Breeze Of July (2007)
Written & directed by: Stanley Tam
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There's life in the HD Video movie (1*) and certainly there should be life in the Hong Kong indie movie that doesn't go a pretentious arthouse-route. Debut director Stanley Tam's credits as editor on Butterfly (whose writer/director Yan Yan-Mak lent her co-producing skills to his movie) and Exodus certainly are impressive but it's not a given a past profession will automatically be connected to your new one. Sometimes true for cinematographers turned directors and for editors too. Tam's deeper intents may not come through as deeply with Breeze Of July and certainly the film lacks the execution in depth it was aiming for. Partially due to the heavy burden on lead Monie Tung but background theme and overall message remains very valid and with a few tweaks, Stanley Tam might be somebody one day.
Adapted from a short story by Chan Wai, Lan-Xin (Monie Tung) comes back to Hong Kong for her mother's funeral and she moves into her old house with Auntie Lan (Koo Kam-Wah) who's been by her mother's side since long. It's all just another pit stop in a dead end life for Lan Xin though. Toronto didn't work for her. Vancouver didn't work for her and even when meeting up with childhood friend Big Head (Sammy Leung), Lan Xin does her best to squander any opportunities as she is scared. A looming debt has her fleeing to Shanghai together with Auntie Lan but meeting up with her mother's old friends and surroundings starts a change...
Filled to the brim with Edmond Leung's music and Lan Xin's voiceover, pictures are pretty, not arty overall (the out of focus shots talented cinematographer Jason Kwan is forced to do grates however), but Stanley Tam seems to put forth more depth than what is clear in the final product. There's really not much to the thematic and it should've been kept at a limited set of notions. What is clear is that the fleeing, childish, cold and at times obnoxious Lan Xin takes a long time to slowly turn around to the side of her that needs to appreciate past friendship and support. The near constant wish to flee, especially when she feels inferior is a key too.
Embodying this quite suitably well is Monie Tung but her performance suffers when the direction of her inner emotions does. When Stanley Tam can't communicate, nor can the beautiful Tung. There's no one more reliable than the character of Big Head in Lan Xin's life and the sights of how old friendship has lasted in the case of Auntie Lan's (and Lan Xin's mother's) case, slowly warms our main character. As does the light bulb changing in "the old house" by Big Head.
I like that it's a slow process for Lan Xin and the fact that resolution may come at a later date than what the movie portrays. Plus, director Tam (who also suitably enough served as editor) works by his own rules as he creates his smooth looking independent feature. This doesn't make Breeze Of July extraordinary or out of the ordinary though but being small allows room for sure. And Tam wants a big room to inject his substance but when there's very much less depth available than his actual intentions, we get a little flat-footed, valiant effort. A quiethood from Lan Xin with voice over doesn't change matters but clearly matters hurt when Lan Xin ISN'T speaking about her inner development. Again, it's hard to blame Monie Tung completely.
The bored look that is actually contemplating works as a concept but as with many scenes in the latter half, we beg for thrust and more clarity than we're getting. We want to be on the same ride Stanley Tam is... the slow turning merry-go-round that is but unfortunately our experience ends with an appreciation for Lan Xin on a mere basic level and at times we even ask ourselves: "Yea...so?".
The DVD (Edko):
Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 with a mix of Cantonese, Mandarin, Shanghainese and English.
Subtitles: English (very good translation and it constantly points out the usage of dialects in a helpful manner) and traditional Chinese.
Extras: The trailer and a photo gallery (10 images).
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) The movies within Andy Lau's "FOCUS: First Cuts" program, such as My Mother Is A Belly Dancer (the cinematographer on Breeze Of July, Jason Kwan, served as that film's DOP as well), being the best represented examples but look for Fortune Star's distributed line of movies such as Herman Yau's A Mob Story as well. Ann Hui's award-winning The Way We Are chose the format too, creating perhaps the best Hong Kong movie from 2008.