去年煙花特別多 (1998)
The Longest Summer

Reviewed by: ororama
Date: 04/17/2010

The Longest Summer explores dislocation caused by the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, seen from the perspective of Ga Yin (Tony Ho), a former soldier displaced due to the disbanding of the Hong Kong Defence Force. He and his comrades find their options for alternative employment disappointing, and begin to plan a bank robbery. He continues to try to find a legitimate job, but the only one interested in his skills is the gangster who employs his younger brother (Sam Lee). However, Ga Yin is reluctant to commit to a new life as a soldier of the gang.

The movie effectively conveys a mood of uncertainty and anxiety about changing times, which creates a situation in which men who have spent their entire lives following orders are suddenly ready to chart their own course and take big risks, even when it conflicts with the values that they have held. Their strength is their loyalty to each other, but their trust quickly erodes due their experiences in this new world.

The story has interesting parallels to Johnny Mak's Long Arm of the Law, a tale of a tight-knit gang of robbers from China. These ex-soldiers seem less heroic and less desperate than their doomed counterparts in the earlier movie. However, the anxiety concerning illegal immigration from China common in mid-1980s films like Long Arm of the Law mirrors the anxiety over the handover found in The Longest Summer and some other mid-1990s films, and both gangs seem trapped in long-shot enterprises, unable to back off as they see their odds lengthen and betrayals occur.

The promise that director Fruit Chan showed with Made In Hong Kong pays off in The Longest Summer. The shift in focus from alienated teenagers getting in trouble for the hell of it to middle-aged men who feel threatened and betrayed by a world that has abruptly changed, causing them to do things that they would never have considered before, results in a movie that is richer emotionally, although it is less technically flashy than the earlier film. The strong lead performance by Tony Ho anchors the movie and is as impressive in its own way as Sam Lee's flashy lead performance was in Made In Hong Kong. Jo Kuk is memorable as the alienated daughter of the mob boss, trying to be tough but proving surprisingly vulnerable and sweet. Sam Lee is interesting as the younger brother, who seems to be the kind of gangster that his character in Made In Hong Kong might have become, but he is not the focus this time.

The Longest Summer is one of the highlights of 1990s Hong Kong cinema, a crime film that is also an incisive look at a changing society. Its vision of that society is dark, but it has a few rays of hope for the future.

Reviewed by: xiaoka
Date: 03/06/2004
Summary: interesting... not great, but interesting.

a somewhat convoluted, somewhat rambling story about the impact of the transition from British Colony to Chinese SAR in the summer of 1997.

I won't summarize the story, as others have already done it here. I enjoyed the fact that the events (and feelings) during the handover are captured on film. (I'm curious if Fruit Chan had this whole story planned ahead of time or just filmed the handover activities and then wrote a movie around them. Particularly the bridge opening ceremony, no way to fake that right?)

But basically when it comes down to it, it shows the death of the old and birth of a new life in HK in 1997 (not sure how accurate it all actually is, but thats what they seem to want to protray at least).

The bank robbery scene actually reminded me a bit of a korean movie 'Jakarta'. I won't give anything away for those who haven't seen it yet.

Some of the subplots are a bit extraneous (the girl!) and slow in some parts and way too quick in others (what happened to Zipper!!?!?) But Tony Ho and Sam Lee are pretty good in their roles. The filming is pretty nice, except for the cinematographer's fixation on cold, stark concrete geometrical architecture...

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: runo_jp
Date: 06/12/2001
Summary: the longest summer

The more I watched it, the more uncomfortable I became. Lots of scenes will remain with me (the bus! ; the boy shot in the mouth!) A little bit artsy in its construction, still, not your average HK movie. Next to Wong Kar Wai maybe…

Reviewed by: OC_Gwailo
Date: 04/14/2001
Summary: A fine guerilla-style film

Man, talk about your guerilla filmmaking. Looks like director Fruit Chan sent out a bunch of guys with handheld cameras to capture anything and everything about the 1997 Hong Kong handover--especially the fireworks displays. It's raw, it's disjointed...and you know what? It works.

Tony Ho Wah Chiu plays Ga Yin, the leader of a group of down-and-out ex-soldiers who decide that the handover is the perfect time to stage a bank robbery. Ga Yin was obviously meant to be the movie's main character, but Sam Lee steals the show as Ga Yin's younger brother Ga Suen, aka Chopstick, a wanna-be bad-ass who struts around looking for trouble--and usually finding it. In perhaps the film's most memorable scene, Lee and his gang ride around on the upper deck of a double-decker bus, all wearing cheap sunglasses with the tags still on. A bunch of giggling schoolgirls (a recurring motif) point at the group and ridicule the "mainland bumpkins." Lee strides down the aisle, grabs the leader, and throws her out the window. The girl bounces off a bus stop roof and into the street while the other riders scream. As Lee walks back to his seat, another schoolgirl looks up at him in awe and asks, "Can I have your autograph?"

The Longest Summer is the closest thing to American independent filmmaking I've seen. Reminiscent of Robert Rodriguez's micro-budgeted El Mariachi, TLS has a low budget feel augmented by some nice Christopher Doyle-style cinematography and creative editing--not to mention a very casual approach to plot that gives it a definite Hal Hartley feel. TLS is less an action movie than a slice-of-life movie that meanders through the turmoil of pre-handover HK. Sure, there's some action--in particular, a not-quite bank robbery that goes better than planned...or not--and gunplay, but the main emphasis here is on the characters (and, apparently, the fireworks). If you like indie films and HK flicks, The Longest Summer is the perfect crossover.


Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/08/2000

The Longest Summer is the second film to come from Fruit Chan, director and
screenwriter of Made in Hong Kong (one of my favorite films). So the obvious question
to ask would be "is it as good?" No, but it's still an excellent film.

The Longest Summer is set in the summer of 1997, during the months leading up to
and following the handover of Hong Kong to China. At the beginning of the film,
several of the main characters are being dismissed following the dissolution of the
Hong Kong division of the British Army. The movie follows one of these men, Ga Yin,
in his efforts to find a place for himself in a new Hong Kong.

Ga Yin is recruited into a triad by his brother, Ga Suen, himself a low-level triad
member. Ga Yin tries to insist that he is just doing a job like any other, though he
knows better. Meanwhile, he and his unemployed friends begin discussing a bank
robbery as a way to make money. There is also a subplot revolving around Jane, a
woman with whom Ga Yin and Ga Suen have a chance encounter near the beginning
of the film. This is pretty much the entire plot. The script is more about the
characters than about developing the story.

Part of the genius of The Longest Summer is its avoidance of almost all the obvious
paths it could have taken. While this could have been a simple movie about people's
lives taking a turn for the worse, this film manages to constantly find a less obvious
way to make its point. For example, in a typical tale such as this, the bank robbery
would go wrong, resulting in the bloody deaths of many of its main characters. This
film, however, manages to find something besides success or failure to make its point.

The strongest theme in The Longest Summer seems to be the unpredictability of life.
It illustrates this theme without seeming as if the screenwriter had simply tried to
think of the strangest occurrences possible to throw at the characters. Being a film
about the handover to Hong Kong made in 1998, when there were still many
questions about Hong Kong's future, this film is a perfect echo of what many people
had to be feeling at the time (and are probably still feeling).

Compared to Made in Hong Kong, this film is fairly tame in terms of editing and
visual style. Frankly, I missed the more experimental style of Fruit Chan's previous
film. The moments where he does use something out of the ordinary are very effective
but they are few and far between. The quality of the film would not have been hurt by
more visual experimentation. In addition, The Longest Summer doesn't have the
perfect union of musical visual elements found in Made in Hong Kong. There is
nothing wrong with the music, but it doesn't lift the film to another level either.

Overall, Fruit Chan's sophomore film is excellent, though less stunning than his first.
I will be very much looking forward to anything he does in the future, and I hope he
can recapture the utter magic of Made in Hong Kong.

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 02/20/2000
Summary: Unusual, to say the least.

Wow, where to start... a fairly thin thread of a storyline, incongruous soundtrack, semi-comedic non-sequiters... Artsy and mind-boggling, but in a way I actually enjoyed. Needless to say, I'll need another viewing to even have a clue about much of the film, but overall I found The Longest Summer much more interesting and entertaining than the even gloomier Made In Hong Kong. Doesn't top my best of '99 list, but it deserves an honorable mention.

Reviewed by: ryan
Date: 11/21/1999
Summary: Longest Summer, The (1999)

What is your first impression of Fruit CHAN? I consider some of you will be his 'Made in Hong Kong' in 1997. Yeap, the successful of 'Made in Hong Kong' consolidates his hard work in the film industry for years. This time, he is going to make another independent movie -- 'The Longest Summer'.

This time the story is about a group of ex-soliders who are redunduned with the leave of British in 1997. They are try to face their new reality, their new identity and their everything. Some of them prefer face the face while Ga Yin (Tony HO) still struggles. With nothing to do, finally he works for triads with the help of his brother Ga Suen (Sam LEE Chan-sum). However, the reality mades them too bad that they finally deal with it by having a robbery ......

The main objective of this movie is to talk about handover in different views at different levels. However, at the end, you will find that they are all at the same distiny -- feeling of being left. The ex-soliders were being left from the Government and Britian. Schoolgirls were being left from their parents who failed to teach the girls properly. Ga Suen is being left by the society and he can't get fused into it. From the movie, you have such strong feeling of being left. Fruit CHAN is very successful in presenting the idea of being left properly with levels.

In terms of scripts, I consider Fruit presents with levels. He started by describing the background, then the feelings and how they are teased by the public and how they finally react. Ga Suen and Ga Yin are representing Hong Kong people at different end of spertum. Ga Suen, a triad member, is flexible but losing his identity. Hence he can face the reality for a long time. Ga Yin, on the other hand, representing a group who requires time to get along with his changes. The process is hard. It seems that Fruit CHAN intends to present and magnify this idea by having some scenes of discussions on handover and their changes.

The promotion of 'The Longest Summer' emphasizes on the topic of handover. However, I consider handover is not Fruit CHAN's destiny. Handover is only a medium for audience to feel being left. Towards the ending, on one side, it is turing into the dark as Ga Suen has no future. On the other hand, it seems that Ga Suen is on his way to dawn as he can do whatever he wants at that moment. Audience can get such mixed feeling by watching the movie.

On the whole, 'The Longest Summer' is a heavy movie. If you are not familiar with it, you'd better get prepared and watch it or you will miss a good movie of the year.