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九龍皇后 (2000)
Queen of Kowloon

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 05/01/2007
Summary: tearjerker special

April 2007 - Queen of Kowloon (2000) is a melodramatic Clarence Fok Yiu-Leung potboiler, unseen by most people. Schmaltzy screenplay, by any cultural standard you might wish to apply, is smartly crafted by Sharon Hui Sa-Long, crammed full of interesting characters doing disturbing things. The director would have achieved better results by using a softer touch. One of the last movies I saw at the old Music Palace, it has a small, special place in my heart.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Paul Fonoroff
Date: 11/24/2000

If the Hong Kong Film Awards had a prize for “Most Nauseating Character of the Year”, voters would have a hard time choosing between Deanie Yip’s Mrs. Fat in Crying Heart (released in January) and her follow-up role, Ah Sei in Queen of Kowloon. Both are downtrodden cabbage leafs who try to put a cheerful face on the sorry hand fate has dealt them. Yip is a gifted performer, but she is powerless in the face of maudlin saccharinity so eager to induce tears that a viewer wishes each seat had been provided with an emotion sickness bag.

Sharon Hui’s script is so packed with theatrical twists and turns that it puts those 1950s black-and-white tearjerkers to shame. Fiftysomething Ah Sei takes it all on the chin. She has suffered for 25 years as the “second wife” of poverty-stricken apothecary Kwan Hoi-san and acts as a virtual house slave for “first wife” Ha Ping. Never a cross word from Ah Sei. She is also treated with contempt by the “first couple’s” daughter, Irene (Suki Kwan), and still feels privileged to use her meager time off to clean the young lady’s flat.

Unfortunately for all, including the viewer, Ah Sei is Calamity Jane and Typhoid Mary rolled into one. Kwan and Ha die in a bus crash; Irene’s fiancé (Lai Yiu-cheung) has his leg amputated; his teenage daughter is assaulted by young punks; and Irene attempts suicide. Somehow, Ah Sei gets blamed for almost everything that goes wrong and rather than defend herself, she accepts the erroneous verdicts with a perkiness that makes you want to wring her neck.

The grand finale is worthy of a place in the Cult Film Hall of Fame, with altruistic Ah Sei participating in a marathon for the elderly (the prize—a trip to Paris—she plans to give to Irene) and foiling a kidnap attempt in the process.

That’s a lot to pack into 96 minutes. In the hands of director Clarence Fok, the picture seems twice as long, three times as melodramatic, and .1% as enjoyable as Gone With the Wind.

1 star

This review is copyright (c) 2000 by Paul Fonoroff. All rights reserved. No part of the review may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Reviewer Score: 2