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AV
     

(left) Derek Tsang, Wong Yau-Nam, Lawrence Chou, and Jeffery Chow get ready for their closeups.
(right) Wong Yau-Nam, Lawrence Chou, and Manami Amamiya.
Chinese: AV
Year: 2005
Director: Pang Ho-Cheung
Writer: Pang Ho-Cheung, Wembers Li
Cast: Wong Yau-Nam, Lawrence Chou Chun-Wai, Derek Tsang Kwok-Cheung, Tsui Tin-Yau, Jeffrey Chow Chun-Fai, Manami Amamiya, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Jim Chim Sui-Man, Chin Kar-Lok, Hui Siu-Hung, Cheung Tat-Ming, Wing Cheung Wing-Yin, Yoyo Chen, Monie Tung Man-Lei, Yan Ng Yat-Yin, Chung King-Fai, Tim Youngs
  The Skinny: AV has enough wit and offbeat humor to make it worthwhile, and the fact that it was conceived and shot in a short span of time gives it heavy cred. On the other hand, the film offers up substance that's only superficial, and the film's biggest joke seems to be at the expense of the audience. The ride could be all there really is, but this is clever stuff from an astoundingly clever filmmaker that's still worth catching.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Quite possibly Hong Kong's most promising young director, Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung has made a career out of subverting expectations and having fun when he probably shouldn't. His black comedies You Shoot, I Shoot and Men Suddenly in Black took rather dark topics (professional killers and adulterous husbands) and wrung off-color giggles out of them. Both were also surprising, and even complex motion pictures from a dwindling film industry largely composed of unchallenging copies. Pang's newest, AV, also goes for complex and darkly funny, and it succeeds resoundingly at both attempts. But does it really add up to all that much?

AV tells the story of four soon-to-be-college grads (Wong Yau-Nam, Lawrence Chou, Derek Tsang, Jeffrey Chow) who are about to embark on the big adventure known as life. However, before they do, they futz around through endless days of unimportant pastimes and seemingly aimless talk. Job interviews and sexual misadventures get brought up, but apparently, the foursome is looking for something to do to cap their last responsibility-free days together. What can they do? Hmmm...how about borrow a page from their expelled classmate Kar-Lok (Tsui Tin Yau), a would-be filmmaker who got thrown out for allegedly using a film project to solicit an unsuspecting girl. The foursome decide to take Kar-Lok's sexual harassment a step further, and concoct an elaborate plan to hire a Japanese porn actress (or "AV Girl") for a fake film. Then...they'll have sex with her. That's it. Brilliant!

But with every dream comes a price. While others pay in blood, sweat, or tears, our wholesome foursome pay the good old fashioned way: with cash and chicanery. They need about 2.5 million yen to hire their chosen AV dream girl (Manami Amamiya, who just so happens to be a real AV girl), so they assemble what they can, then get a sizable chunk through an entrepreneur loan given to young people with a dream. Seeing the four guys attempt to win over the loan officer (Eric Kot in a great cameo) is funny stuff, but not as funny as their attempt to come up with the rest of the money. After meeting Manami's manager, the fellows need an extra 1.5 million yen, so they invite all their classmates in on their plan: give us a bunch of cash, and you can be close enough to touch a real AV girl. That's the pitch. The hook: the notion that 30 years ago, students on their very campus were socially conscious and politically active, and accomplished something substantial and worthwhile. Those students were part of a movement, and did something that would last beyond their meager college lives. Joining forces to hire an AV girl for a fake film? It's the 2005 version. Again, brilliant.

But also pretty damn funny. Those looking for politically correct material might as well rent the latest Wong Jing film, which is usually politically incorrect but in such a mindless, inane way that taking it seriously and getting offended would be like getting upset that a six month-old child still craps their pants. AV drops a political correctness bomb, and tries to make international-scale solicitation into some sort of a feel-good epic for like-minded youngsters - of which there are likely many. Of course, Edmond Pang has tongue (or something else, maybe) firmly planted in cheek, meaning he's sending up a myriad of clichés, platitudes, and attitudes in the most roundabout way possible. His targets here: aimless youngsters, the reverence for all things media, the silliness of the job market, and probably the rigid guidelines of the film's producer, Mei Ah. Hell, he could even be lampooning George Bush and the War on Terrorism for all we know. Pang doesn't spell out every satirical nod, but his handheld camera and quick pacing make everything go down incredibly easy. As a witty, off-color indie jokefest, AV is dynamite stuff.

What AV isn't is completely coherent, or even that meaningful. As said before, not every satirical nod in AV gets an explanation, but the ones that do only seem to register as wishful thinking. Pang brings up the parallel between his modern day porn star seekers and the student activists of the seventies not just once, but a total of three times, including an ending coda that would seem to indicate significance. The film also proffers emotion and even a semblance of meaning, alluding that the protagonists actually grow through their attempts to bone an AV girl. While similar films do succeed at such off-color thematic excess (Risky Business is a perfect example), it's questionable if AV really does it. More than anything it seems that Pang's continued attempts at earmarking AV for meaning are simply part of a larger, more elaborate joke than anything the film attempts onscreen. That joke: that this is a meaningful movie. The butt of the joke: us, the paying audience.

Still, if Edmond Pang wants to pull the wool over our eyes with many more films like AV, then he's welcome to do it. Pang is an exceptionally clever director. So clever, in fact, that his films are frequently very worthwhile even when they accomplish absolutely nothing. AV is intriguing and involving for the majority of its running time, and though some of his choices could be perceived as disingenuous, misogynist, or just plain insulting, there's a wit and darkly funny edge to the proceedings that make the whole strangely enthralling. Pang's films are still far enough apart that he hasn't yet earned the title of "one-trick wonder," though he does rely far too much on narrative twists to tie his films together. AV does contain a few twists, but they're really not all the film is about. AV is pretty much about the ride - and though it may not necessarily head anywhere, it's still a ride worth taking. (Kozo 2005)

 
 

Notes:

• In a rare move, the many extras included on AV are fully English-subtitled. They're also quite entertaining and funny on their own, and serve as further proof that none of this should necessarily be taken seriously.

Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
Director's Statement, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Trailers, "Making of" featurette, Video Commentary, Photo Gallery
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