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Visible Secret
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Oooh...scary. The cast of Visible Secret.
Year: 2001
Director: Ann Hui On-Wah
Producer: Ann Hui On-Wah, Abe Kwong Man-Wai
Writer: Abe Kwong Man-Wai
Cast: Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Shu Qi, Sam Lee Chan-Sam, James Wong Jim, Kara Hui Ying-Hung, Wayne Lai Yiu-Cheung, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Lau Wing, Cheung Tat-Ming, Jo Koo
The Skinny: A polished, mature genre-bending horror from Ann Hui. The film doesn't go for cheap thrills, and instead focuses on the characters' obsessions and fantasies. After a decade of disappointments, Hui comes back to what made her so influential: interesting characters, a capable handle of film technique, and an involving pace.
by LunaSea:

     Fans of director Ann Hui, who set Hong Kong Cinema on fire during the eighties, didn't have too much to be excited about in the last decade. After her masterful Song of the Exile, Hui seemed to encounter a creative block. Summer Snow was the only work of note she produced in the nineties, and some unexpected stinkers like Ah Kam even started to emerge. Visible Secret marks a comeback to quality filmmaking for Hui, even if it doesn't feature her usual pungent social commentary, and is much more commercially conscious than usual.
     Eason Chan is Peter, a slacker of a hairdresser who's losing his job thanks to his incompetence. One night at a club, he meets June (Shu Qi), an attractive and decidedly unusual girl. She uses him to dump her annoying boyfriend, and the two develop a weird friendship. Peter is increasingly more interested in her, but there's something strange about June. She confesses to Peter she's able to see ghosts, and from that moment on Peter's life drastically changes. He has visions of possessed people, including his father (James Wong). He has a hard time separating reality from fantasy, gets upset by her ever-changing mood and mysterious disappearances, and starts to suspect June's true nature,
     Like in Yoon Jong-chan's Sorum, the plot is not really that important. What the story lacks, the director is able to compensate for with a unique visual and emotional atmosphere. The production team worked hard to give an eerie feeling to the Hong Kong that Peter and June live in. Both sets and soundtrack fuel Peter's instability, and slowly reveal details to piece together the fragmented plot. The fact that the film doesn't try to scare its audience makes the mix of comedy, romance and horror more interesting. With a lesser director, this genre-bending could have resulted in an uneven pace, but Hui has a flawless handle on what she's trying to achieve. Be it silly comedy, Peter and June's lighthearted (and unusual) romance, or the ghosts' shenanigans, the film flows smoothly. You never feel the director has any problem switching themes.
     While Shu Qi is her usual reliable self, sometimes she falls into her childish side abruptly, which can prove annoying for some. But, that could be an intentional choice, made to further project the character's volatile personality. Eason Chan's role is not too difficult, and he's reasonably effective. The rest of the cast, including Sam Lee and Anthony Wong in a memorable cameo, is adequate.
     You shouldn't approach this film expecting a classic Hong Kong ghost story. Visible Secret is more similar to Korean genre-bending films like Memento Mori and Sorum, where horror is just a launchpad for character studies. Its production values are excellent and never offset the main theme. They instead contribute to the atmosphere generated by the director and the interesting script. Visible Secret signals the return to form of one of the most important directors Hong Kong has ever seen. This is not only a good lead-in to the current crop of genre-bending horror/thrillers (The Eye, Inner Senses, Three, etc. etc.), but also a good indication of Hui's comeback. She would later go on to bigger and better things with the excellent July Rhapsody. (LunaSea 2002)


21st Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Winner - Best Cinematography (Arthur Wong Ngok-Tai)
• Nomination - Best Director (Ann Hui On-Wah)
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Kara Hui Ying-Hung)
• Nomination - Best Sound Effects (To Duk-Chi)
8th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
• Best Director (Ann Hui On-Wah)
• Recommended Film

Availability: Megastar/Media Asia DVD (Hong Kong)
Region All NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese & Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English & Chinese Subtitles
Teaser & Trailer featuring parts of Jo Kuk's deleted scenes
Comic Strip Version of the film

image courtesy of Media Asia Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen