The Happenings (1980)
Directed by: Yim Ho
A first venture of undersigned into the early mind and vision of Yim Ho but I wish I could say I know this far into his career what can be expected of him. Certainly politics and war have been at the forefront of movies such as Red Dust and King Of Chess (he acted in both movies as well) while The Day The Sun Turned Cold presented a Mainland murder mystery/family drama of the highest caliber. At the time of writing Yim Ho's latest was a quirky little romance (A West Lake Moment) so again when I say his second movie The Happenings is a violent youth drama, you tell me if there's a common denominator here! I can think of one, this early work is from a fine visionary just like the latter ones mentioned.
Set during one night, the male gang consisting of friends Cream (Cheung Kwok-Keung - Cops And Robbers, Eastern Condors), King Kong (Ti Keung), Bee and Kid (Yim Jan-Wa) hook up with Ah Ying (Lisa Yuen) and her friend at a disco. The nightly adventures of these disillusioned youth continues with the theft of a car, a prank turned murder at a gas station and the havoc of the gang expectedly gets the attention of the police...
An often abrasive, gritty and tough experience, Yim Ho makes statements about how youths feel they can't get work and even when they do it won't make a difference as they can't survive economically. This comes out of the mouths of the youths very late thankfully and it manages to co-exist alongside a borderline horror-esque night of terror. The Happenings has a lot of interesting stuff going on but survives as a violent, downwards spiral ride too from the new wave climate of 1980s Hong Kong. From the industrial images leading to the nightclub scene where the likes of Cream, Ah Ying and friends contemplate jobs as pimps or making their bodies available for rent, at the other end of the spectrum they witness the local John Travolta (the late Danny Chan from An Autumn's Tale) interviewed by the local youth magazine (the journalist subplot could've easily been dropped though) about his goals in life. Him being the dancing king may not equate to a career but the likes of Ah Ying, who was previously interviewed, look down on this and sets her mind to downtrodden ways. Yim Ho sets up the edgy nature of The Happenings here, especially in a slow motion capture of the groovy disco dancing. It isn't as enjoyable and carefree of an atmosphere present in the film as we initially think...
With no adult world present to guide, Cream and company have just given up that their possibly good hearted parents will be able to get the world playing into their favour. No advice can register, not even from their local big brother, car stereo stealing tea boy. So the night may not hold darkness but the center piece at the gas station turns into that. An abusive, abrasive exercise in violence and sound design, Yim Ho's has an effective grip on the split second violence, the aftermath of it, the tension and it all neatly manages to flirt heavily with the horror without taking a genre leap. As panic spreads, it leads into an interesting dissection of group dynamics the deeper one such group sinks into trouble. They wander between panic, manages to find laughter again, violent streaks, moments to intimidate and they even mourn together. All while the intense circumstances inevitably are not going to mean the violence will be fading. It all is fuel onto the fire for the frustration present and while Cream isn't a kid that is gladly turning to violence, the film makes it his only option after a while. The possible lethal outcome for all of these may be the saviour after all.
A fast paced narrative and very little of convention is apparent (aside from a Canto pop song injected at one point), the rough, amateur acting serves The Happenings well as again it works as effectively without analyzing the themes all too much. It's not an exploitation or commercial type of ride. It's Yim Ho venting for the kids and he's wise to not be TOO important and pretentious about it. Brute force works in his favour essentially.
The DVD (Joy Sales):
Video: 2.31:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0.
Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese (Cantonese/Mandarin) and simplified Chinese (Cantonese/Mandarin).
Extras: The trailer and a Photo Gallery (12 movie stills).
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson