sparrow: an ode to hong kong’s past and present

November 30th, 2008

Sparrow is the latest movie by acclaimed Hong Kong director Johnnie To. In many ways, I feel he is the heir to the throne John Woo has built up over the years: their oeuvre have been quintessential to the definition of modern day Hong Kong cinema, stylish and macho. From Hard Boiled and the Killer now to PTU and Triad.

Sparrow is a departure from his signature work. It is much more lighthearted, slow paced (in a very good way) than most of his movies. Kelly Lin plays a super sensual and mysterious woman that threads all the characters in the movie (the usual suspects in Johnnie To movies: Simon Yam, Lam Ka Tong..). But while it is perhaps conventional to describe a movie in terms of its plot and the actors that carry this plot, it is more fitting to assign Hong Kong, the city, as the subject of the movie and the main fascination the director falls in love with. Mostly shot in areas of Hong Kong totally familiar to me and very dear and near to my heart, the movie allows the characters to roam around Hong Kong’s most sensual places; places of beauty, of contrast, of a nostalgic past versus a hypermodern capitalistic present, of the dried seafood sold in Wing Lok Street, to the stairs in Sheung Wan and Central and all the little shops on and around it, to the morning breakfasts and get-togethers with your buddies in the cha chaan teng in Wanchai. The willow trees hanging over Hollywood Road that have been there since my childhood, and probably the childhood of my parents. The Sang Kee congee shop where I had so many meals that warmed my heart.

Did I tell you that the soundtrack is awesome too? Made by Xavier Jamaux and Fred Avril, it conjures up the sense of fantasy, of a place where little encounters of magical moments are sprinkled around wherever you go, never knowing when they will come to you. The breeze of a late-night stroll when you walk along a quiet road during a lazy and warm fall evening.

Posted in movies

3 Responses

  1. Yin

    Kelly Lin on the red carpet at the Berlinale was everything you expected her to be and even more…

  2. Lena

    Wow, that sounds like my thesis subject 🙂 Would love to see it.. Can’t see the pictures (online in a Beijing Starbucks).. Could you please give me the Chinese title, so I can buy the DVD? Thanks!

  3. Loki

    chinese title is ??

book and sword : gratitude and revenge

is the first novel written by Jin Yong. The protagonist is Chan Ka Lok, who is the leader of the Red Flower Society. The book title refers to Ka Lok being famous for being well-versed in culture and martial arts, but also for having to make a difficult ethical decision. My father named me and my brother after him.

The subtitle is from a poem Desiderata