Phantom of Snake

What an odd and unusual film this is. It’s hard to know what to make of it – it is very slow – and somewhat muddled – and always murky - but it has a certain hypnotic quality to it – almost like a cobra staring down its prey. Though it may sound pretentious – it reminded me of a minimalist tone poem – where the repetitive nature of the film eventually begins to create a mood and a rhythm all of its own – a low budget cinematic Gorecki. And by low budget – I mean low budget – how much the darkness of the scenes was due to trying to create a mood or simply because they could not afford good lighting or shooting in the daytime is up in the air.
Under the guise of being a horror film, this came and went in HK without a whimper – but it is worth more than that – though exactly what I am not sure. If this was a US film, it would have all the trappings of becoming a cult film – but in HK it is likely headed for oblivion. I couldn’t honestly recommend this film to anyone – it’s just too weird – and my guess is that most people would hate it – but of the people I saw it with it got a thumbs up from all and Tim also gives it a positive review at his site – Another Hong Kong Movie Page.
Cecilia Yip (Peace Hotel – in a very rare appearance these days) and Jade Leung are sisters and they wander through the smoky bars and shadowy streets of Hong Kong in search of Cecilia Yip’s lover who has gone missing. What an eccentric pair they make – dressed in high fashion and high heels – bedecked with large feathery boas – sparkles dusting their face – and a walk that is half wriggle, half drunken sailor as one footstep crosses over the other. When they are alone together – they rub up against one another – emit sounds of gasping and humming – and stare unblinkingly at the world passing by. These are clearly two women uneasy in their human skin.
That would be due to the fact that they are in fact snakes taking human form in their search for Cecila’s lover. They are hundreds of years old and they fear that “brother-in-law” as he is referred to has taken on human form to such an extent that he has forgotten his snake origins. They need to find him before it is too late – but a cop (Jimmy Wong) investigating a number of deaths from mysterious snakebites is suspicious of their behavior and trying to keep tabs on them. Michael Tong plays the snake expert who just happens to be at the scene of one of the murders and comes under suspicion as well. It all plays out almost in eerie slow motion – whenever you think something is going to happen it evaporates before you – and in the end you are left with only peculiar memories of a film that unfolds like a forgotten dream.
Jimmy Wong and Michael Tong
The soundtrack that accompanies these odd happenings is simply brilliant – again minimalist in nature - full of drones, wobbles and wails – with a definite homage to the alien films of the 1950’s. That music that always signified an alien life force nearby is heard constantly in this film.

This theme is of course a modern (and again I stress low budget) updating of the Chinese legend of the White Snake. It tells the tale of a snake that wants to live among humans – and has been told in a number of films from the classic Green Snake to the Brigitte Lin film Love of the White Snake.

The main pleasure from this film – and it should not pass unnoticed is just how wonderful it is to watch both Cecilia and Jade do their snake thing. They don’t play it cute or sexy – but ominous and straightforward – and they are simply fabulous to watch. I never tired of them doing that snake shuffle. One scene in particular was truly kind of neat. The two of them are walking up a Mid level street – whoozing back and forth – suddenly surrounding men on the street and scuttling up to them. I really got the sense that none of this was planned and that the participants had no idea what was going on – and just thought these were two crazy ladies who had drank way too much.

My rating for this film: 7.0


 From a magazine - I only wish the lighting was this good + I don't recall the kiss!