Hold You Tight

This film from director Stanley Kwan is one of the most mature and intimate films that I have seen from HK. At times I nearly felt like a voyeur and an intruder peeking into the lives of these people. I wanted to turn away on occasion as if I was invading their privacy. This is how real the characters are that Kwan creates and how well acted they are. Not only are there intimate sexual scenes that made me feel uneasy, but also moments of heartbreaking sadness and grief that made me uncomfortable.
The cinematography enhances this feeling of realism as Kwan utilizes a stark almost documentary look for much of the film.  The narrative flow of the film is disconcerting at times, as the film jumps from character to character and also sequentially out of time, before the story starts to coagulate and make sense.
Sunny Chan and Chingmy
Kwan is famous for bringing out wonderful performances from his actors Maggie Cheung in The Actress and Anita Mui in Rouge come to mind and here Chingmy gives the best performance of her life. Nothing flashy just pure, honest and real. Perhaps she just had to get away from Wong Jing and have the opportunity.
The film opens with a quick scene at the airport as two women who look just alike pass each other by (both played by Chingmy) unaware of one another - one of them can't find her passport and it isn't until much later that we realize how significant this is. End of scene - next the film follows in the footsteps of Eric Tsang for a while. He is gay and in a startling scene has sex with a stranger in a steam bath.  He becomes a friend of Sunny Chan and the story like a baton is passed on to him. We learn that Chan has just lost his wife one of the Chingmys though it takes a while before we learn which one at the airport it is. A flashback takes us back through their life, her affair with a lifeguard (Ko Yue-Lin) and all the way to the point of her death. Later the other Chingmy comes into the story.
It is all very compelling and the first hour of the movie is nearly hypnotic as the threads of this film nearly pull together. Nearly, because towards the end it runs out of steam and when the film suddenly ends it feels unresolved and certain questions are left hanging. The main question is why the doppelganger effect I am not sure what the point was of having the two women looking alike and also what was the purpose of the Sandra Ng character who pops up from time to time. In many ways the film though intense and very personal doesn't add up when all is said and done.
Ko Yue-Lin - lucky lifeguard
Still this is a wonderful film. In particular the acting. Not only Chingmy, but Eric Tsang builds a layered very human character and Sunny Chan as the distant but grief stricken husband is also very good.
Eric Tsang
The rumor is that Chingmy is retiring, but it would be a shame to do so after finally getting the opportunity to give this kind of performance.
 

My rating for this film: 8.0


 Reviewed by YTSL

In many ways, this film can be seen as an excursion (or incursion?) by its director, Stanley Kwan, into Wong Kar Wai territory -- a place which is less archetypally Asian and more transnationally urban:  That is, one populated by frequently bi- and tri-lingual individuals who lead essentially lonely lives (even when married and/or not entirely friendless) rather than people whose lives are characteristically defined -- and often confined -- by their kin and other social relations.  "Chungking Express" being the exception, it also largely is a sad and melancholy locale.  It ought to be pointed out though that HOLD YOU TIGHT covers this ground in a much more subtle way than is the case in the Wong Kar Wai productions I have seen.

Let us be clear here: This is not the movie for those who seek -- and usually find in Hong Kong movies -- exuberant, frenetic and kinetic energy and vision.  There is neither flashy camera work nor spectacular imagery here.  In addition, the pace of the movie is slow (but steady rather than languid); and there generally is an understated and restrained feel to this dramatic effort.  Even the ample sex scenes are enacted and filmed in a way that is not showy even while they are revealing, and the full-frontal male nudity seen to be natural rather than remarkable.

On the other hand, the film does feature the kind of fine ensemble work, complex characters, and multi-stranded as well as non-linear -- plot that I have come to expect, not just look forward to, of quality Hong Kong productions.  An unglamorous-looking Chingmy Yau shows that she can be a serious actress (though I must admit that I do not see the point of her playing two different characters in this one film), the less (in)famous members of the cast (This was my first glimpse of Sunny Chan and Ko Yue-Lin) do not look like they are out of their depth at all, and usually supporting character actors (Eric Tsang, Sandra Ng) get adequate screen time to show their worth.  It is a tribute to their ability that all of the actors are able to convey so much using body language and facial expressions as well as words and other vocal cues.

Without taking anything away from the actors, it actually is amazing how much inanimate objects (a computer, a bowl of noodles, a poster, a bottle of cologne) also were effectively used to communicate as well as contain and evoke thoughts, ideas and feelings in this film.  Credit too is surely due to the makers of this movie for their empathetic and sensitive rendering of persons who are morally flawed yet one would -- in large part because of the perspective presented -- not label as degenerate or lacking.

In sum: This is an unpretentious, movingly "real" movie that, as it unfolds, slowly but surely touches and grips you...providing you are open to recognizing, then embracing, this opportunity.

My rating for this film:  8.5