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Floating City (2012) [Blu-Ray]
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In 1940s Hong Kong, the poorest families had no choice but to abandon their children. Bo Wah Chuen (Aaron Kwok), a mysterious blue-eyed Asian boy, is ostracized and shunned. As he works his way up from lowly laborer to an esteemed engineer for the British colonies, a shy but beautiful wife by his side, and another woman's attention growing that could feed both his heart and his career, Bo remains haunted.
Who is he? Where does he come from? Who does he want to be?
From Yim Ho, pioneering director of the Hong Kong New Wave movement, comes a lyrical and heartbreaking story of family, identity, and love that survives generations.
Run Time: 105 minutes
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Bo's mother was Chinese and desperately poor. She sold the newborn Bo to a woman who had just miscarried her own baby. This woman turned out to be a great mother for Bo. She raised him exactly as she would raise her own children. Bo's birth father was British; hence Bo was often insulted, called a "half-breed" or "mixed." This birth father had no contact with Bo. The insults came from both the Chinese around Bo and the British who mocked him as he worked his way up in their world.
There are four sterling performances by women in this film. Josie Ho is Bo's adoptive mother when she was young. Paw Hee Ching plays Bo's adoptive mother during the latter part of her life. Charlie Yeung is Tai, Bo's wife. Annie Liu plays Fion, a Hong Kong businesswoman who possesses overwhelming charm and confidence. She opens her door for Bo, but he does not walk in because he loves Tai.
The director, Yim Ho, put together a seamless classic. The cinematography is spectacular, with each shot carefully planned and executed.
It's in Cantonese with English subtitles. Most highly recommended.
Even before having lived in Asia for several years and having gotten my degree in Asian Studies, I've loved Asian cinema since adolescence, especially films from Hong Kong and China. I find that Asian acting (style), particularly Japanese and Korean, can be very divergent from the Western style of acting, particularly in tv dramas; sometimes I do not like it, and frankly, sometimes I feel somewhat embarrassed, because the acceptable style there is what the West would see as "bad" acting. That said, I find that I like the acting in Hong Kong films the most, and this film did not disappoint. I would say that a great deal of the acting is strong, especially by the lead, Aaron Kwok. He made me feel the emotions of his character clearly, as did the different women who played his mother. The wife character was also pretty good, but sometimes she seemed a bit spastic. Most of the other characters did fine to passable, but Annie Liu was probably the worst. She was pretty, yes, and I got the role she was trying to play - rich, sexy, internationally-experienced, stylish, English-speaking young woman - but she overdid it almost most of the time. When I watched and listened to her, I felt like I was watching someone do an imitation of rich, flirtatous American Caucasian women from California. The problem is not that she was playing such a character, but that I could SEE her acting. She didn't seem like she actually WAS that character, unlike Aaron Kwok in his role. There was no subtlety; she was a blatant archetype, even a stereotype. So, in that way, she likely does reflect women like that somewhat, but it still seemed over the top. In fact, when she asked Bo Wah Cheun "Do you find me annoying?" I thought, "Yes!"
One other nitpick is the blue eyes, which most of the time you couldn't see clearly; sometimes, it looked like he just had regular brown eyes. Even a cheap, $20 pair of blue circle lenses could have looked more realistic, depending on the design/enlargement. I don't know if it was just that they didn't want to really emphasize the blue eyes TOO much by having them brighter, but that wouldn't really make sense considering how much of the story is tied to him being different for being "Mixed" and people noticing it right away. (Maybe they should have consulted Gackt and asked him where he gets his contacts.) When they first showed the baby, I thought to myself (because Netflix's description mentioned the blue eyes): "That baby doesn't have blue eyes." And he didn't. The budget may have been small to where they did not want to add that in digitally, but it just seemed...kind of important to leave out.
Another little nitpick is the subtitles, which had errors at a few points, and seemed to lack punctuation most of the time. As an editor, I notice these things more, but many people likely won't, so it's not too big a deal (the punctuation, not the spelling error[s]).
As a cinephile, when a movie can make me feel for the characters, to want them to achieve their goals, to worry for them, to be happy/sad for them, etc., it's mission accomplished. This movie did that throughout, and there are so many touching moments in this film that it brought tears on more than one occasion. This was my first Aaron Kwok film, but I doubt it will be my last. If you don't like films with good drama, likable characters, and character/plot development, then skip this film. If you want to see a film with all of that, then please watch it.
It's almost impossible in this day and age to raise families this intact and original in the midst of the modern world and this movie does a very good job of communicating the nature of people from a simple background who when they are at home, they are totally at home.
It's not obvious but instrumental to the realistic Hong Kong Chinese position on race is the beneficial discrimination of the British in Hong Kong. By keeping us at arm's length, they allowed the Chinese to not become bananas not even the ones who ascended professionally.
Hong Kong is a very unique beautiful balancing act.
The main character was born in the 1940's but possibly after Hong Kong's Three Years and Eight Months and there is no mention of the Japanese invasion and occupation.
If the Japanese were to vanish from the face of the earth as they intended the Chinese to do, this movie wouldn't even indicate that they ever existed. I am reminded of the Japanese by this movie because unfortunately, a guerilla fighter during the violent deadly occupation of Hong Kong came home to find his entire extended family murdered aboard their sampans in retaliation for his activities against the Japanese invaders. That nice Hong Kong old man was interviewed by CCTV some years ago and I never forgot him. The Japanese made him the last of his bloodline.
This is the first movie that I can remember viewing about the People Upon the Water as the sampan dwellers are called in Cantonese. If you know that interior unwealthy very basic Chinese world of family, then you will know how good this movie is.
This movie also uses their dialect and shows the traditional Chinese wooden clogs of Southern China (the original Dr. Scholl clogs).
There is an indelible feeling of commitment in Hong Kong of the Hong Kong people and it reaches across races.
The character of the mother changes actresses when her husband as killed which is very true to life and becomes more Chinese just like Anthony Wong at the beginning of his career when he impersonated a curly haired goateed novelty item compared to his blending into the scenery presence today, totally owning his identity as always.
The same can be said for local nonChinese like the Indonesians and East Indians who speak beautiful, proper Cantonese.
They should bring back those tops for females.
Actors will also appreciate the thing that Aaron Kwok does with his eyes e.g. when he shares his knowledge of Chinese characters with family. He clicks off his Chinese ancestry and does this thing in imitation of the noticeable appearance of hybrid expression in the eyes. I'd like to see if he can do a Japanese expression, a Korean watchful gaze and a Vietnamese eagerness.