Friday, 14 January 2011

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Lover's Discourse [Review]


Opinion: B

By Jason Lin

If you like your romance genre light and sweet, this debut feature might not meet your expectations as it serves not to instill happy ending sensation in the audience but rather to implore one to enter deep thoughts with its four tales of urban love that might inspire you to reconsider the true definition of love. Lover's Discourse is a creative take on the romance genre, albeit a little too self-indulging in pace.


What is love? A disruption in the body's chemistry? A hormonal upset? A fleeting biological urge? Well... it's probably all of the above. But science cannot explain love. To understand what it really is, how it affects us, and what it costs us, we need to look at empirical examples...

Hidden Love
Nancy (Karena Lam) and Ray (Eason Chen) finally manage to meet up amid the crowds on the streets of Causeway Bay by guiding each other on their cellphones. They while away the rest of the evening in Victoria Park, fooling around like young kids and reminiscing about the holiday in Japan they spent together a while back. They edge gradually towards a confession that they still love each other. Finally, though, it's time for them to return to their respective partners.

Secret Crush
Gigi (Kay Tse) staffs a laundry shop near a housing estate, and has a crush on her regular customer Sam (Eddie Pang). She covers her shyness and insecurity by pretending not to notice him and requiring him to repeat his contact details every time he comes by. But the things she finds in the pockets of his clothes trigger a series of fantasies in which she romances a mannequin version of Sam. She sees herself as her dental nurse, as a victim needing to be rescued from a Chinese vampire, as an old-time movie heroine. Then, one day, Sam tells her that he will be moving away...

One-sided Love
Paul (Jacky Heung) is shadowing Sam (Eddie Pang) in the glassware department of a big store, while Sam is on the phone to a girl he's trying to meet. Staying out of sight, Paul (William Chan - the young Paul) recalls his boyhood friendship with Sam (Carlos Chan - the young Sam) and his family twelve years earlier. They were classmates, and Paul used to visit Sam's family to watch English soccer on TV. One day, Paul spotted Sam's father (Eric Tsang) in Tai Po and took photos of him visiting his mistress there. He then began stalking Sam's mother (Kit Chan), and eventually showed her the visual evidence of her husband's infidelity. Next time he visited his friend's home, he found that Sam's mother had moved out.

Bitter Love
Paul (Jacky Heung) is online at home when he gets an email from Kay (Mavis Fan), telling him that his wife Nancy (Karena Lam) is being unfaithful. Kay says she knows this, because it's her partner Ray who Nancy is seeing. Paul agrees to met her, but is sceptical about her claim and refuses to believe her evidence. She persuades him that they can resolve the matter one way or the other by following each other's partners one evening. This they do, with consequences that surprise both of them...


With so much romance already tackled and saturating the film industry, it is often thought that any romance genre must be coupled with either comedy or lots of tears in order to reach mainstream cinema audience satisfaction. This is also one of the reasons why some of us are weary of the one too many offerings.

Here's something new by debut feature Directors Derek Tsang and Jimmy Wan.

Instead of reproducing the element of love that so many of us are already familiar with by now, they pick up the challenge by narrating four unorthodox tales of love in today's urban society. Love forms that might sound outrageous to some of the conservative minds but they might really exist among us either in secrecy or publicity.

We begin with Ray and Nancy relishing their lingering passion for each other as they engage in secret meet-ups behind their partners' back. Depicted via a series of random conversations and interactions at a park one night, they rediscover the craving for new love as they both admitted to their current love lives being mundane and tasteless. By this time, you're bound to perform a mental shout out

"What about eternal love? Has love degenerated into such unspeakable values?"

You might question it, but no question about it. This is indeed very much happening and prominently alive in our society. Love is gradually reduced to something that is void of eternality, promises and vows. Love is likely a perishable product in today's context, where its values depreciate exponentially with time.



Trailing off under such pessimistic light, we begin the second tale of an adolescent teenage laundry girl Gigi, who holds a strong crush on one of her laundry patrons. Kay Tse plays an ultra imaginative girl who is compelled by her single-sided admiration into deriving fantasy hallucinations of her and Sam, who is visually represented by a life-like mannequin. Healthy dosage of hilarity ensues during her fantasy sequences that reminds us of our past childhood/teenage crush. These hallucinations manifest due to the fact that the relationship is played unidirectionally in an act of self-fulfillment.

Possibly ridiculous to some, but we can easily find several filling her shoes back then.

Affairs get a little more intriguing as we now witness love debated against age in the third tale. Very often it is morally obligating where nobody dates against norms, especially in the Asian context. Typically labelled as a kinky fetish, a young boy having a fancy on a motherly woman is something that is socially unacceptable. Sam's mother (Kit Chan) understands that fully and performs well against Paul's advances as a bitter woman who takes her husband's infidelity in her stride and suffers from repression in silence.

Young Paul's (William Chan) obsession might be deemed disgusting by some, but it is after all derived from love itself.

Some food for thought there.


Now a grown man, Paul (Jackie Heung) faces an unexpected twist to his current healthy relationship with his girlfriend Nancy. Receiving a mysterious piece of news of Nancy seeing some other guy behind his back via MSN instant messaging, he crosses path with Kay (Mavis Fan) whom he soon learns is on the same boat as him. Both their partners are seeing each other in secrecy, and naturally it breaks their hearts. Being weary love travelers, they are both tired of starting over and thus get over the ordeal in unexpected manners before continuing to live under false pretense that it all never happened.

Indeed when we all started out as hopeful juveniles, everyone of us held such high hopes and expectations of grandeur love. Despite understanding that love is often not dramatic as in romance films, we often take it for granted that love is simple and blissful. Apparently, we've been deceiving ourselves as love has evolved into a complexity that is beyond recognition and can never be easily explained or resolved via pure logic and science (in contrast to the scientific opening sequence of the film).

At least that is the case in every metropolitan city.

Through interesting directorial vision and editing styles together with mesmerising night cinematography by Charlie Lam, Lover's Discourse brings us dark romance tales amidst visually-enticing treatment that truly leaves us trailing in our own thoughts in slow pace (the film's pace literally) questioning the true definition of love upon walking out of the theatre.

(Also check out our prior feature on a sharing session by Derek Tsang & Jimmy Wan here.)


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