Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
Friday, April 21, time 3.00 PM


By date


By title


After This Our Exile

Patrick Tam, one of the leading directors of the Hong Kong New Wave, made a strong return to the forefront of local film with After This Our Exile in 2006. Tam’s previous movie as director, My Heart Is That Eternal Rose, had arrived in 1989, and since then he’d worked in editing and academia until producers lent support for him to revisit his bold, risk-taking approach to commercial cinema.
Clocking in at 160 minutes, After This Our Exile details family strife in Malaysia. Chef, gambler and general deadbeat Chow Cheong-shing (Aaron Kwok) has been placing immense pressure on his wife Lin (Charlie Young), and it’s now too much to bear. Fed up and suffering, she packs her bags, sends her son (Gouw Ian Iskandar) off to school and tries to leave. She’s soon caught and locked in the house, but it’s only a matter of time before she successfully departs for a new life, leaving an enraged Shing and his loyal son to fend for themselves. After Shing ditches work and the power is cut at home, and with loan sharks in pursuit, father and son leave town and take a path that risks leading to ruin.
After This Our Exile originated as a project in the mid-1990s, when Tam was teaching in Malaysia. Inspired by a news story of a father teaching his son to steal, the picture follows its characters in depth to let emotional complexities unfold onscreen. Tam is even-handed in approaching the parents – both act selfishly, and both fail the son when he needs support – but it’s the father who takes the bulk of the screen time. Tam takes time and employs repetition to build up Shing’s character: a reckless man clueless about how he wronged Lin, proud yet cowardly, and unable to control his hot temper.
Tam tackles the family saga with a deft touch and the energy of Hong Kong popular cinema, and lets his famously experimental side shine through. Even amid the relaxed, tropical surrounds, stylistic links to Tam’s hometown cinema abound: sharp genre shifts, raw emotions and wild mood swings recall characteristics of 1980s and ‘90s Hong Kong classics, and music dramatically wells up as it does in black-and-white Cantonese mel­odramas. Major moments are underlined with complex and precise edits, like when Shing beds a prostitute (Kelly Lin) in a dramatic non-linear sex scene with flashbacks. And Tam quietly and matter-of-factly inserts curious shots for the viewer to assess, like a double role for actor Kwok and a calm point of cleansing towards the end.
Central for much of the picture, Aaron Kwok puts in a career-high performance as the deeply troubled Shing. The actor produces an intensely physical performance as the father in a departure from many of his earlier popular roles. Charlie Young likewise im­presses as the mother, while Gouw Ian Iskandar proves capable of quality results in his first (and so far only) film as an actor.
On its release, After This Our Exile became a critical success, and awards rolled in in­cluding Best Film in both the Hong Kong Film Awards and Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards. (For its part, Udine Far East Film marked Tam’s return to directing by staging an exhaustive career retrospective.) More than a decade on, After This Our Exile may not hold the sort of popular international reputation enjoyed by other post-1997 landmarks of Hong Kong cinema, but its achievements and significance continue to stand apart. With its striking, boundary-pushing approach to mainstream cinema, it exemplifies how the city’s movie industry can support its master filmmakers in exploring challeng­ing new directions.
Tim Youngs
Film director: 
Patrick Tam
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