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HighNoon | 12th Nov 2008 | 最新影評Reviews, 相關報導News&Interviews | (227 Reads)

High Noon

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New Director Heiward Mak shares her definitive vision of Hong Kong's youth with Edmund Lee

Heiward Mark’s High Noon is a remarkably perceptive film about what it’s like to be 17 years old in Hong Kong. Interweaving vignettes of the lives of seven boys and two girls on the eve of an all-important public exam, this Hong Kong chapter of the Eric Tsang-produced teenage film trilogy, Winds of September, reiterates every facet of local teenage life – childlike friendship, casual sex, obsession with tuition schools, drugs, prostitution and reckless violence – with none of the exploitation usually found in the genre.

Indeed, High Noon distinguishes itself from your average teenage drama, where filmmakers usually try too hard to justify or romanticise their young characters’ erratic actions. While maintaining vibrancy throughout with a highly stylized presentation (Mak has long been fascinated with the aesthetics of comics and music videos), her film manages to sit back and observe its characters’ ups and downs, acknowledging their flaws without retreating into cheap sentiment.

One glance at the director sitting across the coffee table from me is enough to explain her sympathetic portrayal – and insightful understanding – of youth culture: Mak, who also wrote the film’s script, was aged 22 in pre-production, 23 during the shoot, and has only just turned 24. And that is precisely what she doesn’t want the media to focus on: “A lot of people made it a talking point that I became a director at 23, and they may feel that I’m achieving things too quickly. As I see it, the effort that I’ve put in is vital for me to make it this far. Is it really just down to luck? I think time will tell.”

Sensing her obvious frustration on the topic, I ask her what she’d prefer to talk about. She tells me, “You may focus on the film: this film doesn’t belong to any existing genre. It’s a cruel story of youth that is distinctly Hong Kong, coming from a tradition of films that you can very rarely – if ever – find here.” It turns out that Mak’s disdain for genre and formulaic cinema has much to do with her affection for the schizophrenic nature of 1980s Hong Kong films, which she grew up watching on TV re-runs.

She explains further, “As I see it, there have only been two ways of making teenage movies here: one is the desperate and hopeless type, centred around gangs trapped in the northern New Territories; and the other is the middleclass, hedonistic take on romantic relationships, with little focus on the realistic problems of family or daily life. I have pulled together the two because I believe that youth is not exclusive to either. These characters come from different classes and become friends nonetheless. That’s much closer to the reality that I want to present.”

Speaking of reality, it’s unfortunate that High Noon’s characters often find themselves submerged in a hyperreality they can’t escape; they are hopelessly alienated by the new media of communication deeply entrenched in the consciousness of this generation. Mak says of the central themes of her film: “Tragedies strike as communication becomes easier, yet more complicated. In my opinion, the most important thing is for these young children of 17 or 18 to care about each other, and to make the right choices despite the dreary prospects presented by the chaotic world they live in. This film is about communication and self-discovery.”

In the early parts of High Noon, each of the youngsters has their own personal problem to deal with, while seemingly finding paradise in the common space they share. However, it soon transpires that what binds them together is more a dehumanizing modern culture than any true sense of understanding. As Mak says, “When these children are under the burning sun, they have nothing to fear or hide from each other; and yet, the truth is that there are many suspicions and secrets among people, and our relationships are always weaker than we first imagined.

“Filmmaking is both a discovery and recovery process for me,” says Mak. “As in my film, regrets pile up as we fail to convey our thoughts to others. At the end of High Noon, salvation comes in the form of a pearl that a character finds. A pearl is formed when an oyster is trying to heal its wound; what started out as traumatic will eventually end up as something really precious. In our case, it may end up as a piece of precious memory that belongs to you, and you alone.” Here’s to the memories.

High Noon opens at BC and UA Langham on Thursday 6.

http://www.timeout.com.hk/film/features/16197/high-noon.html