Yesterday You, Yesterday Me (1997)
Produced & directed by: Jacob Cheung
They made it to and into a trilogy of movies, getting their series of transition dubbed the "Banana Ripening" series in the process. They and the ones responsible? Samson Chiu opened strongly with a risque but sweet look at boyhood on its way to young manhood in Yesteryou, Yesterme, Yesterday. Joe Ma followed in almost equally poignant ways with Over The Rainbow, Under The Skirt and last, Jacob Cheung (Cageman, Battle Of Wits) delivers the finale of John Tang's Bo's escalating up and down inner/outwards journey through his particular life.
Produced at UFO, in house writer Aubrey Lam (1*) immerses herself into the series a little bit too comfortably, choosing to give this stage a meaning that was already available in Samson Chiu's vision. With the risk of sounding repetitive, that is unavoidable when discussing Bo in Yesterday You, Yesterday Me. A train wreck of a young man and a train wreck of a mind, ultimately he is a quite realistic snapshot of a male with his strands of thoughts deep imbedded in every subject conceivable that he wants to excel at, especially sex. On his path of becoming "someone" at University, here's a kid that wants confidence, experience and solutions without much true enlightenment. Better to somewhat cheat in life on your way to the top then. In the end Bo is still on a discovering path of even the most basic nature and it means even going backwards at several points. He's pretty much consciously slapping his ignorance, shallowness onto the world and disrespect towards his family (not as evil as it sounds though) and again, the filmmakers preach the fact that learning these lessons means a prosperous future as a character, even if it takes an entire lifetime to achieve.
I like this theme in writing. I sincerely liked it materialized in Yesteryou, Yesterme, Yesterday and even though more of a new strand turns up, concerning Bo's newly found love for the esthetics of film, leading to being a victim of real life romance, director Jacob Cheung's very correct instincts turns into dangerous repetitions. There's funny passages where the racy nature of the series, in combination with Lau Ching-Wan's intense voiceover, hits the spot as well as low-key emotional outbursts, character inner reflection and so on but in the whole scheme of things, the film rather consists of individual scene highlights as well as some unrealized sub-tangents. One involves the journey Bo's constantly masturbating roommate Walter (Lai Hoi-Yin) goes through, aiming his dedication to the world of University politics eventually and dragging Bo along with him. As rich as it sounds, it's only mildly so and is a distraction even if our lead is pulled in this direction for structural reasons.
Anyone can see where the filmmakers are going with this and some aspects of Cheung's hands off direction (also in terms of visual style) works. As does the fact that he wisely doesn't quit on the series after his final frame. True to life, there are happy and unhappy key moments and we would have a 20 movie series if we were to follow through on Bo's every turn towards his destiny. I'm sure he could even mess himself up in later years but somehow get back on track again and this has always been a charming view on the character within the series. Lead John Tang does the role partly in his sleep but is also very comfortable in Bo's skin, only being a slight victim to the fairly big unnecessity of having a third movie at all. Yeung Chang as his older love interest Jean unfortunately ends up resembling Eileen Tung's Chen in Over The Rainbow, Under The Skirt but even with the likeness in terms of what type Bo has targeted and how he adjusts his being to it, Yeung IS one of the sad victims of the films difficulty to be an integral part of a trilogy. Eric Tsang returns as the father but no effort has been made to make him look older. In fact, he looks like he walked straight from the set of Comrades, Almost A Love Story which really does a disservice to the crucial background presence he's supposed to be. Same with the re-casting of the mother, now an even younger version than prior cast members Fung Bo Bo and Law Koon-Lan in the form of Goo Gei-Kwan.
With all this in mind though, it's hard to truly let go of the film series as the three films presents a compelling, human journey (in the case of this last outing, on paper only) for a character that hasn't been conveniently scripted (the repeating motive of The Bee Gee's "First Of May" pretty much always works for whatever action on screen). With more tangents on his mind than most movie characters, John Tang's memorable portrayal of Bo has made the "Banana Ripening" a series to respect, without it being revolutionary as such. It's sincere and so is Jacob Cheung. Problem is when Cheung goes on even slight autopilot, there's no distinction akin to Cageman or Beyond The Sunset, despite also working with a cinematic language he's very much comfortable in usually.
Mei Ah presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.79:1, approximately. It's clean but being an early Mei Ah dvd, the theatrical print is pale and generally weak on the sharpness side of things.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track contains minor surround ambience if you put your ear to that channel but largely the center channel dominates, with audible results to the requisite degree. The Mandarin 2.0 dub plays out in the rear speakers. Nice, Mei Ah.
The imbedded Chinese/English subtitles drops some words here and there, creating less than stellar grammar but all meanings come through without much problems anyway. The subtitles are readable at all times. There are no extras or a menu to find out that very fact.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson