Friday, February 18, 2011

Merry-Go-Round A Surprise No 1 on HKFCA List

The Hong Kong Film Critics Association (HKFCA), not to be confused with the better-known Hong Kong Film Critics Society, has released its Top Ten Chinese Films of 2010. The list was published back in January, however I've only just stumbled upon it. The HKFCA has a reputation for sometimes eccentric judgement. Its annual Golden Bauhinia Awards, after all, were suspended after 2007 partly because of the ongoing controversy over its award choices (although more because most of the winners didn't turn up to the ceremony). HKFCA's choice of number 1 film for 2010, Merry-Go-Round (东风破), will again have some people scratching their heads.

Merry-Go-Round is an arthouse drama with two intermingled storylines - one set in the present, the other in the 1930s. It stars some pop star actors like Ella Koon, Laurence Chou, Denise Ho and Wilfred Lau, alongside a few Hong Kong veterans including Teddy Robin Kwan (currently experiencing a career renaissance) and Nora Miao. It was jointly directed by Yan Yan Mak (who also wrote and produced it) and Clement Cheng, the man behind 2010's surprise hit, Gallants. From critics (other than, presumably, the Hong Kong Film Critics Association) Merry-Go-Round earned some praise for its cinematography and warm nostalgia, but was also panned for its screenplay and intrusive soundtrack. An example is this review at Film Business Asia.

Number two on the list was the detective story set in China's Tang Dynasty, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, a Best Film nominee at the upcoming Hong Kong Film Awards. At number three is Pang Ho-cheung's sharp-tongued romantic comedy Love in a Puff, starring Miriam Yeung and Shawn Yue as white-collar fugitives from Hong Kong's indoor smoking bans.

The rest of the list provides mostly predictable choices, including mainland China's biggest-grossing film of 2010, Aftershock, the Taiwan gangster film Monga, the martial arts spectacular Reign of Assassins, and the aforementioned Gallants, winner of Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Critics Awards. Barbara Wong's hit-and-miss romance Break Up Club is the surprise addition to the list at number 5. A success at the Hong Kong box office, it also divided critics, some praising it for its fresh inventiveness, while others condemned it for being insubstantial and too clever for its own good.

The full list is as follows:
  1. Merry-Go-Round (东风破)
  2. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (狄仁杰之通天帝国)
  3. Love in a Puff (志明与春娇)
  4. Under the Hawthorn Tree (山楂树之恋)
  5. Break Up Club (分手说爱你)
  6. The Stool Pigeon (线人)
  7. Aftershock (唐山大地震)
  8. Reign of Assassins (剑雨)
  9. Gallants (打擂台)
  10. Monga (艋舺)

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