Three: Going Home - Director's Cut (2002)
by: Peter Chan
the DVD at:
at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2003:
The horror anthology Three brought together Korean director Kim Ji-Wun (The Foul King), Thailand's Nonzee Nimibutr (Jan Dara) and Peter Chan, the man behind the wonderful Hong Kong romance Comrades, Almost A Love Story. The finished product was a mixed bag but the idea itself was very welcome. Easily the best out of the three segments was Peter Chan's Going Home, the story the least connected to the horror genre and more to the drama one. Director Chan was so pleased with Leon Lai's performance in particular that he subsequently decided to take Going Home on its own onto the cinema circuit, add new footage not seen in the original cut and the result was met with more acclaim in the form of awards in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. The film was Peter Chan's first directing gig since Comrades and it also reunited several of that projects key members including actor Eric Tsang, cinematographer Christopher Doyle (actually was acting in Comrades only) art director Hai Chung Man and Make-up & Costume Designer Dora Ng.
CID officer Chan (Eric Tsang) and his son Cheung (Li Ting-Fung) moves into an apartment complex that is set for to be tore down in one month. All tenants have gone except Mr. Yu (Leon Lai) and his wife Hai'er (Eugenia Yuan). The super explains to Chan that the wife is paralyzed from the waist down but Chan is going to uncover another truth. While desperately searching for his son, he enters Yu's apartment and finds the wife dead in the bathtub. From here on starts a three day ordeal for Chan as he's kidnapped and forced to know the real truth about Yu's life. It turns out he is treating Hai'er with Chinese medicine and she revives in three days according to him...
Based on the short story by Su Chao-Pin, Going Home's screenplay, penned by Jojo Hui and Matt Chow, is a rarity in today's Hong Kong cinema for the most simple of reasons; it's actually good, has great emotion and doesn't try and dig itself into a hole by employing tired genre twists. Instead what we have here is a excellent drama asking the age old question: how deep is your love? Peter had the privilege of working with a great screenplay in Comrades also and brings a definite respect in his handling of the material. You can sense there was a quietness, calmness in the Going Home events as written and that clearly is the case for the finished movie as well. Actually, Peter seems to delight, in the initial stages of the film, to make the audience think that this will be a terrifying, tense ride. It all starts when we slowly get to know the, about to be demolished, apartment complex Chan and his son moves into. Set to washed out and bleak cinematography by Christopher Doyle and matching design work, Peter creates an edgy atmosphere both through the images of the girl in red and terrific sound design. Actually, this is not just a director fooling the audience. As it turns out, it is very much an integral piece to the puzzle but after coming off the visual ride from Korea, the frankly boring and confusing Thai segment, director Chan I think, in the back off his head, still wanted to have a little fun while not losing sight of the shorter than usual narrative.
Going Home really is a superb example of equal amounts of show and tell. The story involves both quiet passages meaning much and talky ones meaning even more. However there is a balance here which makes Going Home suitable for even lazier audiences if you will. The core and theme of the movie, represented by Yu and his dead wife, is easily picked up on and while not melodramatic, is deeply touching as it turns out. Yu has great beliefs in Chinese medicine and obviously when we begin seeing his existence currently, we classify him as a madman. However, his quiethood that carries over to his overall mannerisms shows a genuine belief, a belief in something purely Chinese and it's throughout the movie both Chan and we as an audience will have to make up our mind before the revelation in the carefully laid out climax. Chan, stuck in the situation, is not a clear cut believer since he basically wants to get out to search for his son. He never reaches arrogance though but just harshly offers his view on Yu's situation. The two do connect, in an unspoken way, via their longing for the return of the only love of their lives.
As for the added footage to this director's cut, it mainly revolves around Chan and his son. It nicely adds some background to Chan's wife as well as decent weight to the father/son relationship. Also the subplot regarding Cheung and the girl is slightly expanded while the film also gets a new last scene. The cut runs approximately 4 minutes longer. To get a view at the differences in the director's cut, visit the Three: Going Home Deleted & Extended Scenes Gallery.
The acting on display is near on perfect. Leon Lai leads the pack with a performance that suits his talents. He's not Mr. Charisma but when directed well, as in Comrades, he can look much competent. He brings out Yu in an astonishing way. Quiet, methodic and 100% dedicated to only one thing in his life. Leon also delivers when an intensity is called for and communicates his love for Hai'er into the heart of the viewer. Definitely Leon's best performance. Eric Tsang has finally proven that his goofier side is easily forgotten when performing in dramatic offerings. Chan has an situation with his son where he apparently has to move around, even to temporary settings, but never is there any doubt that he does what he does in life for the well-being of his son. There's a strict behaviour to him but he's never far away to his loving sides either. Eric again proves his versatility and how he can use his face to communicate what is required. Quiet acting is exhilarating to watch when it's performed well and seeing as Chan has to witness a lot, we get an amount of that here.
Eugenia Yuan however is the true breakout here. The majority of her acting consists of being still and even naked at times, an aspect that doesn't approach exploitative in any way. The small breakouts into dialogue from her only heard by Yu are nailed by this newcomer and when she does briefly have longer dialogue, she seals the stamp off approval of not only her performance but the movie also. It adds even more to the emotion of Peter Chan's film. I heard Eugenia is pursuing a career in America instead but I'm hoping to see her back in Hong Kong cinema soon.
With Going Home, Peter Chan doesn't miss his story beats. Even with the revelations all up till the end, he keeps tremendous focus and delivers a thoughtful, touching message about deep love and beliefs. Combine that expert storytelling with Christopher Doyle's cinematography, Hai Chung Man's art direction and you have a gem of a drama that proves Peter Chan, despite his break in this capacity, is still a director that delivers. Going Home was definitely one of the finest examples of Hong Kong cinema during 2002.
Panorama presents the film in an 1.85:1 aspect ratio approximately and the presentation looks flawed but it's supposed to. Colours are washed out and bleak plus grain is clearly visible at times. To my eyes anyway, except a few specks on the print, the intentional design is well presented. I saw no quality problems with the added footage either. Worth mentioning that Panorama hasn't redone the opening credits since they also feature the other directors names. The end credits also cover the entire production of Three.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 track is in heavier use during the beginning. All channels are put to great use and when the movie calms down, the important element of dialogue is clear sounding. Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Stereo tracks are also available.
The English subtitles are free of grammar and spelling errors as far as I could see. Seemed identical to the prior release of Going Home and the added scenes subtitles are kept to a high standard also. A set of Chinese subtitles is also included.
Extras consist of an unsubtitled audio commentary, Chinese only biographies for Peter Chan, Eric Tsang, Leon Lai and Eugenia Yuan and the making of Going Home (15 minutes, 31 seconds). This program comes with optional English and Chinese subtitles. Going Home is the main focus here while Korea's Memories and Thailand's The Wheel only get a few minutes each, which is not enough time give us any extensive amounts of information. The look at Going Home is fairly informative and features cast & interviews with more intelligent praise than usually found in these programs. Too short to be actually good though but nice to have. The English subtitles tend to miss finishing sentences here and there but are helpful nonetheless.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson