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Now Playing! Hong Kong Cinema Brings Edgy Mainstream Fare to Roxie

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Still from 'Lady Improper.' (Courtesy of SFFILM)

SFFILM’s annual survey of new movies from Asia’s erstwhile filmmaking capital, Hong Kong Cinema (July 12–14 at the Roxie, except for the opening night screening of Tracey at New People Cinema), provides a fascinating snapshot of a national cinema in flux. Producers, directors and actors, understandably, are tempted to appeal to the immense Chinese market. But seeking favor in China can mean losing hometown fans, especially with Hong Kong’s youth flooding the streets to protest anti-democracy laws proposed by Chinese authorities.

How does an HK filmmaker maintain credibility and a viable career? Artists are notoriously idiosyncratic, thankfully, so commercial films made in Hong Kong frequently play with mainstream conventions and assumptions. Lee Cheuk-pan’s celebrated debut feature, G Affairs, sets out as a highly stylized murder mystery involving a corrupt cop and his high-achieving daughter, a world-weary prostitute and a high school cellist. The director constructs his cool exposure of a societal epidemic of self-interest via an array of details, objects and sound cues starting with the letter G.

Still from 'Missbehavior.'
Still from ‘Missbehavior.’ (Courtesy of SFFILM)

Jessy Tsang’s The Lady Improper flaunts expectations through the distinctly adult performance of former teenage pop star Charlene Choi. Her character, a sexually repressed and newly divorced gynecological nurse (!), finds her muse, so to speak, in the virile chef hired to rescue her ailing father’s restaurant. Some of the sex and nudity was excised by the producers for the film’s domestic release; Hong Kong Cinema will show the uncut version.

Crowd-pleasing comedy is represented by Pang Ho-Cheung’s raunchy Missbehavior, which breathlessly tracks the frenetic, citywide efforts of a desperate executive assistant and her pals to replace her boss’s breast milk (which said assistant unwittingly poured into a client’s coffee). Missbehavior is satisfying lowbrow fun, which is to say a quasi-feminist pseudo-parable for the masses—wherever they live.

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