Don't Tell My Partner (1997)
Written & directed by: Otto Chan
Keith Chow (Jimmy Wong - The Fruit Is Swelling) works at an advertising agency and deflects every kind of temptation to cheat on his girlfriend, despite elder boss Heung trying her best to get inside his pants. No, engagement to photographer-girlfriend Wai (Rebecca Tong) is the more sensible thing to do. All those clean, traditional thoughts are ejected though when Keith meets new salesgirl Nancy Lee (Ozawa Madoka)...
Rounding off a very Category III-tinged directorial career with even more of the highest rated-kind, Otto Chan certainly worked the atmosphere and emotions the rating can come with. Everything from screwball comedies, dark kidnapping drama and a little Hong Kong flavoured horror, some of us look back fondly on Stooges In Hong Kong and Gates Of Hell so with Don't Tell My Partner, honestly it beforehand feels like a genuinely cheap exit with not even a tiny bit of challenge put forth. It's bonk-a-thon time yes but without any distinction? Do we want that though? Do we need that though? Or is adhering to market demand late in the "golden" era of Category III of filmmaking and working up only half-assed atmosphere and emotions sufficient? It actually warrants an examination to see if half-assed could be considered valid. It's hard to tell if super duper 110% TRULY Otto Chan wants to seriously portray the consequences of cheating on your partner but since he doesn't go all out silly or feature excuses to include sex scenes with every random character in the film, the middle ground is taken. It does result in a fairly boring time though.
Everything I'm going to mention may make Don't Tell My Partner seem more deep than it is but then again, issues of the male rationale behind cheating is quite intriguing when we get it through the eyes of Raymond Tso's David. Equaling it to a high better than drugs, despite his over the top antics when describing all this, it makes for a thought process that is even a little psychological. In the end here's the more likeable character actually as he's clearly not in it for the love and has his moral boundaries. It's only when love strikes David his world spins a little.
So Keith, being timid and believing in traditional values is the one that truly spirals out of control. Not really infatuated with the thought of going behind the back of his partner even when colleagues (in way overexcited fashion) describes the upcoming girl in their office landscape, it does take THAT girl for Keith to be hypnotized to the point of following her around and this in turn develops the irrational side of Keith. Something that would neeeeever happen to him but it's his sin. So perhaps Nancy is the devil sent down to tempt? There's certainly something going on with her front teeth. The storybeats are expected, the colourful cinematography by Johnny Koo (1*) an asset and while this doesn't turn into yet another Fatal Attraction clone, a dark twist could've elevated Otto Chan's work here. Because above thoughts are well and good as well as the rather limited set of fairly hot sex scenes (making them a LOGICAL inclusion) but Chan proves perhaps his greatest effect as a filmmaker was when pushing and punishing.
Because Don't Tell My Partner, while quite even for a Category III sex film, is too subdued to truly involve and this serious stance can't be supported by actors elevating the material. Jimmy Wong's dopey charm and irrational behaviour gets him some slight places while Raymond Tso flows well into the likeable nature of David but female counterparts (especially Ozawa Madoka) are not ready, nor ever will to be taken onto an ordinary journey. Don't Tell My Partner wasn't going to adhere to the standard Category III recipe of Elvis Tsui + period costumes, which is commendable, but when you can't back up that genre-anarchy when making a psychological and fairly serious study of the male mind, your movie in this case becomes one stuck in obscurity when looking at the genre output.
The DVD (Mei Ah):
Video: 1.72:1 non-anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0.
Subtitles: Optional English and Chinese.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) A constantly working cinematographer (also on Otto Chan's Gates Of Hell) but also actor, Koo can be seen alongside Ricky Hui in John Woo's black comedy From Riches To Rags.