Sunday, March 2, 2008

Trivial Matters (Hong Kong 2007)

A wide array of experiences in life, death, and relationships, Trivial Matters is the film version of seven short stories from director Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung aimed at amusing the masses. Problem is, the more stories you have, the higher the risk of a hit-and-miss situation, which is exactly what this package as a whole provides.

Vis Major - The film opens with an off-camera therapist (Jan Lam) trying to get to the root of a married couples (Chan Fai-Hung and Crystal Tin), problems. Naturally, both sides have their own unique spin on the story of their sex life which is recreated through the use of no-name actors as both husband and wife explain their discomfort over the therapist visualizing them having sex.

Civism - Next, we see Edison Chen and Stephanie Cheng in a dance club having a conversation on what it means to be a "civil" citizen. Edison goes into great, and graphic, detail about what it is that makes him such a great helper of the working class.

It's A Festival Today - Chan (Eason Chan) and his girlfriend Wai Ying (Isabel Chan) move in together but they each have a different motive for doing so. Wai Ying wants to save money on the rent and further develop their relationship. Chan just wants to have sex but Wai Ying wants to wait until after marriage. He convinces her that "oral" activities isn't the same as having sex, so she agrees to it because it's Christmas day and she wasn't able to buy him a present. After that, she'll only "service" him on holidays.

Tak Nga - Told from the perspective of a future race living on another planet and in silent-film style, an instructor is telling his class the story of Ai Chi (Kenny Kwan), who writes a letter to the editor of Easy Finder magazine in hopes that they'll name a star after his crush Tak Nga (Angela Baby) for her birthday.

Ah Wai The Big Head - Ah Wai (Gillian Chung) is an insecure secondary school student who often relies on the advice of her friend Kate (Stephy Tang) before making any decisions. Ah Wai mentions that a garage worker by the name of Eagle has taken notice of her and she can't decide if she should date him or not. Kate really doesn't care about Ah Wai's problems and seems to just tell Ah Wai what she wants to hear in order to get rid of her. Kate is busy being in love herself and is planning a trip to Japan with her boyfriend Ronald. When things take a serious turn for Ah Wai and she needs Kate's help more than ever, their quasi-friendship is put to the test. Eventually the girls find themselves in similar situations, but the end result is the opposite of what both girls expected.

Recharge - We're back with Chan and the story of his prudish girlfriend, but now the focus is on his best friend Ah Keung (Chapman To). Through narration, Ah Keung gives the impression that he's no stranger to the "services" prostitutes provide and soon finds himself in a hotel with a woman from Shanghai by the name of Fay Fay (Zhang Zheng). The two of them exchange some small talk and eventually conduct "business" together. However, by the end of their encounter you can tell by the looks on their faces that both have been somewhat changed, even if it's ever so slightly.

Junior - The last story starts with killer-for-hire businessman Feng Xiaogang explaining to his client Peter Kam, a long time customer of Feng's company K&C, that due to his frequent use of their service, he's now eligible for a new bonus scheme they've implemented. Peter now has a coupon worth one free kill as long as the killer is someone from K&C's Junior Hitman Training Program. Enter our junior hitman (Shawn Yue) who finds his target Chan Wei Yeung, working at the bowling alley. When Junior confronts his target, gun drawn and all, Chan is caught hitting the bong red-handed. Instead of doing his job, Junior decides to get high with his target instead.

Based on producer/screenwriter/director Pang's collection of short stories, it's safe to say that not all of the stories portrayed in Trivial Matters translated to film successfully. I haven't read the collection, but I can only hope this was the case. Some of the stories are genuinely entertaining; It's A Festival Today and Ah Wai The Big Head were the stand-outs for me. The former for just being funny in a dark way and the latter for telling an affecting story about friendship. As a side note, I'd like to point out that Eason Chan may have the worst hairstyle in all of Hong Kong cinema. Tak Nga and Junior were quite pointless and Junior in particular felt like an inside joke that none of us were meant to get. The only thing I can say about Civism is that I don't think it's real word and it made me dislike Edison Chen more than I already did because I get the distinct feeling that his "character" in this story is how he is in real life. The attempt at humor in Vis Major was somewhat lost on me, as I've yet to hit that married, middle-aged period of my life but it was cute nonetheless. Recharge, while showing a fine performance by Chapman To, also felt completely unbelievable. A man who frequents the use of prostitutes is suddenly smitten by one girl in particular with no real connection (outside of the sex mind you) to make him feel this way. While I'm at it, I should point at that Trivial Matters isn't too shy when it comes to nudity. Mostly of the female persuasion, but a cameo by Chapman's tubby bottom does make it's way into the film.

Trivial Matters, if nothing else, is aptly named and a fine display of potential from Pang. The variety of stories within seem to aim at having something for everyone, but that alone should tell you, possibly even warn you, that your overall enjoyment of the film will vary. (Lee)

Buy Trivial Matters on DVD from YESASIA!

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