[Editor’s note: this post originally appeared in May of 2010 on another platform]
A while back, Conroy Chan had invited me to the premiere of Dream Home/維多利亞壹號. It was in passing, no doubt at an AnD event. I know he’s a busy man, and he’s got a lot on his mind, so I wouldn’t have minded if he forgot.
But at the same time I wasn’t really surprised Tuesday night when I got a call from his assistant confirming my invitation.
It’s nice to be remembered by people who quite understandably have other, more important things to think about than making sure their friends get on a guest list. So I want to thank Conroy publicly for remembering and including me.
I was pretty excited about it, because I have heard a lot about this movie from people and was looking forward to seeing it. In the spirit of optimism, I asked for two tickets, since I figured it would be easy to find someone to go with me.
It might even be a woman.
It was not as easy as I thought, since, as we all know, Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 ‘s reputation precedes it. Friends of both genders (meaning men and women, not hermaphrodites…) begged off, citing weak stomachs or prior engagements (dinner, gender reassignment surgery, etc.).
But eventually I found someone to go with me: my good friend Maggie, a graduate of my school and one of the biggest Daniel Wu fans in the world (at least until he got married).
We met at the Convention Center at 8:00 and proceeded into the reception, a rather dimly lit affair that nonetheless made for an ideal social setting, lubricated as it was by free San Miguel beer and popcorn. Apparently they wouldn’t let you bring beer into the movie, though, which was a bummer.
They should have the next premiere at the Dynasty, where they’re not so uptight.
It was a chance for me to socialize, and I got to see lots of people before the movie, including Conroy, whom I thanked effusively, and Andrew Lin, whose work I was looking forward to seeing.
I got to see lots of people from the local film and music scene, and it made me realize how lucky I am to live in a place where I can be a part of something that matters to me and to have contemporaries whose work I enjoy and admire.
I’ve said this before, but the only thing better than knowing people in LMF is having them know you.
I got to spend a lot of time with Grace Huang and Desmond So, discussing all manner of things, including my movie reviews. I consider them two extremely nice people, so their enjoyment of my vituperation is a bit baffling.
Or maybe not.
Remember in school when the teacher would tell the class “Don’t laugh, it only encourages” the class clown?
Yeah, well which one of us got a PhD, Mr. Boneswallow?
When people tell me they enjoy my reviews, especially because I, unlike themselves, am at liberty to degrade, insult, and verbally pummel bad movies and the bad people who make them, it makes me realize that I’m basically an overgrown class clown.
Who is performing an apparently necessary public service, so its okay.
As long as people laugh, I will keep doing it. Not just because of them; I’ll keep doing it because I am sure that there is no shortage of sh*tty movies in the pipeline.
People also asked me how I would review a movie made by people I consider my friends. Before I even saw Dream Home/維多利亞壹號, I had said that it would be hard for me to dislike it on several points.
- Pang Ho Cheung. For me personally, he has surpassed Johnnie To in terms of local film quality, because his films are stylish and substantive.
- I knew that Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 was trying to break new ground, and that the people involved were confident without being arrogant. Which cannot be said of all the people (or movies) claiming to do something “never before seen” in local film.
I’d much rather see a sincere effort that may not succeed [I don’t mean Dream Home ] than a blunder whose failure goes unacknowledged by people too full of themselves to see the “unbearable truth” that their movie sucks putrid fruit salad out of the eye socket of a dead rhesus monkey.
- Following on that bit of florid imagery, I knew that Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 was going to be Category 3.9 in terms of gore. And from what I’d heard, it was not playful, excessive gore. I think that when people make movies about murder, war, etc., that it ought to be as realistic as possible so that people don’t get the wrong ideas about basic human brutality.
When we filed into the theatre, there was a promotional ‘barf bag’ on every other seat, with a big Cat III triangle on it.
With instructions. Priceless.
I was quite surprised to see Ekin Cheng in attendance, and very nearly bum-rushed him for a photo op, but decided it was not the best idea.
