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Breeze of July
Chinese: 七月好風
Monie Tung
Year: 2007
Director: Stanley Tam Kwok-Ming
Producer: Yan Yan Mak, Wendy Chan
Writer: Stanley Tam Kwok-Ming, Chan Wai (original novel)
Cast: Monie Tung Man-Lei, Sammy, Koo Kam-Wah, Tatsuo Dean Fujioka, Su De
The Skinny:

A rare attempt at a Hong Kong independent feature. There's heart in Stanley Tam's debut effort, but the actual execution is a bit labored. Sincere and respectable, if not completely successful.

 
Review
by Kozo:

Hong Kong Cinema gets some much-needed indie representation with Breeze of July, an HD Video feature marking the directorial debut of Stanley Tam, recently acclaimed for his work as an editor on Pang Ho-Cheung's Exodus. The film shuttles between Hong Kong and Shanghai to tell the tale of 29 year-old Lan-Xin (Monie Tung), who moves back into her old family home in Tokwawan after the death of her mother. The move gives her an opportunity to reconnect with family friend Auntie Lan (Koo Kam-Wah), as well as rekindle her friendship with childhood pal Big Head (Sammy). The move marks the latest of many for Lan-Xin, who's in debt to some shady figures, but her main reason for moving around may simply be that she has yet to fully mature, opting to leave various episodes in her life unfinished or abandoned.

In returning to her old home, Lan-Xin begins to reflect on her wayward life, noting that she has never traveled overseas with her mother, and perhaps did not know her very well at all. Lan-Xin ultimately retraces her mother's footsteps, traveling back to her mother's original Shanghai neighborhood along with Auntie Lan. The visit is highlighted by Auntie Lan's tearful reunions with old friends, and Lan-Xin makes some small personal discoveries as she quietly immerses herself in her mother's previous environments. Her journey in the film is internal, and given the narrative's lack of urgency or action, the film's success seems to hinge heavily on the performance from Monie Tung. She acquits herself decently considering the inert nature of the film, never overplaying the part even when given opportunities to do so.

However, Tung still has difficulty channeling the proper inner life for her character. The actress is never vacant, but as the film's drama is dependent on her inner emotions, Tung needs to be able to carry the film wordlessly, which she struggles to do. Not helping her is the fact that Lan-Xin is not fully fleshed out. We learn a lot about her through her voiceover, plus her interaction with Big Head, but even more information about her life would have helped. What does she do for a living? Who are her other friends? Stanley Tam's screenplay has proper dramatic themes, but it lacks additional details that would create a more convincing or affecting reality. Without extra knowledge of conflicts or events that helped define her character, Lan-Xin simply seems to be dour and even remote. Monie Tung has turned in some effective supporting performances in My Mother is a Belly Dancer and Whispers and Moans, but as Breeze of July's lead, she seems to be a bit out of her depth.

Sammy Leung is likable and solid as romantic interest Big Head, though his character is underwritten too, and seems to have little function besides conscience/facilitator for Lan-Xin's personal growth. Even more, he simply doesn't look like a guy who would be hanging out on street level Tokwawan, as he still possesses that primped up media star sheen. The film's style is observational and contemplative, giving the audience space to involve themselves in the film's slow, realistic-seeming events. However, the actors are not able to create the reality necessary for the film to truly become exceptional, and resemble screenwriting creations more than real characters. The film is full of details that are meant as emotional devices - burnt-out lightbulbs indicating loss, demolished trees representing the passing of memory - but those details are rather obvious. Despite the film's street-level approximation of living, breathing Hong Kong, much of the film still feels calculated.

Where the film does succeed is in its simple environments and appreciable indie film feel. The HD Video image is well-utilized, possessing decent depth of field, and Tam's technique is frequently effective, with many long takes, slow pans, and obscured POV giving the film a sense of realistic intimacy. At the same time, the way in which characters interact seems too set up, as if they aren't speaking as much as they're channeling screenwriter intent. Breeze of July could use some spontaneity or true surprise; the film's revelations are less felt than they are acknowledged, such that events only plod steadily towards an expected outcome. There's thought and feeling in the film, and Stanley Tam uses his limited resources well. Breeze of July was shot in only 10 days on a shoestring budget, and is a decent achievement considering what Tam had to work with. However, a good portion of that achievement is simply related to scale; Breeze of July is a respectable independent feature that feels sincere, but it's not really a standout work. Perhaps Stanley Tam will one day achieve more when given fewer limits. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival, 2007)

 
  Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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