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Hong Kong, 1990 (MIFF 1990)

Director: Stanley Kwan

WHERE WOULD a Hunan restaurant run by a Cantonese serve Peking Duck7 Only in New York, so that is where young Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan went to shoot Full Moon In New York, a tale of friendship between three Chinese women from different regions who could only have met each other in Chinatown.

The 'Amencanisation' of new Chinese immigrants in the boiling pot of big-city life has been explored, particularly well, in the films of Wayne Wang (Dim Sum) Here, Hong Kong 'art house' director Stanley Kwan (Rouge, MFF, 1988), takes up the theme in this story of three Chinese women who find themselves cast adrift in a society that cares little for the values they believe in.

Chao Hong (Sichingowa), who is perhaps the most traditional of the trio, has trouble relating to her assimilated Chinese-American husband, who fails to sympathise with his wife's growing concern about her mother back in China. Wang Hsiung Ping (Sylvia Chang), who has been living in New York for twelve years, has just separated from her boyfriend, leaving her more resolved than ever of the unlikelihood of striking up a permanent relationship with an American.

But it is Li Feng Jiao (Maggie Cheung) who provides the film's dramatic and emotional core. An ambitious, hard-nosed and very successful business woman, she owns and runs a restaurant where the trio frequently congregate over much food and drink (a recurring motif in Chinese-American movies, it seems).

There is not much plot to speak of in Full Moon In New York, and its rewards are subtle. But they are abundantly present, nonetheless, in this gentle, understated and wistful character study of three outcasts who, despite their vast differences of social status and background, establish a bond from their common plights.

Kwan instils a melancholic tone into this group portrait, ensuring, however, not to quash the characters' buoyant optimism and resilience. The naturalistic performances are well complemented by Kwan's measured pace and long takes, while Bill Wong's glorious camerawork brilliantly captures the mood and atmosphere of New York's skyhne and streets. -(PKa)

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