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Love Trilogy
Chinese: 30 分鐘戀愛 "I tell you, our careers can still be saved!"
Francis Ng and Anita Yuen
Year: 2004
Director: Derek Chiu Sung-Kei
Writer: Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah
Cast: Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Anita Yuen Wing-Yee, Ruby Lin (Lam Sum-Yu), Lu Yi, Han Xiao, Oh Ji-Ho, Yun Ye-Ri, Michael Chow Man-Kin
The Skinny: Interesting tryptich of stories exploring the various stages of male-female relationships. While this film is probably not for mass audiences, the rare intelligence and intimacy on display make this a worthwhile alternative to HK's usual crass commercialism.
by Kozo:

Director Derek Chiu helms Love Trilogy, a trio of interwoven tales exploring the various stages of male-female relationships. Francis Ng and Anita Yuen play Mark and Chui, a low-income Hong Kong couple celebrating their seventh anniversary. Unfortunately, Mark has just had his driving license suspended, making his job as a taxi driver somewhat moot. Their anniversary trip to Kunming is fraught with bickering and discussions of a possible divorce. At the same time, their partnership reveals some surprising tenderness to go along with the expected difficulties.

Countering Mark and Chui are a Mainland couple (Han Xio and Lu Yi), who are also on the same tour of Kunming. This couple seems to be experiencing difficulties thanks to their newlywed status; their troubles are more a function of newlywed hypersensitivity than aged familiarity. They at first seem to be fighting over the expected issues (freedom of choice, imposing one's will on their partner), but their disagreements lend themselves to larger, and possibly irreparable repercussions.

Rounding things out are a Korean couple who are not yet married. Jino (Oh Ji-Ho) is respectful of the covenant of marriage, but realizes that he and his girlfriend (Yun Ye-Ri) may not be suited for each other. Easily the most likable and positive character in the film, Jino is also enamored of Shangri-La, and wishes to travel there from Kunming to explore the culture written about in his favorite novel, "Lost Horizon" by James Hilton. However, his girlfriend doesn't want to go with him—which turns out to be just the starting of their potential differences.

Written by UFO screenwriter Aubrey Lam, Love Trilogy is at once literate and noticeably contrived. The film makes numerous references to literary works thanks to the presence of Liu Hai (Ruby Lin), a tour guide who sometimes doubles as a marriage counselor. The references, while suitably telling, are also a little didactic. Likewise, the conflicts occasionally reek of hackneyed melodrama. Still, Lam's eye for detail in relationships and characters is remarkably strong. Her couples fight over the most minor of things, but their fuming almost always speaks to larger, unspoken issues between them. Occasionally those issues are brought to the verbal forefront, but more often they're negotiated via offscreen interaction or unspoken mutual understandings. The couples on display in Love Trilogy aren't always likable, as they screech and scream a little too much to be lovable movie couples, but they do seem real and even compelling.

Director Derek Chiu has been responsible for a variety of films (Comeuppance, The Log, Frugal Game), each one managing to find some thematic grounding within their genre classifications. Love Trilogy is different in that it's not a typical Hong Kong Cinema genre, but a more overt example of art-house type cinema. The locations, dialogue-heavy long takes, and reliance on emotional performance all add up to a cinematic experience far removed from the usual crass commercial vehicles cranked out by the Hong Kong Cinema machine. The effect is tiresome but worthwhile; Love Trilogy is languidly paced and full of ostensible pessimism, but it also finds decent drama beneath the howling and hollering of its sometimes unlikable couples. At the same time, the messages the film implies (love needs to be risked, marriage is not a picnic) are handed out a little too obviously. There's complexity in the characters, but the total aim of the film doesn't seem to be rocket science.

Still, knocking Love Trilogy for its easy explanations is probably rougher criticism than the film truly deserves. As mentioned earlier, Aubrey Lam has a fine eye for relationship and character detail, and Derek Chiu handles matters with a refreshingly hands-off approach. Much of the characters is left for the audience to discover, and as such Love Trilogy is infinitely more rewarding than, say, Silver Hawk. It also displays a rare intimacy and intelligence, and features acting that feels genuine, if not out-and-out excellent. The film is presented in a mixture of Cantonese, Mandarin, English and Korean, and as such the acting appears rougher than your normal film. Still, the ensemble cast (anchored heavily by award winners Francis Ng and Anita Yuen) uniformly seem grounded in reality. Love Trilogy is not world-beating arthouse fare, but it's a refreshing alternative to the popstar fluff that Hong Kong normally produces. (Kozo 2004)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Kam & Ronson Enterprises
International Language (Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, English)
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen