Amphetamine -- Film Review

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BERLIN -- Scud's third foray into filmmaking again tracks a gay man's hankering for a sexually repressed, confused, manically depressive philosophical personality. And again using Hong Kong's elite financial circle as a backdrop, "Amphetamine" is characterized by Scud's own luxury condo that serves as the principal set -- exquisitely decorative and lovely to behold.

Gone are the self-abandoning camp elements like countless gratuitous showers, impromptu stripping and corny locker room frolics that gave Scud a cult name. What's left is precious, artsy homoerotica that is a more of a visual turn-on for gay viewers and of less novelty interest than his previous works.

Swimming instructor and martial arts expert Kafka (Byron Pang) and Chinese-Australian finance hotshot David (Thomas Price) eye each other at a cafe. When they meet again at a temple, David comes on to Kafka.

While David is at ease with being out, Kafka has too much baggage -- being poor, addicted, sexually indifferent to his girlfriend (Linda So) and emotionally attached to David while recoiling from his sexual overtures due to a traumatic experience. When Linda (Winnie Leung), David's ex from a previous chaste relationship, comes to visit from Sydney, let's just say the complications develop complications.

"Amphetamine" doles out recognizable themes of class in a relationship, crisis of sexual orientation, existential loneliness and the harmfulness of drugs especially if they are not the expensive kind. But Scud shuffles his scenes at will so that the more substantial content is lumped with gay eye-candy, such as a customs inspection for "hidden" drugs and a gang rape staged like an X-rated MTV video.

Cinematography and art direction are glossy, especially fluid shots of the protagonists bungee jumping, nicely angled compositions of a half-finished highway bridge and luminous panoramic views of Hong Kong. The heavily saturated color palette is ripe with sensuality.

The two male leads give sympathetic performances, showing considerable ease in numerous nude scenes though Pang tends to pose more self-consciously. The female cast is utterly peripheral.

Veteran filmmaker Lawrence Lau is attached as an "executive director," but his forte in capturing the gritty and angry world of Hong Kong's grassroots youth is not powerfully put to use here, even in developing Kafka's backstory.

Venue: Hong Kong International Film Festival (closing film)
Production: Artwalker Limited.
Cast: Byron Pang, Thomas Price, Winnie Leung, Linda So
Director-screenwriter-producer: Scud
Executive director: Lawrence Lau
Director of photography: Charlie Lam
Art director: Jack Chan
Music: Yu Yat Yiu & Ho Shan @ People Mountain People Sea
Editor: Heiward Mak
Sales: media luna new films
No rating, 97 minutes
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