My Name Ain't Suzie (1985)

Directed by: Angela Chan
Written by: John Chan
Producers: Mona Fong, Wong Ka Hee, Wan Paak-Naam & Annette Sam
Starring: Pat Ha, Betty Ting, Angela Yu, Anthony Wong, Colette Go & Deannie Yip

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Award at the Hong Film Awards 1986:
Best Supporting Actress (Deannie Yip)

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1986:
Best Actress (Pat Ha)
Best Art Direction (Lee King-Man)

Some theories out there rightly (or not) suggests that this one of the last released Shaw Brother's productions was a (late) response to the way Hong Kong prostitutes were portrayed in the 1960 Hollywood production The World Of Suzie Wong. But with no immediate access to that movie or the instinct to work with it as a comparison piece to My Name Ain't Suzie, we'll roll along and will judge this film on its own merits instead. Shocking way of working but true. At any rate, director Angela Chan worked very briefly in the director's chair, doing another Shaw Brother's production prior to this (Maybe It's Love) and lastly Chaos By Design for Golden Harvest in 1988. Writer John Chan supported a New Wave classic (Nomad), a Chow Yun-Fat classic (Hong Kong 1941) and a Tsui Hark classic (Shanghai Blues) with his writing and coupled with the fact that the often daring Pat Ha (1*) leads, the film sits on a number of good cards.

Hong Kong have often had a great urge (a commercial one) to portray the life of hostesses, especially later on for exploitation purposes but in a serious manner as well. Queen Of Under World and Queen Of Temple Street springs to mind and just to make these reviews a bit more interactive, check for yourself which one is the smuttiest of the two! Between the three however, My Name Ain't Suzie has intentions that resembles Lawrence Lau's Queen Of Temple Street but even though I didn't respond kindly to that film, it definitely showed a terrific focus on drama compared to pretty much any hostess-drama. Regarding Angela Chan's work on Suzie, it's valid but lacking a focused sweep on the tale.

Starting its story in the 50s, Pat Ha's Shui Mei-Li goes from poor conditions in a fishing family to being trained under the supervision of Betty Ting Pei's (2*) Monie to achieving quote unquote famed status until her own independence brings her trouble. We're with Mei-Li's development as there seems to exist a smart kid in there that adapts but with the finished blueprint in hand, characters goes predictable places spelling doom mostly. However director Chan properly deals with it in a more somber way, getting characters to accept that they don't belong at home anymore but within the biz as there's money to be had. Notions of love are rather unhealthy as a businesswoman but a woman can't help but to feel, which is perhaps writer John Chan's ultimate punishment towards his characters. Anthony Wong's character of Jimmy enters around this point, being a bad boy, a womanizer but is only set on one goal: finding his father. It's mildly interesting at best, even when we go as far as watching characters shrivel at the thought of being lonely.

Chan's stylistic intentions are pretty sound though. Glamorizing her environments just enough (the Lucky Bar representing the best of times) but going gritty as the times and society change (no Vietnam war, no solider boys as customers), there's some nifty shots created by cinematographer Bob Huke. One overhead shot of a cubicle area where the "business" takes place is rather striking in that regard.

Devotion from lead Pat Ha is admirable and she has a real gift of doning every conceivable appearance, ranging from the tom boy to glamour to glamour in a middle aged package and to desperation as a street hooker. Through her, the downbeat themes of the film do come to life sporadically as we are made to understand what My Name Ain't Suzie represents but hinging it all on Pat Ha isn't enough. Billed as Anthony Perry, Anthony Wong's motion picture debut is sufficient and everyone is open about he literally channeling some James Dean aspects to his acting. That's ok and Wong has presence in developing that works in tune with the production. Then again, had there been more affection and a felt nature to Angela Chan's movie, maybe Ha and Wong would've delivered the performances of a lifetime. We appreciate the serious take on portraying a profession that you don't just turn away from easily but lost in the mix are the goals of capturing an audience.

The DVD:

IVL presents Celestial's remastered print in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Free of damage, the image is fairly colourful but a little on the fuzzy side, hindering true sharpness come out. Then again we may be dealing with an accurate representation of Bob Huke's photography.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track is billed as being mono but there is front speaker as well as surround activity. No evidence of added effects to the track however. Dialogue often sounds shrill but overall the track is easy to get through. The Mandarin 2.0 selection also contains the surround encoding.

The English subtitles seem less looked over as it contains its share of the Hong Kong subtitling grammar we've come to loathe and love over the years. No problem deciphering anything that goes on though. They are timed to the Mandarin track and that occasionally shows by the appearance of subtitles but no dialogue on the Cantonese track. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

Extras includes the original trailer for My Name Ain't Suzie, a newly created one as well as spots for Notorious Eight, The Knight Of Knights and Inside The Forbidden City. Movie Information-sections starts with Photo Gallery where we get 16 images in the sub-section Behind The Scenes (only one actual such image is in there, rest is black and white production stills) and Movie Stills has 20 fairly high quality colour stills.

A way too small shot of the ravishing original poster comes next while Production Notes as always contains a plot synopsis. Biography & Selected Filmography has dual language pieces on Pat Ha, Deannie Yip, Anthony Wong, Angela Yu and director Angela Chan (billed as Angie here). Basic but welcome information on the profiles can be found, including what director Chan is up to nowadays.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson

(1) She had done the daring Amorous Woman Of Tang Dynasty by this point and would go on to make the underrated, harsh village drama The Woman Of Wrath in Taiwan.

(2) Most famously known for having Bruce Lee in her apartment when he died, she even starred in a Shaw Brother's exploitation vehicle detailing the events, called Bruce Lee And I. Future Hong Kong cinema cop Danny Lee played the legendary martial arts star!