A self-indulgent journal of my obsession with Hong Kong cinema.
One in every of my favourite scenes within the 1987 movie “Double Fixation” (意亂情迷) takes place on a rooftop. The villain is chasing the heroine, and behind them, a huge neon crimson “Kodak” signal illuminates the night time. Solely once I revisited the film this week did I understand it needed to be sponsored: other than the blatant neon namedrop, the storyline primarily hangs by a thread on a roll of Kodak movie.
I say “hangs by a thread” as a result of this MacGuffin is virtually the one factor holding the plot collectively. The film opens with a dedication to Hitchcock, and roughly reenacts the plot of “Vertigo.” Jacky Cheung performs the Jimmy Stewart character, and Cherie Chung is Kim Novak. Jacky, a photographer, is requested to take footage of a mysterious crystal ball explicitly mentioned to “comprise an enormous secret.” When the movie is prepared, he discovers that his employer has been murdered, and the crystal ball smashed. The one remaining hint of the key is therefore recorded on the Kodak movie, now the specified object of the villains, and the remainder of the movie revolves round their numerous makes an attempt to acquire it.
After they someway fail to take the movie from Jacky by pressure, they carry out Cherie. Large spoiler alert — simply as in “Vertigo,” she is an actress employed by the villains, right here with the intention of someway getting the movie by way of a mixture of deceit and seduction. Briefly, she finally ends up faking her demise, after which the villains uncover she has received them the flawed film-roll: this one is stuffed with pictures that Jacky took of her. She flees to San Francisco, the “Vertigo” spot, in an try to start out anew as her previous self, solely to run into Jacky once more, who’s there on a piece journey. They develop shut, however Cherie’s ghost hangs within the air.
I need to take a pause. I don’t know if the abstract above is as laborious to learn because it was to put in writing, however what I’m hoping to exhibit is that the story is a bit in every single place. “Vertigo,” frankly, didn’t survive the difference, and have become painfully ridden with awkward dialogues and plot holes.
What I want much more to make clear at this level is that, regardless of all of the imply feedback I’ve made, and may go on to make about this film… I truly actually prefer it. In truth, I might enterprise to say that what “doesn’t work” concerning the film is strictly what makes it work for me.
Let’s backtrack. It was 1987, the 12 months Jacky Cheung had his debut solo live performance within the prestigious Hong Kong Coliseum. He was well-known, however nonetheless fresh-faced, and positioned subsequent to Cherie Chung’s femme fatale, the “Vertigo” dynamic, on which the unique story’s tragedy relies upon, is totally reversed. Jacky could typically make a good noir hero, however he’s on no account a Hitchcock hero. In “Vertigo,” Jimmy Stewart is the one giving Kim Novak stage instructions, grooming and molding her to resemble his obsessive, fictional superb. Kim, alternatively, appears to like him an excessive amount of to withstand. If the Jimmy Stewart hero is predatory, Jacky’s pursuit of Cherie can solely be described as puppy-like. His want for her is instinctive, virtually pure: no agendas, no calls for, typically not even hope.
And Cherie — now again to her previous title, Jacqueline — as if making an attempt to reconcile with the shadow of Kim Novak, virtually single-handedly takes on the narrative burden of their relationship. In San Francisco, the extra they spend time with one another, the extra Jacky learns to depart the reminiscence of Cherie behind, and to like the particular person in entrance of him for who she is. Jacqueline is the one latching onto the performing position through which she first encountered Jacky. She begins toying with the one-sided glass hanging between them, impersonating Cherie’s mannerisms, going so far as dressing up as her and repeating the identical traces they’d exchanged. When she lastly reveals up in the exact same gown that Cherie had worn, Jacky brushes the deceit apart, saying he has just one factor to ask from her: “Might I not be your youthful brother anymore?” When Jaqueline was Cherie, she saved saying that Jacky reminds her of her youthful brother. Now, Jacqueline nods sure, the synthetic tie is damaged, and so they fall softly, quietly, into romance.
Given all this, I feel it’s no marvel that this film, with “Vertigo” as its blueprint, strikes me as awkward. In San Francisco, when Jacky sees Jaqueline as herself for the primary time, he solely seemed as much as spot her as a result of he thought somebody was calling his title — it was Jacqueline’s roommate calling her “Jacky” on the road. Their matching names are important, indicating that they’re two sides of the identical coin. In different phrases, there isn’t a actual battle between them. Their fears and frustrations are solely borrowed from their American predecessors.
The villains, then, are the one remaining pressure maintaining them aside. Quickly after Jacqueline reveals her identification, they dutifully kidnap her, resuming the Kodak chase. The mysterious movie roll by no means meant a lot to Jacky, and he doesn’t hesitate to offer it up for Jacqueline. Jacqueline, nonetheless, runs off with the movie, in a last gesture to finish the narrative arc. Mirroring “Vertigo,” through which Jimmy forces Kim to climb the traumatic tower (from which she falls and dies from an absurd accident, however in the end as a sufferer of Jimmy’s obsessive streak), Jacqueline, with neither assist nor nudge from Jacky, runs to the rooftop with the Kodak neon signal. After a genre-obligatory struggle scene, each Jacqueline and her pursuer fall off the roof.
I maintain my breath. Jacky is at Jacqueline’s facet, as she appears to be saying her final phrases. I’d discovered the onerous method that Hong Kong cinema of this period, whereas usually beneficiant with joyful endings, doesn’t hesitate to deal heavy blows out of the blue. Might it’s that “Double Fixation” converges with its supply materials at this last conjuncture?
The suspense is all of a sudden damaged. Patrol vehicles, an ambulance, and reporters crowd in, and the scene explodes with chatter. Miraculously, fortunately, Jacqueline’s eyes open, and somebody pushing the stretcher tells Jacky that she’ll be okay. The villains have taken their cue, and disappeared. The gang rolls away, the stage is cleared, and Jacky reaches for the Kodak field, caught in a tree department from the autumn. All is quiet when he opens the field, and the roll of movie inside glitters like a string of diamonds. An inter-title follows, which explains: “He realized that the key within the movie was solely a tool to carry their fates collectively.”
It was this second, arguably the peak of the film’s cheesiness, the end result of its narrative failings, et cetera et cetera, that dispelled all my misgivings. It gave me what I by no means knew I wanted — a form of closure to what occurred in “Vertigo.” And it gave me precisely what I used to be searching for — a backdrop in opposition to which to see Jacky Cheung and Cherie Chung play out a candy, easy, but moderately eventful romance. Why ought to I additionally anticipate it to be pristine, prestigious or good?