Tung was once a fisherman in Aberdeen Harbor, but he now works as a Taoist
priest, specializing in the “Breaking Hell” ceremony. Unfortunately, the patriarch
cannot break the Hell of his own family. Resentments will be nursed and
neuroses will run wild in Pang Ho-cheung’s Aberdeen
screens during the San Francisco Film Society’s annual Hong Kong Cinema series.
the Chengs have their own problems, particularly little Chloe. She is dealing
with bullies at school and her ailing chameleon, Greenie. Her parents are
outwardly supportive and engaged, but her father Cheng Wai-tao has come to privately
doubt whether he truly is her father. She just doesn’t seem cute enough to be
the daughter of the super-slick motivational speaker and his actress-model
wife, Cici. At least, she was an actress-model. Gigs have become scarce and
getting scarcer, as she proceeds to get steadily older.
Chloe’s uncle Yau Kin-cheung is having a reckless affair with his much younger
but increasingly codependent nurse, while his oblivious wife (Wai-tao’s older
sister) struggles with her unresolvable mother issues. Unfortunately, Cheng
Tung is not allowed to exercise much authority. Offended by his relationship with
a bar hostess, his son has almost completely frozen the old man out.
HK cinema fans who primarily know Pang for his naughty screwball comedy Vulgaria and the gory satire Dream Home, the sensitive family drama
of Aberdeen will be quite a
revelation. While there are distinctive fantastical interludes, particularly
the Kaiju Greenie rampaging through the scale model streets of Hong Kong, it is
still thoroughly grounded and often quite subtle. On paper, the beached whale
that becomes a focal point for the Chengs and the unexploded WWII ordinance
discovered near Yau’s flat sound like face-palmingly heavy handed symbolism,
yet Pang never overplays them.
what her father says, young Lee Man-kwai’s Chloe is all kinds of cute and she
anchors the film very effectively. However, it is Gigi Leung who really lands the
knock-out punch as Cici. There have been a number of films about actresses struggling
to maintain their careers as time flies, one of the most notable being Olivier
Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria. Yet,
as great as Juliette Binoche is in that film, the audience never comes to know
and understand her character as we do Leung’s Cici. She has a few key scenes
that will just cut your legs out from under you. She also looks great, as does
Dada Chan who appears in an extended cameo playing a character much like her
pre-Vulgaria persona, probably as a
thank you to Pang for her award-winning breakout role.
is rather remarkable how many interconnected relationships Pang and his
all-star cast are able to fully flesh out. Surprisingly potent but never
overbearing, Pang’s Aberdeen captures
the messiness of life with honesty and affection. Highly recommended, it
screens this Sunday (11/16) as part of the SFFS’s Hong Kong Cinema series.
Labels: Gigi Leung, HK Cinema at SFFS '14, Hong Kong Cinema, Pang Ho-cheung