I'll Call You
Hong Kong 2006
Directed by Lam Tze Chung.


Will Andy Lau save Hong Kong Cinema? Again? Hard to say, but he is going about it in the right way, by funding new directors and cultivating new talent, and launching the pan-asian "FIRST CUTS" project through his production company Focus Films Ltd. The idea is to produce a group of films by promising young directors from all over east and southeast asia. Compare this to the Hong Kong government's efforts to save film by throwing millions at people who promise to make more big blockbuster movies. Clearly intelligent projects like this face an uphill battle. A minor entry in the Focus First Cuts project is I'LL CALL YOU, the first directorial effort by Lam Tze Chung, last seen as Stephen Chow's chubby sidekick in KUNG FU HUSTLE.

The story is pretty simple. Man (Alex Fong) is a pretty nice guy, hangs out with his buddies a lot. He meets Karen (Viann Liang) and falls in love. She likes him but strings him along endlessly until he is in a dark pit of despair, and only a lot of booze and some Andy Lau tunes can pull him out of it. Can he reconcile with the girl of his dreams? Or is she even worth it?

As a director, Lam Tze Chung shows some promise. The film is abundantly quirky, like all first time directors with talent, he wants to do a bit of everything to prove he can. Some of his clever tricks wear out their welcome quickly, like during the early dating process of the protagonists, videogame scores appear at the top of the screen to indicate whenever the guy says something right. But these excesses are forgiven pretty quickly when he follows up with a simple scene of just the couple walking down the street, obviously enjoying each other and maybe falling in love, and the exterior street begins to reflect that inner feeling, becoming more and more marvelous and joyous as the walk continues. It's a moment of pure magic, and to his credit Lam Tze Chung crafts a few like moments during the running time of I'LL CALL YOU.

It's a good first effort, but ultimately the film is let down by having at its base, beneath the cleverness, a pretty boring boy meets girl story that goes nowhere fast. The characters and the situation need to hook you. If they don't, and here, it just didn't, then the technique no longer serves any meaningful purpose. From interviews Lam Tze Chung comments that he is merely trying to show that typical Hong Kong girl behavior is extremely self destructive. And I suppose he did show that. But unfortunately, the selfish heroine never comes across as entirely real. She's an insensitive bitch, fine, but why? What's the point? And for that matter, why would any guy put up with it, unless they were at least having sex? Their relationship is not heartwrenching, it's really just sort of mystifying.

Lam Suet has a nice supporting role as Man's dad. He gets I think the most touching monologue of the movie, about who you love, and who you marry. Yuen Qiu plays Man's mom, but the role doesn't add up to anything. And producer Andy Lau makes an appearance to help his project along. It's a pointlessly surreal cameo, and unfortunately his muscle suit from RUNNING ON KARMA has not aged well.

Ultimately this film must be seen as a first effort from a new director, and as such is well worth seeing to see a possible vision of the future of Hong Kong cinema. Lam Tze Chung is already at work at his second film. I wish him the best of luck. I'LL CALL YOU is not a masterpiece, but there is potential there that I look forward to seeing develop as Chung continues his directorial efforts.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 04, 2007.


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