Little known in Britain, the veteran Hong Kong film-maker Ann Hui has been making well-regarded films in Asia for more than 30 years and A Simple Life rightly brought the sexagenarian Deanie Ip the best actress award at Venice for her performance as a family servant cared for in old age by a successful movie producer (Andy Lau) to whom she was almost a surrogate mother.
It's a gentle, flawlessly observed picture, moving but never sentimental, about getting old, fulfilling familial duties, killing time and being killed by time. The cramped nursing home where she lives is a grim place but not Dickensian, and there is humour but never at anyone's expense. The dressed-down director, for instance, is mistaken by a movie company secretary for an air-conditioning repairman. Later in a cafe he's taken for a taxi driver. "No," he says, "I'm an air-conditioning engineer."
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- Philip French
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