Twelve Nights (2000)

Written & directed by: Aubrey Lam
Produced by: Peter Chan
Starring: Cecilia Cheung, Eason Chan, Candy Lo, Nicola Cheung & Ronald Cheng

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Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2001:
Best New Artist (Candy Lo)
Best Original Song "Black Night Please Don't Go Again"
Music: Chan Fai-Yeung
Lyrics: Lam Jik
Performed by: Eason Chan

Not on board from the getgo at United Filmmakers Organization (UFO) but instead from 1995's Whatever Will Be, Will Be, writer Aubrey Lam has contributed to a fair amount of high profile titles including Purple Storm, Golden Chicken 2 and Perhaps Love. As with the crop of writers/directors UFO had (1*), Lam also moved into that multitask-arena with the first feature being a Golden Harvest romance produced by UFO's Peter Chan. Romance perhaps is a strong word as Twelve Nights is very anti-romantic but with that comes a needed realism. A realism to explore darker facets of relationships and although saying nothing grand and creating a rather tough watch at times, Aubrey Lam's debut warrants a look for assured behaviour from behind the lens, influenced by Ingmar Bergman's Scener Ur Ett Äktenskap (Scenes From A Marriage).

Detailing a story of not so assured behaviour, the plot is relatively simple as it's about the fairly tumultuous relationship between Jeannie (Cecilia Cheung) and Alan (Eason Chan). Meeting and teaming up (notice I didn't write anything about falling in love) after their respective relationships comes to an end, the titular twelve nights (taking place over 12 months) will come with grave tests of the complex kind as far as these things go. Because love and relationships at heart will always remain complex. Especially psychologically and Aubrey Lam takes a look at, among other things, the kind of feelings that go into destructive acts. Having a mysterious Nicholas Tse cameo open the film but setting up the story where multiple rejections take place on Christmas Day, it's a lot of crashing involved and title cards spell out philosophies of truth (be it when relationships are in some kind of cynical or happy stage).

Jeannie and Alan clearly come from acts where communication is constantly low. Her boyfriend Johnny (Ronald Cheng) she leaves based on hearsay and Alan really seems so bored out of his mind that he doesn't even bother explaining to his girlfriend (Nicola Cheung) a past connection with Jeannie. Why should Alan and Jeannie fit so well then? Well she has the belief in fate, no matter how odd and crooked the road is towards being together (she uses a rearview mirror as a sign of all this) and the duo seems to be rather playful in their particular dialogue towards each other...during the first nights. Yes, here they can call each other on their facial imperfections without consequence but as the counting of the nights turn repetitive, the characters are wearing themselves out. To the point where director Lam punishes the audience the hardest by planting us in the middle of a scene where Alan forces Jeannie to constantly change clothes for a social event. This is tedium in a relationship where apparently you have as your primary objective to throw out hurt, verbally in this case. Who's the least pro-active in this machinery then? Well, line is blurred by Lam but by having Alan look down upon the past low's of Jeannie that has lead to sex with strangers, it's a lazy finger-pointing gesture because as always, how much does the past really play a part in the current situation? The two represent like/hate and notions of them rather going through all this than to stay alone has classic psychology written all over it.

Which is why Lam's film is easy to relate to and hard to watch. Anyone who has been in an argument where talking points appear at that WAY TOO LATE point will nod their heads in shame and acknowledging our problem, as a civilization, of communicating is really Lam's quite fair success with Twelve Nights. Utilizing little style despite borrowing Johnnie To's regular DOP Cheng Siu-Keung, outside of some carefully framed static shots and quick fadeout's, there's little reason to notice the filmmaker tricks. Because what Lam correctly focuses on is hiring two pop stars that are the essence of being multi-performers as well. Cecilia and Eason are finely immersed and immerses themselves into the material that does require all kinds of awkward, clichéd, hurtful and emotional behaviour. But aside from one grating scene of Cheung crying her heart out, subdued and dedicated are tactics here, employed well.

Aubrey Lam's debut is otherwise a healthy but difficult start, preaching reboots in your life. Audience reactions are surely going to be hurled towards the screen, looking at the notions of fate and impulsive behaviour alone but it makes Twelve Nights engaging, minor cinema if anything. Don't expect to be enlightened or lightened up but sometimes you have to think through thoughts like that as well. Time will tell as we explore Aubrey Lam's films if she merely needed this movie to cleanse.

The DVD:

Universe presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.80:1, approximately. Clean, sporting decent colours and sharpness, for a budget disc of a new-ish film, there's little to complain about here.

Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.

The English subtitles are flawless throughout and presents an easily comprehensible translation. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

Standard Universe extras are included, starting with Star's Files for Cecilia Cheung and Nicola Cheung. Former Cheung's is short as her career was fresh at that time and latter Cheung's mainly comes off as a dating ad as it goes through all her great characteristics in favour of film career breakdown. Trailers for Twelve Nights, When I Fall In Love... With Both and Tokyo Raiders finishes the slim package.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson


(1) Examples being James Yuen (The Wedding Days, Crazy N' The City) and Lee Chi-Ngai (Lost And Found).