Wednesday 7 June 2017

The Current Cinema - John Snadden discovers a small gem from China, Kearen Pang's debut 29+1

You'll have to be quick to catch this film but it will be well worth the effort.

Based on her successful stage play,  Kearen Pang's, 29 +1 is a first-rate example of contemporary Cantonese cinema. We first see HK graduate-wage slave, Christy Lam (Chrissie Chau) only days away from her 30th birthday. She is single, renting an expensive apartment, worrying over her parents' health and, above all, stressing about the fact she is now a "left over woman" (an unmarried Chinese woman over 27) and dealing with the associated stigma of this title. There are many ticking clocks shown in the film's early scenes.

Christy doesn't help her situation when she abruptly leaves her job and is soon being forced to move into a smaller and older apartment. But it's here where she meets a kindred spirit, Wong Ting-Lok (Joyce Cheng), who is also on the cusp of her 30th birthday.

Joyce Cheng, Chrissie Chau
In the wrong hands, 29+1 could have become truly cringe worthy
cinema, but writer and first-time director Pang, along with her two stars, expertly navigates the emotional ebbs and flows and narrative shoals of this film. At times there's a lightness to this pic which is genuinely uplifting. Jason Kwan's (HELIOS, ABERDEEN) cinematography is always evocative but never intrusive.

Joyce Cheng
I especially liked Joyce Cheng as the good natured music store worker who enjoys poking fun at the adversities of life. And even when the clouds begin to darken around her, she's the one who calls the shots and sets the pace. This was a tremendous performance from a relatively unknown Hong Kong actress.

The CGI fantasy sequences created for the film's closing scenes are well done and enhance the story but never overwhelm it. When the screen, literally, opens up to show us a busy boulevard in Paris, fantasy and reality peak in the most unexpected and delightful ways.

In past years, a film the calibre of 29+1 would be snapped up for inclusion in the mid-year MIFF program. But it's my guess that the next time this movie becomes publicly available will be via a local cable channel or streaming service. Times definitely are a changing!
Kearen Pang

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