Moonlight In Tokyo (2005)

Written & directed by: Alan Mak & Felix Chong
Producer: Andrew Lau
Starring: Leon Lai, Chapman To, Yang Kuei-Mei, Michelle Yip, Roy Cheung & Hayama Go

Buy the DVD at:

Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2006:
Best New Artist (Michelle Yip)

Nomination at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2006:
Best Supporting Actor (Chapman To)

Jun (Leon Lai) is a slightly mentally retarded man slightly lost in Japan. While looking for his brother, he bumps into low-life triad Hoi (Chapman To) who's racked up a considerable debt to Japanese gangster Shing (Hayama Go). Seeing an opportunity to exploit and abuse, Hoi decides to make Jun the best/busiest damn gigolo Japan has ever seen...

One is now a name to be reckoned with globally. The other a talented writer making sure him and other said party bring some good material to the table. The duo unleashing the off-beat genre mishmash Moonlight In Tokyo is Alan Mak and Felix Chong. Far removed from commercialism of the Infernal Affairs and Initial D-kind that they've associated themselves with before, Mak apparently feels very comfortable sharing the directing chair again in order for the film to mark Felix's first foray in this capacity. Bubbling with cinematic energy of the wild kind not seen since the fan favorite X-Mas Rave Fever, Moonlight In Tokyo is a rare occurrence of Hong Kong cinema partly going back to do what they do best: everything... BUT ...with a little bit of knowledge.

Clear from the getgo that Media Asia have let Alan and Felix run wild with their money, we're treated to an elaborate opening shot, setting mainly up drama through recurring imagery connected to Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale "The Ugly Duckling" and Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake". That in itself being connected to Leon Lai's Jun in some shape of form. See, it is a drama isn't it? Ok, that's nice...let's get comf...CUT TO, basically Young And Dangerous on weed with the camera and sound blasting out contrasts to prior visuals and you're now completely at a loss as to what to expect. The apparent mixture of EVERYTHING seems highly cherished by directors Mak and Chong and they make no apologies for the "rule-breaking" either.

They jolt the viewer when presenting every mood here and the presentation of them can come at unexpected times. Mainly occupied with a lot of quirky messing around with visuals and sound, the duo's script is at heart a very emotional one and you really do need some big cojones to want to pull this off. We're not even through laughing sometimes before we're asked to get in touch with character's feelings as deep down, Jun and Hoi have scarring of their own revealed at points. Jun feeling frustrated with the world when his intelligence is not enough and Hoi going through the requisite re-birth after befriending Jun.

Having a retarded character being the epitome of good-hearted and possessing the ability to inject that in any person he lays his hands on, you might think Moonlight In Tokyo is destined to be an overly politically correct piece. With its choices, it probably should've been but seeing as the director's choose a free for all style of cinema concerning every aspect of the film, Moonlight In Tokyo doesn't resemble any expectations you can come up with. It doesn't hurt that it pretty much nails whatever it dabbles in as well. It's quite beautiful even how these comedy, drama and violence-beats can flow so well from one to the other.

Nothing would've been achieved obviously without the aid of a solid duo in front of the camera as well and Leon Lai continues to break new ground as now a slightly older actor/singer. Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks... whatever inspiration might've fueled the direction taken by Lai, it's not an act tacked on as he carefully plays with the correct nuances when dealing with every mood Jun goes through. Be it his actual street smart, figuring out the exploitation he's put through and ultimately, inner wish fulfillment based on the haunting abandonment he's experienced in life. Same with Chapman To who's not yet balanced out his unwelcome, grating acts in just about every Hong Kong film from the last few years but he's breaking out. Not only with his performance here but in Edmond Pang's Macau set drama Isabella as well. The character of Hoi in Moonlight In Tokyo is the requisite loud mouthed triad who needs an awakening to not only realize the silliness of his tough guy act but to get back to basics. Human basics. To is well on board with the wild humour given to him by Alan Mak and Felix Chong. Easily puts forth a genuine warmth as well as really rapidly going through the moods as required.

Moonlight In Tokyo deals with characters and emotions at its core but is still a true cinematic experience. This means rule bending of the grave kind which is something audiences tend to hate with a vengeance. Some can't stand to be jerked around but Alan Mak and Felix Chong clearly do not care for that closed up audience. The director's even tend to be unfair with their choices but it's their choices. The laughter, the heartache etc etc, all contribute to a successful return for primarily Alan Mak to what you might call "odd" cinema. I call it creativity à la excellence. Even if that doesn't mean anything, I can do whatever I want when summing up a film where the directing duo does the same.

The DVD:

A quality anamorphic 2.29:1 framed transfer from Megastar that registers high in every conceivable department. The aspect ratio goes even wider at select, stylish points.

The Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 option (as well as the alternate DTS 5.1) holds the original mixed language track in mainly Cantonese and Japanese. Involving and detailed, mainly in the fronts, this is an excellent showcase to go along with the film. A Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also available.

The English subtitles possesses no apparent grammar- and structural errors. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available.

Disappointingly enough, for a fair box-office hit, extras are rather light and also no English translation has been provided. The Making Of (17 minutes, 52 seconds) takes the usual route of showcasing cast & crew interviews, clips and behind the scenes of footage. The rehearsal for the ballet scene is fun but that's about it for those in need of a translation into English. 2 trailers and a cast & crew listing are all that remains after that.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson