Friday, February 15, 2013

An Autumn's Tale (1987) - celebrating Chinese New Year!

Director: Mabel Cheung
Stars: Chow Yun Fat, Cherie Chung

A Hong Kong movie filmed in New York City, An Autumn’s Tale leaves its markings as a subtle slow brewing romance that develops between Chow Yun Fat, a foul-mouthed-street talking immigrant from Hong Kong now living in NYC and his long distant cousin visiting from HK played by Cherie Chung. Things don’t go as planned as Cherie’s character discovers that her current boyfriend who lives in the states has eyes for another lady.  Luckily her degenerate cousin is there to consul her as their relationship starts to simmer despite being polar opposites in personality and lifestyle. There is nothing hot & heavy in this movie, quite the opposite actually as situations and circumstance will make both these characters look in the mirror to re-evaluate themselves. And that’s pretty much it with the plot, folks! There is definitely nothing mind bending, twisted, or dramatic with this film. The simplicity, honesty, and the non-contrived, less is more feel of the story is what makes this such a charming film. It also didn’t hurt that Chow Yun Fat and Cherie Chung turned in a tremendous showing with their individual performances as well as the chemistry between them.  

My 2nd reason for really digging this movie is because of the filming locations. An Autumn’s Tale showcased a 1980’s NYC that I remember growing up to as my parents and sisters worked in the Lower East Side/Chinatown area.  From the sweatshops to the noodle shops to the banks, I remember hustling and bustling with the family in this grimey part of the area. The film would highlight shots from an apartment building underneath the Manhattan Bridge just across the way from what is now a Skaters park as well as a very famous Dim Sum Restaurant from that era on the Bowery called Silver Palace in which Chow Yun Fat was a waiter. Other visuals from the film that brought back thoughts of a vanishing New York included the gritty 42nd St/Times Square with the XXX/grindhouse theaters and peeps shows to go along with those outstanding video stores selling the gammut of Kung Fu/Karate movies. To offset the sleazy, there was also a scene that showed the famous steps leading to the exclusive Lincoln Center!  Of course you can’t be a true blue New Yorker without stepping foot at the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights as the Fat man showed us! To impress us NJ folks, the film crew also ventured into Hoboken to show off the Hoboken/Lackawanna Train & Ferry Terminal as Chow Yun Fat dropped off Cherie Chung to pickup her boyfriend at a NJ Transit Train.

As much as I loved the backdrop of the film, the performances & chemistry displayed by Chow & Chung were undeniably what drew me in. You can easily identify with the day to day struggles of the characters as well as struggles internally as they rediscover themselves.  If you are a blood in/blood out HK cinema fan, An Autumn’s Tale is a must on your list for bliss! For the chinese immigrant in you, this is required viewing! But Chow Yun Fat - why are you a Met’s fan in the movie? Oh, that’s right - 1986! Front runner!

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