Quattro Hong Kong 2: Film Review

Frequently charming, diverse collection of shorts that speaks to the city like few films have in recent years.

A charming, slightly nostalgic bit of cinema that ironically proves Hong Kong's future is in its resident foreign nationals — or at least visiting ones.

In the era of the co-production and with an industry increasingly reliant on the Chinese mainland market, Hong Kong filmmakers have found their voices drowned out by the demands of the masses to the north.

The distinct brand of Hong Kong cinema of the 1980s and early-’90s is in danger of going the way of the dinosaur, and it’s to that end the HK International Film Festival commissioned four regional filmmakers to create short films that are intensely “Hong Kong” for Quattro Hong Kong 2.

It could have been painfully self-indulgent but the project turned out to be a charming, slightly nostalgic bit of cinema that ironically proves Hong Kong’s future is in its resident foreign nationals — or at least visiting ones. 

Quattro Hong Kong 2 is nigh well unsalable; it’s a festival film created for festivals by a festival. Combined with the fact that it’s not technically a feature film (only running one hour long) the omnibus is going to have to seek any life beyond the festival circuit on art house cable. The prominent filmmakers involved will help with that aspect, and creative distributors that can find a way to combine it in its entirety as a double-bill with a carefully selected complementing (short) feature or singularly ahead of any of the directors’ next films may have modest success in Asia.

Quattro begins with Brillante Mendoza’s Purple, a slice of life travelogue of sorts, shot in one of the city’s fishing villages, following a visitor on an exploration of the vibrant day-to-day. Open Verdict, by Ho Yuhang, sees a team of narcs acting on a tip from their Malaysian counterparts as a mysterious tourist checks into a seedy hotel with a really, really heavy suitcase. M Hotel is typically Apichatpong Weerasethakul, an almost silent, highly meta afternoon with a pair of filmmakers making a short for HKIFF from the 17th floor of a hotel. Rounding out the set is local director Stanley Kwan’s real-time 13 Minutes in the Lives of … bus ride from the airport that succinctly sums up the city.

Despite three of the four directors not hailing from the city, the film is loaded with astute observations from each — particularly Mendoza’s, whose gleeful outsider’s view brings a sense of currency to the project — while maintaining their individual styles and voices. As with any anthology there is one standout, and here it would be Ho’s entry, notable for a sense of humor Ho (Rain Dogs, Min) isn’t renowned for. Ho is precise in his depiction of Hong Kong’s regional diversity, and plays with the perceptions and easy labels that get thrown around so often. Quattro works best for viewers familiar with Asia and Hong Kong’s position within it, but it’s also the perfect primer for both the city and filmmakers who tried to capture its essence. 

Venue: Hong Kong Filmart
Sales: HKIFF
Production company: Brand HK
Directors: Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Brillante Mendoza; Stanley Kwan; Ho Yuhang
Cast: Rene Durian, Raymond Nullan, Wai Ying-hung, Michelle Wai, Tsui Tien You, Carlos Chan, Chew Kin-wah, Bront Palarae, Chaisiri Jiwarangsan, Nitipong Thinthupthai, Chalermrat Kaweewattana, Lam Ka-tung, Felina Pau, Yolande Yau, Hayama Hiro, Terence Yin
No rating, 59 minutes