A self-indulgent journal of my obsession with Hong Kong cinema.
Considered one 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 big neon pink “Kodak” signal illuminates the evening. Solely once I revisited the film this week did I notice it needed to be sponsored: aside from 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 a giant 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 varied makes an attempt to acquire it.
After they by some means fail to take the movie from Jacky by power, they create out Cherie. Massive spoiler alert — simply as in “Vertigo,” she is an actress employed by the villains, right here with the intention of by some means getting the movie via a mixture of deceit and seduction. In brief, she finally ends up faking her dying, after which the villains uncover she has gained them the fallacious film-roll: this one is stuffed with photographs that Jacky took of her. She flees to San Francisco, the “Vertigo” spot, in an try to begin anew as her outdated self, solely to run into Jacky once more, who’s there on a piece journey.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 jot down, however what I’m hoping to show is that the story is a bit in all places. “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. The truth is, 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 yr 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 might typically make an honest noir hero, however he’s under no circumstances a Hitchcock hero. In “Vertigo,” Jimmy Stewart is the one giving Kim Novak stage instructions, grooming and molding her to resemble his obsessive, fictional splendid. Kim, however, 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 outdated title, Jacqueline — as if trying 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 appearing function by 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 strains they’d exchanged. When she lastly reveals up in the exact same costume that Cherie had worn, Jacky brushes the deceit apart, saying he has just one factor to ask from her: “May 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 unreal tie is damaged, and so they fall softly, quietly, into romance.
Given all this, I believe 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 regarded 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 vital, 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 power preserving them aside. Quickly after Jacqueline reveals her id, 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, nevertheless, runs off with the movie, in a last gesture to finish the narrative arc. Mirroring “Vertigo,” by which Jimmy forces Kim to climb the traumatic tower (from which she falls and dies from an absurd accident, however finally 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 aspect, as she appears to be saying her final phrases. I’d realized the onerous means that Hong Kong cinema of this period, whereas typically beneficiant with completely satisfied endings, doesn’t hesitate to deal heavy blows out of the blue. May or not it’s that “Double Fixation” converges with its supply materials at this last conjuncture?
The suspense is immediately 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 group 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 deliver their fates collectively.”
It was this second, arguably the peak of the film’s cheesiness, the fruits 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 towards which to see Jacky Cheung and Cherie Chung play out a candy, easy, but fairly eventful romance. Why ought to I additionally count on it to be pristine, prestigious or excellent?