Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Wong Kwok Fai's The Moment is an imperfect movie which still does have its moments (film review)

An iconic Hong Kong sight which can be seen 
in more than one scene in The Moment

The Moment (Hong Kong, 2016)
- Wong Kwok Fai, director
- Starring: Gordon Lam Ka Tung, Poon Chan Leung, Eric Suen, Carman Kong, Kelvin Kwan, Dada Chan, Eric Kwok, Grace Ip
Pretty much every time I venture along the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator or catch sight of -- never mind venture into -- Chungking Mansions, I get to thinking of Chungking Express.  But while director Wong Kwok Fai's first feature film is nowhere near the same level as Wong Kar Wai's magical whimsical romantic classic, it's also true enough that I will get to thinking of The Moment now whenever I see a Mobile Softee ice cream truck!

And even though it's also the case that this ensemble drama which ambitiously seeks to tell and link together the stories of four different pairs of individuals is nowhere near to being a cinematic masterpiece, it admittedly does have its moments (pun intended!).  Furthermore, this offering -- which happens to share the same English title as a 2014 Taiwanese documentary but is otherwise very different -- endears itself to me for happening to be one of those increasingly rare Hong Kong movies whose cinematographer and location scout(s) look to be utterly willing to take advantage of the territory possessing some very photogenic as well as culturally iconic spaces and structures (including mobile ones).
The Moment also makes good use of character-filled interior locations -- notably the vintage photography studio which the socially awkward Chan Kar Fai (Gordon Lam Ka Tung) appears to have spent a good bulk of his life, and is extremely reluctant to let go of despite a persistent property agent, Lee Chi Kin (Poon Chan Leung), insisting that Fai's father (Richard Ng) had agreed to sell the place before he suffered the stroke that's left him hospitalized and unable to speak.  
As it so happens, the best ever portrait that Fai may well have taken was of Kin when the two of them were at school together and fast friends.  And even while they fight over what's to happen to the property in which the photography studio is located, Kin -- somewhat unbelievably but also at times amusingly -- ends up posing again for Fai, and even striking the same poses in the original photo taken decades ago!
Among the many other individuals who have had their pictures taken in that photography studio over the years are Hin (Kelvin Kwan) and Yin (Dada Chan), a pair of thespians who used to be a real life romantic pair but now are only playing a couple in a movie currently being filmed.  More recently, Wai Man (Eric Kwok) had a series of photos taken of himself in the same photography studio which were revealed on the occasion that he asked the woman he loved (played by real-life wife Grace Ip) to marry him.  
But while Ah Yo (Carman Kong) does venture into the photography studio, she dejectedly leaves without Fai carrying out her request to photoshop a picture of her father (Eric Suen) taken in Hong Kong along with one of a snap of her mother and her taken over in her native Canada.  And even sadder still is how clunkily contrived all of The Moment's four tales turn out to be; with their credibility quotient not being helped by the way that many of their scenes have been visually arranged, and a number of these characters being prone to express themselves by way of long, uninterrupted monologues that come across as extremely stagey as well as overly-theatrical.     

For all this though, all bar one of the film's quartet of stories did have at least one moment that moved.  In addition, this viewer did get the sense that this film's makers do have their heart in the right place, even if their storytelling abilities haven't reached the requisite level to compellingly relate the complicated narratives they have attempted to do so.  Consequently, The Moment's messages about the possibility to make amends and start all over again are ones that I'll take as encouragingly uplifting rather than completely corny.   
My rating for this film: 6.0

No comments: