Young People
Hong Kong 1972
Directed by Chang Cheh.

David Chiang, Ti Lung, and Chen Kuan-tai are at it again, male bonding up a storm, this time as students in modern Hong Kong. They are the best at what they do, whether its playing basketball or a round on the go-cart track. To bad the same can't be said for Chang Cheh, who manages to make even the most action packed moments boring with his uninspired direction.

While watching YOUNG PEOPLE, I kept smiling at how cornball it is. I wanted to describe it as cornball in my review. But then, I read the back of the VCD case, where they wrote, " harkens back to a more innocent and cornball age." Damn. I watch the whole thing and can't even scrape up an original word to describe it.

YOUNG PEOPLE opens up with a lot of dancing. The "dance club" is in session, with David Chiang on drums, Wu Ma on guitar. There is a lot of spinning around and jumping up and down, while a young girl (Agnes Chan) sings songs in barely intelligible English, including Carole King's "You've Got a Friend." In the gym, Chen Kuan-tai leads the "Martial Arts club" through its paces. And outside, Ti Lung leads the Basketball Team. There is mutual animosity between all of them, except for David Chiang, a true peacenik who believes "What the world needs now is Love, sweet love."

In his usual fashion, Chang Cheh brings the three protagonists together, first pitting them against one another, with a girl in between, then tossing the girl aside and becoming best buddies, spotting each other at the gym. By the end, everyone is singing and dancing and the only one still interested in chicks is Wu Ma.

This movie would be a lot better if it was directed better. Early on, we are treated to a basketball game, between Ti Lung's team and the opposing school, and I swear the game is played in real time. It's fun to watch Ti Lung play basketball (along with fellow teammates Wang Chung and, bulking out bigger than everyone else, Bolo Yeung), but he's no Michael Jordan, and by the 12th lay-up you've pretty much got the gist. (No one gets within four feet of the net on either team). For the game, Chang Cheh sets up a stationary camera, on a hill overlooking the court, zooms in for some medium shots, then out for some wide shots from a distance. His habit of showing the action, without resorting to quick edits, which is such a strength in his martial arts films, becomes a liability here. A go-cart race the boys take part in near the end of the film is set up the same way, the camera mostly static or panning across the track to follow the lead cars. As a result, the race is largely devoid of interest.

Still, the story is not without its strong points. In between the sporting events, the characters interact, angrily fighting, or befriending one another. The three main actors are quite good, as usual, and Wu Ma has a nice, if dopey, supporting role. There are 90 minutes worth of a good movie swimming in this 118 minute tribute to youthful spirit.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on April 25, 2004.

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