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First Love: The Litter on the Breeze /
Chu chan lian hou de er ren shi jie (1997)

Director: Eric Kot Man-fai
Cast: Eric Kot Man-Fai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Karen Mok Man-Wai, Lee Wai-Wai, Nancy Lan Sai, Vincent Kok Tak-chiu, Calvin Choi, Chung Dick Lung, Maggie Leung

At first, I had mistaken this to be an unknown movie made by Wong kar-Wai - it has offbeat characters, and it bears the style of Christopher Doyle, whose cinematography shines through here. It bears a lot of his influence (something that director Eric Kot readily acknowledges), and like many of Wong kar-Wai's movies, it doesn't fit into any category and is definitely not for everyone.

The movie is filmed like a visualisation of the director's stream of consciousness, as he explores his ideas for movie stories - and hence can seem disjointed, unconnected and a bit all over the place really. Mind you, the two major stories (in among the debris of other tiny little ones) which he ends up filming with some length is quite engaging, showing some touching and genuinely funny moments. Overall, it is a film about the filming of a film, like Centre Stage - not quite a documentary but not quite an actual movie either. Eric Kot, playing himself, interrupts the flow of the movie with his thoughts and opinions from time to time, coming across as a rather clumsy but always earnest and enthusiastic subject. Some moments are rather self-indulgent, at times crossing the line into mental masturbation but Kot's constant self-deprecation makes these transgressions forgivable.

The first major story definitely displays the hallmarks of Wong kar-Wai-ism, with an implausible modern fantasy plot, weird characters, and props and objects that litter the story like solemn mysterious signposts. Takeshi Kaneshiro plays a garbageman who falls in love with a sleepwalking young woman (Lee Wai-Wai), courting her in her sleep until she finally discovers who he is when she catches her sleepwalking expeditions on a camcorder. As strange as the idea is, it actually works for a while, its quirkiness amusing and touching, as these two rather eccentric characters manage to find each other and fall in love. However, it doesn't really lead anywhere, and we are soon transported to the second, more realistic, major story of the film.

In this second part, Eric Kot takes the main lead (something he is sheepishly apologetic for), playing a convenience store owner who finds that a former love (Karen Mok) has returned, turning his current domestic life with his wife (Nancy Lan Sai) upside down. I have to say that I like the artsy-fartsy pretensions of the first story, but this second part achieves moments of vulnerability that the first couldn't. There is no weird implausible plot devices here, and the story of a simple man with guilty paranoia makes him to silly and comical things is more believable and acceptable, his motivations more accessible to the audience. The fantasy sequences that do appear in this part are visualisations of Kot's paranoia, but are actually rather funny (for example, the scene where he literally imagines a showdown with his jilted lover, complete with swordfights and clichéd poses. This is a more complete story, ending with a quiet and unexpectedly moving climax.

The entire film ends with Kot delivering a rather overwhelmed response, terribly exhausted but relieved that he has finally finished his project. In a certain way, it does feel like one has gone through a rather difficult experience: this is not an easy film to watch, chaotic, jumbled, held together by the talking head narration of Eric Kot as the director. However, that isn't to say it's a horrible film - it doesn't always achieve what it sets out to do (whatever that happens to be), but as a documentation of the creative process, it's a fascinating piece of work. Hopefully Kot's skills as a director will settle down and find its own confident direction, out from under the shadow of his mentor.

Eden Law

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