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I'll Call You
Chinese: 得閒飲茶

Viann Leung and Alex Fong

Year: 2006
Director: Lam Chi-Chung
Writer: Lam Chi-Chung
Cast: Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Viann Leung Wai-Ka, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Chan Kwok-Kwan, Macy Chan Mei-Si, Lam Suet, Yuen Qiu, Poon Hang-Sang, Wellson Chin Sing-Wai, Andy Lau Tak-Wah
The Skinny: Unheralded film from Andy Lau's Focus First Cuts film series takes an overused premise - a look at modern romance - and gets surprisingly solid results. Written and directed by the overweight kid from Shaolin Soccer.
by Kozo:

Famously huge Stephen Chow crony Lam Chi-Chung wrote and directed I'll Call You, a surprisingly solid comedy-drama about the perils of modern romance. Swimmer/singer Alex Fong Lik-Sun is Manny, a too-nice fellow who finds chance romance with pretty shopping channel host Karen (Viann Leung). The two meet at a bar and share an instant attraction, but they may not be right for one another. Manny is entirely too serious about relationships, and allows himself to be completely owned by the girls he dates. Karen is a flaky party girl who likes Manny, but also likes the other guys she hangs out with during her frequent all-nighters at Lan Kwai Fong. What that means is she likes Manny enough to hold his hand, but not enough for more than that. She's also hideously late to their dates, though Manny usually greets her punctuality problems with immediate forgiveness. However, the incompatibility issues pile up. Clearly, these two are headed for something resembling a break up. Big surprise, they do break up - but they'll get back together, won't they?

Actually, maybe not. Though it stars popstar-friendly Alex Fong and pretty TV personality Viann Leung, I'll Call You is not really like other youth romantic comedies. More specifically, it's not concerned with the pair's journey towards gooey couplehood, and is instead set on examining the emotional states of two people with different approaches to love. Manny's far too serious, so his break up with Karen sends him into an emotional tailspin. He goes from too devoted to too depressed in an almost alarming manner; Manny basically becomes a prisoner to his own obsessive self-pity. Lam Chi-Chung conveys Manny's state of mind by actually placing him in a prison onscreen, where he chooses to imbibe alcohol instead of eating solid food, and soon finds company in Biggie, the overly-muscled monk from Running on Karma (Andy Lau in a cameo). Biggie threatens to sing Andy Lau songs while Manny continues to choose alcohol over regular food, turning his prison stay into one long self-pity binge. If you're confused by this description, raise your hand.

Obviously, Manny isn't really meeting Johnnie To characters in the film. Lam stuffs I'll Call You with many sequences of fantasy exposition, the goal being some sort of creative combination of absurd humor and narrative metaphor. Surprisingly, Lam's film school-worthy technique works; the self-conscious storytelling gimmicks prove creative and interesting. That the scenes reflect recognizable and sometimes painful emotions makes them all the more compelling. Alex Fong and Viann Leung make an oddly familiar pair; they're a couple of maybe-they-shouldn't-be lovers who may miss some chances at love, but still manage to grow as people. Lam gets his message across in an offbeat and enjoyable manner, and his quirky characters and humor ultimately come off as funny instead of cloying. The film sometimes seems aimless, and some gags are more obvious than funny, but this is a fine showing for first-time director Lam.

I'll Call You is the debut entry in Andy Lau's Focus First Cuts Film Series, an HD-video project that gives fledgling directors a chance at telling their own stories. If this first film is any indication, the series is well worth a chance, as I'll Call You demonstrates that the Focus First Cuts films may be creator-driven and not slaves to some money-hungry marketing plan. Lam Chi-Chung's debut feature shows effort and thought, and while it may not be truly accomplished, the attempt is more than enough. Hong Kong Cinema needs more movies like this. (Kozo 2006)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Intercontinental Video, Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras
image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen