|Index||3 reviews in total|
My friend Richard has lent me the VCD in the last week of 2006, has
constantly raved about it, but it took me this long to finally pop it
into the player. Not that I'm not heeding his recommendation, but a
whole slew of events and bad time management prevented me from watching
it in 2006. Nonetheless I just did, and boy, I've got no regrets
Of late, there have been many movies which hit the VCD/DVD shelves without having a whiff at the theatres. My Name is Fame is one of them, starring HK veteran actor Lau Ching Wan in a role all too familiar with the has-beens of the industry. He plays Fai, an actor who doesn't compromise his acting beliefs, and doesn't mince his words when it comes to criticizing the industry - be it fellow actors, directors, the scripts, and even the crew. His ideal morals on the state of the industry are subtle digs at the real deal, in an industry where looks are championed over true abilities. It is no wonder that, without being blessed with idol looks, and given his attitude, he soon finds himself in the doldrums of the industry despite being an award winning actor. Yes, both the industry and the public are fickle creatures.
While helping his ex-wife, he chances upon an ingénue Faye (played by Chinese actress Huo Si-Yan), who impresses him with her raw talent and energy, coupled with a gung ho spirit. Without a doubt, he unwittingly takes her under his wing, becoming her manager, honing her craft, as well as seeking out true, genuine opportunities for his protégé, nevermind if they happen to be bit roles, in a field where sleaze is part and parcel of the game plan. Highly protective of his charge, he finds it increasing dangerous as his emotions get the better of him, and he starts to develop feelings for her.
Sounds familiar? Yes actually, the basic plot followed similarly to Innocent Steps, where a has-been wallowing in self pity looks to a rising star, grooming her for greater heights, at the same time rediscovering oneself and one's passion, while at the same time falling in love. However, for movie buffs, this one would tickle your funny bone at the same time as Fai unleashes his barbs against those in the industry. Some concerns highlighted were familiar grounds, especially those on sleaze, while others are reflective pieces about the current state of things.
Making plenty of appearances here in the movie are has-beens themselves, or rather, those that have taken a backseat and faded slowly from the limelight, like Ekin Cheng and the Grasshoppers. See if you can spot many more actors and premise of movies adapted and put on screen here. But the gig belonged to Lau Ching Wan in his earnest portrayal, and the chemistry with co-star Huo Si-Yan is fabulous. Oh yes, having a pretty face helped loads too.
The film industry isn't all glamour. There are plenty of hard work put into making a movie, and for someone looking for that big break, a certain amount of luck, plenty of contacts, the willingness to start from the bottom and plough in lots of hard work, seem like a recipe for a chance at success. Then again, which career doesn't start off in a similar fashion?
Recommended stuff! The VCD comes with 2 audio tracks, one in Cantonese and the other in Mandarin, though I suspect that in the Cantonese track, Huo had her lines voiced over by someone else. It sure didn't sound natural.
I live in the San Francisco area, and there are many foreign-language stations here. I happened to be flipping channels when I started watching the start of this film, and was hooked. It had English subtitles, so I could actually follow the story. It's a very fun, moving film in the vein of other movies about movie-making, such as Truffaut's "Day for Night." The two leads make a romantic odd couple, but are both compelling. Well worth watching if you see it in your local TV listings, or if you find it for rent at the video store. It's very well photographed and reasonably well-written. It's a relationship movie, not martial arts, as many Chinese films that Westerners like to watch. But it's very insightful, and shows how the ups and downs of human relationships are universal. Also, the routines and conventions of film-making. Anyone could enjoy this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Poon Ka-Fai (Lau Ching-Wan) is a washed up actor who was once awarded
HK's Best Newcomer award but whose popularity has since waned, not just
on screen, but also down to frayed relationships with production crews
he had worked with. On the way home from what appears to be his last
shoot for a while, he is followed by one of the extras, an obsessed fan
from mainland China called Faye (Hou Siyan) who is eager to break into
the Hong Kong showbiz scene. As fate would have it, she manages to
convince him to take her under his wing, to be her mentor and manager.
Little do they know, the journey to stardom gives them both a lift into
My Name Is Fame is a fairly humorous poke and homage at the same time to at the Hong Kong showbiz scene at the moment, particularly as it struggles with waning cinema-going and manufactured talent amidst the disillusionment of audiences with poor quality entertainment. (I'll leave my rant about this aside!) However, it is an uplifting story of talent and success and what a bit of hard work will do. The industry is one in which its participants need to have persistence to succeed, and this film doesn't hide that fact. There are plenty of scenes that show HK's cinema machine in action much of it that shows it's not an easy business to be in.
Lau Ching-Wan was clearly the perfect lead for this role. As a man who amazingly hasn't yet been awarded a Hong Kong Film Award in reality and is surely overdue for one, I feel he has drawn a lot from experience to bring to his character, fictitious as it may be. There are indeed some joking references to his past work as well. At the same time, the inclusion of Hou Siyan was also interesting, as she was in fact a real life newcomer to HK cinema from China, although I thought it was a little annoying that her performance did have to be dubbed in the end. Cameos from a number of notable actors (Tony Leung Ka-Fei, the current HK Best Actor, Ekin Cheng), recent new talents (Fiona Sit, Niki Chow) and acclaimed directors (Gordon Chan, Ann Hui and Fruit Chan) make appearances which add to the strength of the storyline.
However, I doubt this film is going to give Lau Ching-Wan a best actor gong. The film isn't emotionally strong enough to deliver that, particularly as it tries to deliver an upbeat ending. But its message is pertinent to the industry that it depicts and is a part of. It's tough out there and there's a change going on. But with some hard work and some nurturing of talent, it can get there.
One that might win your heart, but not an Oscar.
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