A Moment Of Romance (1990)
by: Benny Chan
at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1991:
Wah Dee (Andy Lau from Running Out Of Time) is a small time gangster whose heart and skill lies in riding motorbikes. At a heist, where he's the getaway driver, he's forced to take young girl Jojo (Wu Chien-Lien from Beyond Hypothermia) hostage to avoid being caught by the police. The gang of thieves want her dead to ensure no future troubles occur but Wah Dee refuses and sets her free. This is the beginning of an unlikely romance between two very different human beings...
There are different ways to approach a project which has a familiar story like this one. You can take no chances and make a simple take on it without no surprises. Or do what Benny Chan did with A Moment Of Romance, inject a subtle depth combined with some really solid writing and performances. With James Yuen's script backing him up, Benny shows us an already very mature and style free directing, something which surprised me considering it was his directing debut. Benny has then gone on to directing more shallow (yet entertaining) movies like Gen-X Cops and if that is a bad career choice I can not say but A Moment Of Romance showed off great character drama skills.
He lets the technical side of filmmaking breath just a little, which suits this human story more. There's only a few moments where for example slow motion is used but it's employed pretty much just right and does what slow motion should do, emphasize the moment. Some young directors don't know how and when this should be used but Benny has probably looked at some other directors who are skilled in that department, therefore pulling it off in his own movie. Other than that he concentrates on telling the story right & clear and even if the running time isn't very long, there weren't many moments that dragged. The movie offers a varied gallery of characters that are all given an opportunity to shine at some point. Everyone from main to supporting characters are important and that as well as mixing the two genres of romance and triad is done with great skill by the filmmakers.
If you could describe A Moment Of Romance as a still picture, I would say it's a dark and grim one which will stay with you for a little while. The movie is quite gory and violent, something that is enhanced so much more when it is someone we care about that is on the receiving end. Ace director Ringo Lam was one of the producers (and also Wong Jing!) and the violence presented is sort of similar to to grittiness present in some of Ringo's movies so maybe he influenced Benny and the production a bit (in a good way).
Cinematographers Horace and Joe Chan also play a huge part in painting the picture that is A Moment Of Romance. Another movie to compare the look of this one with I think is Riley Yip's Metade Fumaca, in other words we get a fairly natural lightning scheme with only the beautiful neon lights of Hong Kong creating natural atmosphere. Horace and Joe's work should be mentioned since in the movie we don't notice it very much. It's the story we care about and not primarily the way scenes are shot. That is in my opinion when cinematography is at it's best.
Law Tai-Yau's nominated score is a bit on the sentimental side but would've worked worse if the images it was scored too were corny and too sentimental. That doesn't happen and dark music passages and well inserted canto pop songs (some probably sung by Andy) makes this a nice music experience as well. For some reason I was reminded about the score structure and the songs used in All About Ah Long when I listened to A Moment Of Romance. They seemed eerily similar but you could 'steal' from worse movies than that one.
Andy Lau has been in a lot of movies and it's no wonder I keep bumping into him in these reviews. As mentioned in other reviews, I think Andy acts the best when he has a more subdued and maybe dark character to play and he has on a number occasions proven that he can do good work with a well written and fleshed out character. The character of Wah Dee is probably one of his strongest performances even to this date. Wah Dee is a fairly complex guy but also some interesting traits come out when he's with Jojo. We as an audience don't really know how much he does or is going to care to care about Jojo and he comes across as very cold in a few scenes, which is probably due to him not knowing himself what he feels. Andy really makes this role his own and all the different sides of Wah Dee like his romantic and tough one comes across nicely in Andy's performance.
Wu Chien-Lin made her movie debut with this role and what an impression she made! She really looks the part of Jojo who's trapped rich parents girl but she is also a little bit mysterious to the audience because it's never really stated exactly why she is drawn to Wah Dee. Is it because he indeed is a triad or because she sees something in him that could be improved upon? That this is not made clear works for us for the most part and we can put all the pieces together in the end but I do feel that in some scenes and moments a little bit more writing was needed for her character. Not the most layered role ever in a movie but for a debutante Wu Chien-Lin really impresses.
The star of this movie is Andy Lau but the strongest performance comes from Stephen Chow-regular Ng Man Tat (from Shaolin Soccer). His very out there underdog character can at first be seen as a painfully bad attempt to have comedy in this serious film. During the course of the film though he still acts very wild but there's more sadness apparent in him. All in all Ng Man Tat very convincingly embodies this character. Although not the same role but in Portland Street Blues he played a similar underdog character.
A Moment Of Romance is a very well executed piece that to me is essential viewing for those of us exploring other genres than just action. I hope Benny Chan at some point will revisit this kind of filmmaking since he showed here the depths he has as one.
The Megastar transfer is framed at 1.85.1 and looks pretty solid throughout. Print damage is present in the form of small dots and speckles but are not bad for a 12 year old movie. Sharpness is good but the transfer comes across as slightly murky at times.
The new Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese remix has some out of place newly inserted foley effects but I've certainly heard worse. Music and some of the new effects creates fairly good atmosphere and dialogue is for once properly centered by Megastar's sound team. A Mandarin 5.1 dub is also included.
The English subtitles are more up to average standard on this disc. You have your usual spelling and grammar inaccuracies but that wasn't too much of a problem on this particular Hong Kong dvd. Japanese, Bahasa Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Spanish, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.
Extras consists of a plot synopsis, cast & crew listings (with quite bad biographies of stars Andy Lau and Wu Chien-Lin plus director Benny Chan) plus trailers for A Moment Of Romance, Jackie Chan My Stunts, Black Cat 1 & 2 and Media Asia's DVD Promo Trailer.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson