A West Lake Moment (2005)
Directed by: Yim Ho
Nominations at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2005:
To date the last film from celebrated director Yim Ho, after Kitchen in 1997, A West Lake Moment continues to sway away from the period piece and general darkness of his work such as Red Dust and King Of Chess but truth be told, that analysis probably doesn't hold water. I am not the one to describe the common themes of Yim Ho's work but the one to tell you of my opinion of his latest. Basically taking a genre and template that could be described as cosmopolitan loneliness, A West Lake Moment is a playful delight that juggles emotions to the successful extent... almost.
A Mainland Chinese production, for Yim Ho the opening seems frantic with repeated frames, an odd sweetness that is interrupted by darkness. It's the meeting of an owner of teahouse owner Xiao Yu (the lovely and expressive Zhou Xun - Hollywood Hong Kong, Painted Faces), environmentally conscious Xiao Tong (Yim Ling) and the car that hits them both in the rain. They are the only survivors and strike up a best friends for life kind of deal where Xiao Tong is not afraid to admit his emotions are stronger for Xiao Yu than just the best friends for life deal but he's happy as long as she is... is what's said. However Yu holds him off by playing the immature card, which is ironic as the one she eventually falls for (after dumping her Western boyfriend, nicknamed McDonald), aspiring writer/director A Qin (Chen Kun) is anything but mature. A bit of a playboy rather but him and Yu possesses notable synch and the continuing coincidental meetings does lead to love. Love lacking stability but as Xiao Yu is looking for safety, perhaps turmoil is acceptable?
Unlike the recent Run Papa Run by Sylvia Chang, Yim Ho has a better knack for playing with the medium of film in a balanced manner. Therefore A West Lake Moment is filled with equal beauty captured by cinematographer Poon Hang-Sang, a quirky, off-beat tone thanks to day dream sequences detailing the respective inner angel/devil of Xiao Yu and A Qin (hers is a child called Zazabo and his is a red dressed, insane man who is a product of his movie imagination, played by Yim Ho himself) and yet when Yim Ho comes around, themes of the continuing spiral of love that seems to be heading downwards does come full circle. The biggest challenge is to get some kind of audience sympathy towards the male Xiao Yu has her most expressed feelings for however.
It's perhaps the aspect A West Lake Moment treats too internally as clearly Xiao Yu is continually dating an immature bad boy but we give it a chance. I criticize the choice and is more delighted by the clearly staged cinema that still manages to speak in a real manner. Because I highly doubt some of these real discussions are this perfect in real life and characters do have some splendid ideas to add depth to friendships. But this is where writers and directors step in to create escapades and even escapades/pages out of reality. Something Yim Ho and Alyssa Cheng does splendidly. Elements aren't forced (not even the stuttering both main characters have when nervous) and even the clear case of schizophrenia in Xiao Yu is played off as perfectly normal. She knows what role Zazabo has in her life and even puts her, literally in the closet in neat little sequences where the inner voices are visualized (slightly akin to Mad Detective).
I guess the ultimate point is that emotions has a way of blocking the clear picture that has to do with romance creating wear, tear and scars in persons that really should be looking for stability in a different way. Yim Ho's feelings on the matter are perhaps the hardest to swallow and the verdict of A West Lake Moment sways in the final moments. But in a way, he leaves matters open ended and oddly enough gets acceptance of the story structure. And it's not due to an infatuation with the playfulness, delight, true emotions and heartache that is presented before us prior that blocks a balanced verdict. It just makes for quite a fine-tuned, challenging romantic drama. And coming from Yim Ho, it's one of his most accessible, easy watches ever.
Asia Video Publishing presents the movie in an aspect ratio of 1.75:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Possessing pleasant colours and detail, a little smearing here and there drags the latter aspect down at times.
The Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 track mainly and quite well uses the front stage and then it's often for music purposes. Dialogue is clear.
The English subtitles are error free and fully coherent. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. Extras present are Chinese language text selections called Casts & Credits, Characters and the trailer is also available.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson