Hong Kong, 2011
119 minutes, in Cantonese with English subtitles
Directed by: Ann Hui
Starring: Andy Lau, Deanie Ip, Paul Chun, Anthony Wong, Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Monday, July 9 @ 5pm (buy tickets)
Intimate, quiet, tender, and with deep, emotional undercurrents, Ann Hui’s latest film is absolutely stunning. Western critics, who seem to think that the only people allowed to make movies that require concentration are European men, have taken it to task for “meandering” and being “too long.” If that’s true, then the same could be said about Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. What Ann Hui has made is a movie as humble, handcrafted, and meaningful as a monk’s begging bowl. But it’s as profound as Buddhism itself. People who don’t write for the Western press agree: lead actress, Deanie Ip, won “Best Actress” at the Venice Film Festival, and the film won “Best Actor,” “Best Actress,” and “Best Director” at the Golden Horse Awards, and all three of those same three awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards, too.
Based on the life of the film’s producer, Roger Lee, Andy Lau plays a motion picture accountant who leads a globe-trotting lifestyle, but who always comes home to the apartment in Hong Kong he shares with Deanie Ip, his family’s servant. His family have all moved to San Francisco, hers have all passed away, but every day she takes care of him the way she has all her life. Then she has a stroke and asks to go into a nursing home. Andy Lau reluctantly agrees and finds that just as she has cared for him all his life, he can now return her kindness and take care of her as her own life ends.
As Deanie Ip’s health causes her life to become more and more limited, Andy is there for her every step of the way, doing his best to provide her with some human connection as her life slowly draws to a close. All three individuals – Andy Lau, Deanie Ip, and Ann Hui – could retire after this movie, and consider their careers well-spent. But its surprise box office success has inspired Ann and Deanie, in particular, to keep working. And watching their film, it’s easy to see why people have responded to it so strongly. Because this is what it looks like when a human life drifts away, as gently as smoke from a stick of incense. Watch carefully, because one day it’s going to happen to us all.
(See more Andy Lau at our Infernal Affairs 1 & 2 – Tenth Anniversary Screening)