Issue #225a         HOME          E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com        BACK ISSUES            August 16th, 2004

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The Map of Sex and Love
(2001; Riverdrive Productions)

Cantonese: Ching sik dei to
Mandarin: Qing se di tu
English: Love Sex Map

RATING: 8/10

REVIEW:

A thought-provoking and emotionally perceptive drama, THE MAP OF SEX AND LOVE continues what might be termed the "gentle melancholy" of Evans Chan Yiu-shing's films. His earlier works TO LIV(E) (1991) and CROSSINGS (1994) share a number of characteristics with MAP: sympathy for those displaced or otherwise on the margins, strongly written female roles, astute political commentary, the evolution (and devolution) of societies brought about by the rise and fall of colonialism, journeys both literal and cerebral, and worlds in which literature and the fine arts are as prevalent and influential in the protagonists' lives as the junk culture touchstones shaping most other cinema these days. While they are all important components of his work, one of Chan's most notable trademarks is the way he tells his stories amidst an omnipresent aura created through music, imagery, dialogue, and the rhythm of his editing. With this sombre but seductive ambience engaging the viewer, he can then gradually develop his themes and conflicts, confident that we will stay attentive and game to explore the next avenue put before us.

L to R: Bernardo Chow, Cherie Ho, Victor Ma Cheri Ho Lindzay Chan

Young Chinese-American filmmaker Wei-ming (Bernardo Chow Man-kei) travels from New York to his childhood home on Lamma Island to make a digital video documentary about the imminent opening of a Disneyland theme park in Hong Kong. While doing research for the project, he is picked up one evening by Larry (Victor Ma Choi-wo), a dancer/choreographer. The two men have sex but Wei-ming becomes nervous and flees when Larry expresses a desire to see him again. Wei-ming visits Mimi (Cherie Ho Pui-yi), a chatroom friend who also turns out to be Larry's downstairs neighbor. The two men grow closer while the skittish and homophobic girl (who feels more comfortable dealing with people via the distance of cyberspace) tries to come to terms with the dissatisfaction brought about by her self-contained world. A report about gold stolen from Holocaust victims by the Nazis and laundered in Macau following WWII prompts the three youths to travel there. In doing so, Wei-ming hopes that he may come to grips with his father's apparent participation in the crime.

Victor Ma (left), Bernardo Chow Bernardo Chow Cherie Ho

This is a visually arresting film, full of both natural and man made beauty. Interestingly, it was also the first Hong Kong production to be shot on digital video, a format used for about 40-50% of the productions shot in the former British colony nowadays. Unlike the vast majority of those low-budget endeavors, cinematographer O Sing-pui (who shot Fruit Chan's MADE IN HONG KONG and directed GOLDEN SWALLOW, one of the most visually intoxicating of the A CHINESE GHOST STORY imitations) demonstrates here that DV has the potential to be every bit as aesthetically pleasing as celluloid, if manipulated with care. The cast gives the sort of committed and courageous performances found in Chan's earlier films, with Cherie Ho Pui-yi (so memorable as the teenage girl at the heart of Bryan Chang Wai-hung's AFTER THE CRESCENT) the standout this time. Ho has a remarkable, soul-bearing monologue in the second half that is a turning point for her character. It is a difficult speech, and one which could easily trip up a relative newcomer, but the actress is plaintive without being melodramatic, making the scene truly poignant. The director's one-woman stock company, Lindzay Chan Ling-chi, is also on hand in a supporting role that initially seems like a radical departure but turns out to be a valid continuation of the earnest women she played so memorably in the earlier films. The two homosexual protagonists essayed by Chow and Ma also display a complexity and tenderness that go far beyond the cartoonish stereotypes that continue to people mainstream HK cinema, even into the 21st century. As happened in TO LIV(E) through an appearance by Elsie Tu, Chan does temporarily "break the mood" in MAP with his inclusion of observations from a real-life Macau journalist. The background information the man relays would have been better conveyed through voiceover or other similar narrative device but the sequence is just a brief misstep.


PRESENTATION:

The standard image looks fine, save for a few minor master tape glitches, and the stereo mix is subtle but nicely separated. The dialogue is a mixture of Cantonese, Mandarin, and English; permanent English subs appear during the Chinese and Traditional Chinese is onscreen during the English. Also included on the DVD are three brief videos compromised largely of alternate footage that was not included in the final cut.

Images in this review courtesy of Water Bearer. To read captions, hover mouse over image.


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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.
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DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC Region 0
  • Water Bearer Films #WBF 4041
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Sync Sound Cantonese Language
  • Permanent English Subtitles
  • 9 Chapters
  • Fullscreen (1.33:1)
  • 129 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Hong Kong: III
  • Singapore: RA
  • Contains brief nudity and mild sexual content

FILM REVIEW RATINGS KEY:

  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful