Our double features are back! Before Fantasia Festival back in end of June, we pretty much wrapped up the last round of Netflix “alphabet” rundown. This time is more of a random deal although coincidentally, I ended up picking a Herman Yau/Louis Koo double feature for two Hong Kong dark comedies.
Let’s check it out!
An Inspector Calls (2015)
Director: Raymond Wong & Herman Yau
Cast: Louis Koo, Eric Tsang, Hans Zhang, Ka Tung Lam, Teresa Mo, Karena Ng, Liu Yan, Chrissie Chow
When Inspector Kau arrives at the Kau manor before a lavish engagement party, he brings news of a young woman’s suicide – and he has questions – Netflix
Adapted from the English play of the same name, An Inspector Calls is a slapstick dark comedy re-enacting the story set in a mansion of a bankrupted but pretending to be wealthy family and factory owner as the father tries to marry off his daughter to the son of a rich family. On the day of the marriage, an inspector barges in telling them of a young woman’s suicide and how unexpectedly, each of them are connected to it in one way or another. Well in the heart of slapstick humor that is quite dominant in Hong Kong cinema (when not doing action or thrillers), An Inspector Calls in its Hong Kong Cantonese adaptation captures the heart of the story as the intertwined society links to one another and different chains of this society will beat a person down unexpectedly. Each of these characters are suitably over the top in their performances, the story itself is quite entertaining as well as while I’ve heard of the story, I’ve never actually read the play that its based on.
An Inspector Calls is full of talented cast. With the father played by Eric Tsang, the mother played by Teresa Mo, the older son played by Ka-Tung Lam, the son-in-law by Han Zhang and the inspector played by Louis Koo. The daughter and the daughter-in-law to be being the young actress roles that I’m less familiar with. However, looking at this cast, Eric Tsang and Teresa Mo play once again a married couple (I had seen them as a couple in 2 Young) and here as a powerhouse duo that just steals away their scenes together and its probably why Netflix chooses their scene in their massive walk-in closet as they turn around running after each other as he catches her up on the inspector’s arrival and the chaos that he was causing. On the other hand, Louis Koo doesn’t do so many comedies anymore but he definitely has the skills for it and is a refreshing take from the recent years of making action and crime thrillers and such. Clad with popular Mainland China actor Han Zhang, who definitely does do well in this film as well.
As intriguing as the story is, especially for myself originally not too familiar with the premise, what caught my eye were all these great performances which was absurd and yet so hilarious, reminding me of the humor I missed from Stephen Chow’s films in the 90s.
A Home With A View (2019)
Director: Herman Yau
Cast: Francis Ng, Anita Yuen, Louis Koo, Tat-Ming Cheung, Jocelyn Choi, Siu-Hin Ng, Suet Lam, Anthony Wong
When a neighbor blocks their view of the city with a commercial billboard, a Hong Kong family resorts to drastic, imaginative measures to take it down. – Netflix
A Home With A View is a real breath of fresh air. Sure, it tackles this dark comedy in a rather absurd way. It also is adapted from a play written by fellow cast member Tat-Ming Cheung who portrays the grandfather role in the film who is renowned Hong Kong comedian. A feature of Hong Kong comedians is their desire to bring out the issues of the Hong Kong society through a very sarcastic way. In this case, he’s taken these characters for a glimpse of losing a slice of solace can cause especially in the expense of others who are in another dilemma trying to survive as well as the expense of commercialism and economic wealth of the city itself. What is a reality of Hong Kong since the 1997 handover followed by the financial crisis that took place over the past few decades and then the change of the economy and political status, is shown well here with the ineffectiveness of a lot of the society.
I’ve always been a fan of using humor to talk about the more important issues surrounding us and to myself, that type of dark/sarcastic humor is my cup of tea so suffice to say that a lot of this film lands well. I’ve never seen the original play or read it or anything but the adaptation into a film works really well and a lot has to do with some sharp writing and well-timed humor. Of course, a lot of credit has to go to the talented cast here that supports the younger cast who plays the daughter and son. Francis Ng and Anita Yuen paired together are very fun. At the same time, they are met with some supporting characters who appear in some cases like cameo and others to help push the story in a certain direction. A Home With A View is a witty sort of deal. There were some bits here and there that might fall short in its comedy but for the most part, its actually a very smart piece of cinema filled with great performances and well-paced throughout and sharp dialogue. I don’t watch as many Hong Kong comedy films than I used to in the 90s or even early 2000s but this one really revived some of that hope to seek up some more in this vein, maybe another Herman Yau one since he seems to direct comedy movies that I enjoyed.
That’s it for this double feature!
Both films are currently on Netflix Canada with pretty decent subtitles.