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May 20th, 2002 Issue #109

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

Salon Beauty
(2002; Mandarin Films / Poly Stars Entertainment & Production / Buddy Film Creative Workshop)

Cover art courtesy Universe.

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Salon sing kong seung kuk
Mandarin: Salon xing kuang xiang qu
English: Salon Sex Rhapshodies


This low-budget comedy/drama from director Sherman Wong Ching-wah (SEX AND THE EMPEROR) is Ellen Chan Ar-lun's first movie since she was allegedly blacklisted in 1995 for publicly alluding that Wong Jing has a "casting couch" policy when it comes to leading ladies. She plays Ruby Chan, a former talk radio hostess who was fired for quarrelling with her boss (hmmmm). Ruby now runs a beauty salon where she is visited by friends like Eva (Iris Chai Chi-yiu), who likes to fantasize about being raped by stylist Mark, and Yan (Catherine Hung Yan), who used to date Mark but now has the hots for middle-aged East Indian guys. Also on duty at the salon is “tomboy” receptionist Moon (Sherming Yiu Lok-yee, mugging shamelessly), who invariably ends up with girls that drain away all of her money. Ruby is frequently called upon for advice by her lovelorn friends but she, too, is frustrated because her photographer boyfriend is more interested in the concept of love than actual sex. Although devastated by Yan's announcement that she is marrying someone else, Mark continues to believe that the woman still belongs to him. Ruby has admired Mark from afar for sometime and, with her own boyfriend heading to Europe for "artistic inspiration," this may be Ruby's chance to start up a relationship with her favorite employee.

Ellen Chan Ar-Lun. Image courtesy Universe.
Click here for a still of Catherine Hung Yan (courtesy Universe)

Shot-on-video movies from HK production companies are so consistently lame, one wishes that video manufacturers were required to put "Shot on Video" or "Made for Video" somewhere on the packaging, so consumers would know in advance and steer clear. The main joke here is having characters lapse into (tame) sexual daydreams and inadvertently make fools of themselves while others watch. It is only mildly amusing the first time but is repeated ad nauseum anyway, along with old "electric eyes," nosebleed, and talking "Little Brother" gags we have all seen before. The dramatic content is equally feeble, with obvious lessons about drinking and date rape woven into the narrative like some sort of moral square-up. There is also the usual primitive moralizing about homosexuality, as Ruby quite seriously tells Moon that she is too attractive to be a lesbian and that her problems would vanish if she would just find a good man and "become a real woman." In an odd post production mistake, there are two Catherine Hungs listed in the opening English credits but the second one is actually Iris Chai, as correctly indicated by the Chinese characters. Tats Lau Yee-tat has a superfluous (but admittedly offbeat) cameo as a sugar daddy.

DVD Specs:

Universe #6079 (Hong Kong label)
Dolby Digital 2.0
Sync Sound Cantonese and Dubbed Mandarin Language Tracks
8 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Clips
Enhanced for 16:9 Monitors
Letterboxed (1.79:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
81 Minutes
Contains mild sexual content, mild sexual violence, and mature themes

DVD menu courtesy Universe.

Film Board Ratings and Consumer Advice

Hong Kong: IIB


Interiors occasionally suffer from overly hot lighting but the image is generally good, though all of the scenes that unfold at one location are horizontally compressed for no apparent reason. This is one of those DVDs where the "Pan & Scan" option has been activated, so the program may play back in fullscreen, depending on how you have the player set. Consult your start-up menu for the setting (on Sony units, go into the Initial Set-Up section). The original sound recording is quite poor in spots (distortion and looped lines abound) and the rest of the mix is merely functional. Extras consist of a video promo spot and trailers for JULY RHAPSODY, INNER SENSES, and BUDDY FRIENDS (another video feature).

SALON BEAUTY is available at Poker Industries.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2002. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

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