Lovers on the Road



Hong Kong International Film Festival

HONG KONG -- In director Tsang Tsui-shan's feature debut a directionless woman confused in her emotional life honors the time-worn tradition of a fresh start in a new location. Tsang's slight portrait of a city and a person is the kind of council-funded, independent, festival-ready film that programmers love. Thus it should have a life on the festival route. Beyond that, domestic release even in Hong Kong seems unlikely, though a DVD release is sure bet.

A couple, Lei (Joman Chiang) and Lau (Dick So), troubled by infidelity, head to Beijing from Hong Kong to smooth out their rocky relationship. He has a job as a graphic designer, but her days are spent mostly wandering the streets and feeling like an outsider, having no friends and unable to speak the language fluently. Things look up when she meets Masa (Otsuka Masanobu), a Japanese man living in Beijing for no apparent reason. Eventually, she hits upon the idea of creating a chronicle of life in the capital from the point of view of other foreign residents like herself. Later, Lei and Masa make a trip to Shanxi. She is forced to confront her feelings of alienation, for Masa, and ultimately for Lau.

"Lovers on the Road" is rife with the kind of extended tracking shots that come close to defining Asian indies these days. Though barely feature length, the slow pace of any forward momentum brings the film to a near halt on more than one occasion. Staying focused on Lei's developmental journey becomes a taxing chore. The DigiBeta photography (by Eric Hui Chung-yin) gives the film a dreamy tone that only fleetingly comes to life despite the vivid color palette.

The bright spot is Chiang, who brought a dose of realist gravity to the alarmist "Besieged City." Once again she provides a grounded, sympathetic presence, this time with little to work with in Tsang and Luk BoBo's underwritten script. She's in almost every scene, and never once does she slip into indulgent melancholy. Her performance is one of understated bewilderment.

A Tsang Tsui-shan production
Sales: Ying E Chi
Director: Tsang Tsui-shan
Writer: Tsang Tsui-shan, Luk BoBo
Producer: Tsang Tsui-shan
Director of photography: Eric Hui Chung-yin
Production designer: Siu Man, Wong Liang-yih
Music: Rose Mansion
Editor: Kattie Fan Ho-ki.
Chiang Lei: Joman Chiang
Lau: Dick So
Masa: Otsuka Masanobu
Gao: Kou Chin-ngai
Xiao Yin: Li Yan
Wang Yung: Gao Qi Lun
Running time -- 75 minutes
No MPAA rating