Love Unto Waste

Reviewed by YTSL

In many American movies, it seems that action and character development are subsidiary to a plot's being introduced and then running to its logical conclusion.  In contrast, there are quite a few Hong Kong movies (I'm thinking here of many a Jackie Chan vehicle) in which the plot seems to serve only as a loose string connecting the action.  Then there are those films which seem to be primarily concerned with creating and depicting a particular alternate universe or style ("Saviour of the Soul"?), or establishing a particular mood ("The Heroic Trio"?).  Meanwhile, others (like this early effort by Stanley Kwan) appear to be, first and foremost, and almost entirely, character studies and thematic explorations.

LOVE UNTO WASTE has four main characters.  One is a man who we first see at a nightclub celebrating his twenty-fifth birthday.  Drinking way too much, when he (a green-looking, in more ways than one at this point in the movie(!), Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) stands up to blow out the candles on his birthday cake, he ends up puking instead on a nearby group, which includes two of the movie's other protagonists (played by Irene Wan and Elaine Kam).  We do not encounter the fourth principal player (who comes in the form of a shaggy-haired Chow Yun Fat) until midway through the movie.  Suffice to say though that his actions prompt the three others to reveal themselves to be more than what we had only superficially glimpsed up until then...

One of this drama's overarching themes is that of migration (we see Taiwanese entertainers looking at Hong Kong as the land of opportunity even while Hong Kongers were -- already in 1986 -- gripped by Hand-Over fever, fears and uncertainty).  The film{'s maker) seems to take the view that worries about Hong Kong's future led to people choosing to live for the moment and therefore more uninhibitedly than usual (e.g., there is a very interesting scene involving love-making on a sea of rice even as more grains of rice pour down like mini waterfalls).  We are shown though that at any time, in any place, there always are consequences to actions.

Though their best was yet to come, we already see some good work here by the person who would go on to direct "Rouge" (1987), "Actress"/"Centre-Stage" (1992) and "Hold You Tight" (1998), Tony Leung Chiu Wai (nominated for a "Best Actor" award for this movie) and Chow Yun Fat (who garnered a "Best supporting Actor" nomination). In recent years, Elaine Kam (winner of the "Best Supporting Actress" award for her work in this movie) was the stately mother in "The Soong Sisters".  In contrast, if the search results yielded by <> are anything to go by, Irene Wan's main claim to fame is of an infinitely more sexual nature...!

My rating for this film:  7.