Hidden Track (2003)

Written & directed by: Aubrey Lam
Producer: Teddy Chen
Starring: Po Po, Shawn Yue, Daniel Wu, David Ng, Denise Ho, Chan Hing-Cheung, Eason Chan & Jay Chou

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Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2004:
Best New Artist (Po Po)

Never abandoning her writing career even after debuting as director with Twelve Nights in 2000, for instance Aubrey Lam has since penned the underrated Love Trilogy, Perhaps Love and recently was one of many writers on The Warlords. Taking 3 years until directing again, relationships is her angle but the darkness is certainly cleaned out compared to her debut. For Hidden Track, Lam ups the ante by going multimedia on us, more cheerful, mysterious, abstract but ends up perhaps unintentionally so favouring the latter.

Amazingly enough Lam manages to erase any notion of this being a shameless Jay Chou promo vehicle by painting the soundtrack almost wall to wall Jay Chou music. When you overdo it, you get acceptance in a strange way. This leads into seemingly pure realism as we meet Mainland girl Po Po (Po Po, quite convenient name for the actress) at her home in Wuhan, mourning the loss of a relationship and clinging on to their song. Is her ex-boyfriend that enters the frey here pushing her away from a deserved mourning period or is she holding on too tight? Indeed the question as Po Po takes refuge to Hong Kong to search for their song, a hidden Jay Chou track only made available on a limited number of cd's. Her search after a while naturally comes to Yu's (Shawn Yue) used cd store. Yu is heartbroken after losing his dog and despite taking a liking to each other's plights, they seem to not share the common goal. He wants a dog, she wants a cd...

Aubrey Lam makes little secrets that her colourful, bubbly world will be one borderlining on surreal and it's filmmaking flirting with arthouse. Rarely getting full acceptance of this choice, it's a bit fun to see Lam just toy around with animation, otherworldly moments that has Po Po feeling the sun is fully interacting with her and the symbolism of her wanting all things to be round. The best symbolism in the film actually, it's neatly showcased when she asks for a fully round cheesecake, her asking new age fan Paul (Eason Chan) to teach her the movement symbolizing the circle of life and Lam asks the most intriguing question. Is Pop Po going round in circles or on a healthy circle of life? But there is such a thing of being too quirky and off-beat.

Because as Lam assaults with what really can be described as weirdness, she crosses a threshold where the human relationships gets muddled and clogged up by her desire to mix this with an eccentric nature to many things. Sure we're taken down to reality when the likes of David Ng and Daniel Wu becomes the representation of the asshole male and Po Po therefore getting closer to her better object of desire in actuality but you can enchant by taking the magic down a notch. Lam may test her waters and may consider herself nailing Hidden Track as well.

It's there but not fully there. As a prospect on paper, no one would be able to see the bullets of colour and quirkiness Lam shoots at us that then will lead to a conclusion that again mixes whatever realities Lam desires. And I applaud the choice and like Shawn Yue's comedic scenes that displays his desperate attachment to dogs but out of Hidden Track, you can extract very little that is acceptable cinema. Aubrey Lam is molding her cinema rather and that's still something to follow... I hope.

The DVD:

Panorama presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.81:1. Fair colours and a clean transfer is a plus but there's distracting noise on the picture that among other things prevents sharpness to show its true face.

The Cantonese/Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 track shot in full synch sound doesn't challenge the front stage overly much but presents its aspects in clear manner. Other options are Cantonese/Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1.

The English subtitles are error-free and fully coherent. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. Only extra is a Chinese subtitled Making Of (19 minutes, 11 second). Seems standard but it's cute that they've incorporated animation specifically for this program.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson