My Name is Fame (2006)

Directed by: Lawrence Lau
Written by: James Yuen, Jessica Fong & Law Yiu-Fai
Producers: Henry Fong & Sin Dong-Bing
Starring: Lau Ching-Wan, Huo Siyan, Candice Yu, Chiang Han, Leung San & Wayne Lai

Buy the DVD at:

Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2007:
Best Actor (Lau Ching-Wan)

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2007:
Best Screenplay (James Yuen, Jessica Fong & Law Yiu-Fai)
Best Supporting Actor (Candice Yu)
Best New Artist (Huo Siyan)

Poon Kar Fai (Lau Ching-Wan) was once a promising, award winning actor (1*) whose luck and flow has taken a turn for the worse. Drifting endlessly, not maintaining a very good image in order to get any good jobs, his fire is ignited again when he's saddled with the presence of aspiring actress Faye Ng (Huo Siyan). Using his actual well-honed knowledge, he becomes her coach and manager...

Striking a fairly fun note but not as low-brow as the parody-filled poster art suggests (with Lau Ching-Wan and female lead Huo Siyan replicating the posters for In The Mood For Love, Brokeback Mountain and Mr. & Mrs. Smith), Lawrence Lau returns to directing for the first time since 2001 (2*) and he's been observing. Observing that Hong Kong cinema has taken a turn for the worse, observing that you can make a difference, be it as a filmmaker or an actor and observing that one of the greatest treasures of the territory have been reduced significantly. With My Name Is Fame then, Lawrence Lau welcomes Lau Ching-Wan back in the frey and with inspirational results.

There was nothing wrong with Ching-Wan approaching comedy again as evident by the successful turn in 2001's La Brassiere but it's since been mostly downhill with UN-inspirational scripts and roles after UN-inspirational script and roles (3*). Proving that the best and brightest don't receive good material on a constant basis, you need better writers and directors for that. For Lau, Derek Yee was one (Lost In Time) and Lawrence Lau certainly is. Co-incidentally, writer James Yuen hides behind the best of Lau Ching-Wan's better performances during the new millennium. So along with his writing team and director Lau, they offer up a glimpse of the less glamorous or rather the reality of Hong Kong cinema. Something that can be applied easily to a global perspective, which is why My Name Is Fame works so well. Equally much to be considered a document of the real life stumblings of our lead, it comes through with a familiar down to earth story.

The character of Poon Kar Fai clearly knows his craft, has a tremendous instinct for what makes good acting and his blow-hard attitude has more to do with frustration of the situation he and many faces as craftsmen. Some even revert to a back-up profession (Wayne Lai's character Wai representing this, being a mechanic), living life as a balanced individual but Poon has not yet had that awakening. He's partly in an illusion still, stuck in a time warp (judging by his fashion statements for one) and in need of someone to tell him to either get on with his life or develop his craft even more. Faye Ng is of course the opposite, the naive dreamer who awakens the teacher in Poon and ultimately teaches him a thing or two about bettering your situation.

This is awfully on the nose material in writing but there lies a skill here, both in the screenplay and Lawrence Lau's observant direction, that prevents sentiments from being overbearing. The observations of the low's Hong Kong cinema provides us with (local carbon copies of successful Hong Kong movies being one low) and the truth of what makes a star vs. an actual actor are not intelligent as such but suitably hands-off statements, again in an observant way. Therefore it takes a while for My Name Is Fame to gain some magic because it seems to go through some form of motion where it ticks off what you see as an insider in the biz (4*) and a genuine problem stems from the fact that this is at heart a calculated story. The plant representing every theme and message in the form of Tony Leung Ka-Fai's cameo (5*) should've reeked for instance but combine Lawrence leading the frame in the low-key way he does with what's said so sincerely here, it's quite impossible to dislike a movie like My Name Is Fame. Lawrence observes what he sees and has seen, perhaps these views being the reason for his directing hiatus but he's clearly out to make and support local films. That's what we get here, a local film appealing to a mass of fans believing in Hong Kong cinema from overseas. The battle Lau has has with familiarity and predictability gets neatly shoved to the side in favour of the all too clichéd word inspiration.

Despite the last paragraph sounding like a closure to this review, I'd rather dedicate the last to the actors, in particular Lau Ching-Wan who comes through with such a spot on performance it seems almost impossible he (or anyone involved) DIDN'T draw any inspiration from his real life woes concerning getting quality roles. Lau takes Poon Kar Fai through the expected motions the scenario dictates but he is nevertheless completely absorbing and natural, not at all worried about appearing old and washed out. It shows when an actor feels he's got meat to work with, even if not classic meat but that then plays into a humble nature that character/actor possesses here. Poon knows he's good, wants to do good but is again not a prick about it. Respecting yourself and the craft becomes key words embodied via the meeting between him and Faye. Although dubbed, Mainland Chinese newcomer Huo Siyan is suitably cast because she IS fresh. The film doesn't wander as neatly into real territory with this character as written but Lawrence Lau focuses on the rough, newcomer aspect of Huo Siyan and makes it well integrated. Playing confidently against the veteran Lau, Huo may not have the best and brightest future ahead of her but is good in her debut. Heck, maybe even she learned a life defining lesson here akin to what I hope Lau Ching-Wan did. In any case, we sincerely welcome an inspirational trio of new and old.

The DVD:

Joy Sales presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The transfer is clean, colourful and sufficiently detailed.

The audio options are Cantonese/Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese/Mandarin DTS 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 contains minor grammar errors but read well on the whole. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

Extras include a 21 minute, 45 second deleted scenes-reel that can either be played as a supplement or branched into the feature stream. Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and Cantonese/Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (Huo Siyan has not been dubbed here), the scenes aren't edited to exclude clapperboards and director Lau yelling action or cut so to have them connected to the feature makes the flow disappear. Blessed with the same subtitle options as the feature therefore, 14 clips (with a handful containing multiple scenes within each) of various deletions/extensions are offered up but little is of crucial use. Among those that are, Lau Ching-Wan does an uninterrupted acting show in front of a mirror and his physical relationship with Candice Yu's QiQi is elaborated on a little bit more. Perhaps the most interesting narrative-wise is a whole subplot concerning Poon's suicidal thoughts, leading to a fantasy sequence that has Ekin Cheng dishing out advice.

The Making Of (15 minutes, 17 seconds) is virtually unwatchable with English subtitles as Joy Sales has made them transparent with a vague outline (the program appears in letterbox format with one line of subs on the image and the other in the black bar). Re-authoring the program so that it includes white subs, it's revealed that it's still a standard program with little standouts. Cast talks story, characters and views on acting while the filmmakers are given little time to express anything valuable. The program is good for an insight into the confusion of shooting movies within movies but it's still a one time viewing experience. Trailers for My Name Is Fame and Dog Bite Dog concludes the extras.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson

(1) In contrast to Lau Ching-Wan himself who has promise still but didn't win a Hong Kong Film Award until this film.

(2) The 2001 effort being the excellent youth-drama Gimme Gimme but the always interesting Lau has given Hong Kong cinema regarded movies such as Gangs, Arrest The Restless, One And A Half and Spacked Out.

(3) A rare highlight came in the Wai Ka-Fai directed Lunar New Year comedy Fantasia that saw Lau mimicking the screen image of Michael Hui to terrific effect.

(4) In a twist, the various cameos from directors Gordon Chan, Ann Hui and Samson Chiu doesn't reflect their actual image as filmmakers. Here Chan makes arty Category III erotica, Ann Hui is in 70s crime actioner territory and Chiu doesn't direct much at all when shooting his cheap prostitute story on the streets. That's what assistants are for.

(5) And a whole bunch of cameos follows, including Fiona Sit, Niki Chow, Derek Tsang, Stephen Tung, Henry Fong, Ku Feng, Jamie Luk, Jo Kuk, Fruit Chan and Ekin Cheng.