The 13th New York Asian Film Festival began Friday, so it’s time to see Hong Kong triad movies, Korean dramas, and cryptic Japanese movies about swordsmen and alienated teenagers. Also there are guest stars – thanks to those Korean/Hong Kong/Taiwan Cultural Service people, the biggest stars from Asia are flown in to hang out with us reg’lar folk at Lincoln Center. Sandra Ng, Hong Kong’s Queen of Comedy, made the journey to pick up the Star Asia Award – and take questions after screening some of her films.
Golden Chicken (2002)
Hong Kong’s answer to Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, Golden Chicken follows the downward sloping career path of a hooker with a heart of gold. Like Giulietta Masina in Cabiria, Sandra Ng plays a more comic than erotic prostitute.
Locked in a bank’s ATM center during a power outage, Ng’s character Kum (!) tells the story of her career to a would-be thief. As the journey unfolds, a mini-history of life in Hong Kong over the last few decades takes shape. Great sets and guest stars (Andy Lau!) add appeal to the farcical tale.
Portland Street Blues (1998)
A triad movie from the “Young and Dangerous” series, Portland Street Blues depicts the rise to power of Thirteen, a punky chick who becomes a lesbian pimp mob boss.
The movie has some good scenes, but is all over the place storywise. Most of the film is told in a flashback, and I have to admit I lost track of where the flashback ended and the story picked up again. In addition, there is a scene where Thirteen agrees to become a police informant – a seemingly major plot point that is never mentioned again. (Apparently the scene was added for the release of the film in Malaysia, which has one of those crime doesn’t pay censorship laws – but it still makes for some messy viewing.) And for a movie about a lesbian, there is a lengthy subplot about Thirteen’s heterosexual crush – I think the only reason they made her a lesbian is because Sandra Ng looked great in a suit.
Though it didn’t completely hold together, it was still a good movie. The supporting cast was great – Kristy Yang as Ng’s bestie, Alex Fong as the kickboxing male love interest, and especially John Ching as bad guy Brother S.O.B. But of course major kudos go to Sandra Ng for showing incredible range in two strong performances as very different characters.