I just wanted to see the movie!
I really liked Dream Home/維多利亞壹號. It was nasty, profane, crass, bitter, and touching.
I don’t mean inappropriate touching, I mean emotionally.
It starts with a scene that is more psychologically violent than physically (though other people may disagree).
The film does a great job of juggling hope and misery, and alternates resolve and psychosis, showing us how thin that line can be ground. The people in this film are very human, and in being that way, are un-glamorous, un-appealing, and verybelievable.
All too often in Hong Kong movies (and society in general) people studiously ignore the warts on the face of our city/culture.
I’m going to bring that barf bag to the next Alex Fong/Stephy/Patrick Kong movie I see, because I’ll need it.
As Maggie said several times during the film, “It’s so real!”
It’s nice to watch people on screen who could be real-life humans.
It’s nice to watch them get dispatched by methods so foul, cruel, and bad-tempered (name that reference and win dinner with a former film professor) that you start to wonder about the people who wrote the film.
I am a product of the 80s, the glory gory years of the slasher genre, when advances in technology allowed for violence of an as-yet-unseen graphic nature.
I’ve (almost) always been able to observe screen violence with an eye that sees it as a technical process rather than actual violence. Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 gave me a lot to think about. I guess because I know it isn’t real, I can really enjoy black humor of a violent nature.
As a result, during the squeamish bits, amidst the shrieks and groans, my laughter could be heard.
So could Desmond’s, just another reason I like him.Let me say something that will make me look bad, at least by implication. As I often said to my students, don’t ask how I know this, but the gore in Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 is actually very understated. It is not, shall we say, anatomically correct. If it were, it would be not only grossly (!) more horrific, it would make it difficult to film.
The human body contains 5-6 litres of blood under 2-3 foot pounds of pressure. Rupture the containment mechanisms (organs, veins, etc.), and you get blood everywhere.
More than a gallon if you do it right.
Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 is not, shall we say, anatomically correct. It’s still pretty frigging nasty, though.In a sense, the juxtaposition of humdrum persons just like you or me being murdered in such awful fashions helps amplify the sense of dread and horror.
Even knowing some of the actors as real people didn’t alleviate the sense of creeping dread.
As I said to Andrew Lin after the film, the stuff that always gets me isn’t the outlandish things like birthing an alien through the chest. It’s people trying to ward off a knife attack with their bare hands.
Because I have bare hands and knives in my house. So that sh*t could happen to me.
There was plenty of that in the movie, so I squirmed a lot.
And loved it.
One image that made me very uncomfortable was based on prior knowledge. For a reaction shot, Phat Chan took a shot in the baby hangars to get the proper expression of shock and agony.
It had to happen one of two ways:
- He wasn’t expecting it, and still didn’t kill Conroy (the offender).
- He knewit would happen and took one for the movie.
Either way, give that man an award. And a bag of ice.
I’d also like to uncharacteristically give thanks to China. Not because there’s no way in hell this film could be shown there, but because without China, there’d be no nudity in Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 (or any other local movie). Two women get naked in the film, and they both speak Mandarin.
More importantly, neither of them wax. God bless Cat III.
What I think I like most about Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 is
the titties that it succeeds as a film in multiple ways; it is topical, thought provoking, prurient, entertaining and unsettling. It refuses to reconcile its contradictions and leaves that up to the viewer. It’s anti-didactic nature is refreshing.
Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 will spark a reaction in Hong Kong, and hopefully a lot of discussion. It’s a truism that if nothing changes, nothing changes. Dream Home/維多利亞壹號 is trying to change things, and in so doing bring some of the vitality, daring, and moral ambiguity back to Hong Kong cinema, because that’s what made it so f@#$ing exciting to begin with.
Go see Dream Home/維多利亞壹號. You may not enjoy it completely, but it will make an impression on you, and it will give you something to think about.
It’s also a very good film, and it deserves our support, if for no other reason than it takes chances and goes places local filmmakers have been to timid (or China $-minded) to go in far too long.