at least one on a torrent site. Fingers crossed.

    I wonder who came up with the title “Durian, Durian”, haha. The original is something like “Durian, Floating”.

    Bill

  5. Steve Erickson

    Chan seemed like he was heading for greatness in the late ’90s and early ’00s, but then the 10-year break after DUMPLINGS happened. His latest film, COFFIN HOMES, played the New York Asian Film Festival last Friday, but the reviews I read from HK were mostly negative. THE MIDNIGHT AFTER sounds intriguing.

    I will be writing an essay on THE EMPTY MAN & THE SMILEY FACE KILLERS and an aesthetic of surfaces and fatalism for Emily VanDerWerff’s blog, to be published just before Halloween.

    I saw SCREAM, QUEEN!, the 2019 documentary about NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. 2 actor Mark Patton, yesterday. While it’s pretty glib in parts and not particularly good filmmaking, it’s also extremely moving. The dilemma of Patton, who was inadvertently outed by NIGHTMARE 2 (I don’t believe director Jack Sholder when he says he didn’t spot any gay subtext in the images he made) as his lover was dying of AIDS and told he would have to force himself into the closet to keep having a career as an actor, is horrifying.

  6. David Ehrenstein

    The question before us is whether artists like Fruit Chan and Wong Kar Wai ca continue to work under Chinese rule.

    IDear Friends
    I’m having a massive sale
    LAVISHLY ILLUSTRARED FILM BOOKS FOR SALE
    numerous books, CDs and DVDs for sale at bargain prices. Call me and come over ASAP.
    I am fully vaccinated and all health issues will be taken into account.
    am not very encouraged

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2021 DC's

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