REVIEW: Notorious Hong Kong filmmaker Scud 雲翔 has been shocking Hong Kong and the world since 2008 with his queer,… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
The Prickle (@ThePrickle) February 05, 2023
Notorious Hong Kong filmmaker Scud (writer, director, producer, and often subject of his movies) has been shocking Hong Kong and the world since 2008 with his queer, openly sexual films, and picking up a slew of awards along the way. Scud’s world is free of taboo, free of clothes, and free of anyone without 0% body fat. Here’s The Prickle’s deep dive into Scud’s filmography.
City Without Baseball 無野之城 (2008)
Scud’s award-laden debut is probably his finest work, and his least explicitly pornographic. A based-on-true-stories homoerotic biopic of the doomed Hong Kong baseball team (the least popular sport in Hong Kong), this film stars the actual team members — none of whom are actors — all playing themselves. What sounds like a recipe for disaster is somehow utterly compelling: with a base layer of wacky kitsch, the film sincerely captures the team’s irrepressible passion for the American sport, along with many thought-provoking moments about queerness, suicide, and Hong Kong identity.
Permanent Residence 永久居留 (2009)
Scud’s second movie is autobiographical, following Ivan (Sean Li)’s passionate, non-sexual relationship with troubled and chaotic, heterosexual Windson (Osman Hung). What could be clumsy gay-baiting in the wrong hands comes across here as truthful and finely observed. Even the film’s opening with a brief timeline, from childhood, of Ivan’s rags to riches tale, feels exciting rather than self-indulgent. Even though we know the gay-straight “couple” are doomed to unhappiness, the joy they experience throughout is our joy, too, which makes the tragedy all the more powerful.
Amphetamine 安非他命 (2010)
This film more than mirrors the previous: the set-up and story is the same. However, unlike his counterpart in Permanent Residence, this straight-man-in-love (Byron Pang) is also addicted to using amphetamine, which appears, at first, to offer a way for him to overcome his heterosexuality. Near the start, the straight-gay pair go together to visit an art gallery that is showcasing production shots from Scud’s film Permanent Residence. The swimming instructor explains that he was the model for the production shoot, but not the actor. This playfully meta framing prepares us for a more poetic and hallucinogenic examination of the same biography.
Love Actually… Sucks! 愛很爛 (2011)
Scud plays with audience’s expectations from beginning to end here, with a focus on the absolute most depraved and horrific spectrum of heterosexuality. A humorous wordplay on Love Actually (2003), everything starts as a fast-paced, zany back-and-forth between lots of farcical relationships in heightened reality. But it ends with a lonely murderer (Osman Hung) slowly climbing a mountain and finding a place for his lover’s (Linda So) severed head to rest. Meanwhile, the creeping incest between a brother (Christepher Wee) and sister (Sherry Li) is treated as light comic relief. Utterly bizarre and not for the squeamish.
Voyage 遊 (2013)
The ocean “voyage” of young psychiatrist Ryo (Ryo van Kooten) is a device used to tether together a series of short films shot across Asia, Australia and Europe. Each film retells the story of a young person dying before their time, often by suicide, with real dates and photos of the deceased shown in the credits. The film’s strongest suit is the opening short, “Messengers to the Heaven”, where student Yan (Byron Pang) slowly loses his mind in Inner Mongolia, during Mao’s re-education program. Despite the film’s high death count, what shines through is Scud’s trademark homoeroticism and exuberance for life.
Utopians 同流合烏 (2015)
This is an uncharacteristically crass film for Scud, even with an excellent cast drawing out some sensitive performances. The story revolves around an impossibly hot and wealthy ‘philosophy’ lecturer (Jacky Chow) whose job seems to revolve around wearing his shirt half-open, showing slides of naked men, and talking about how great life was in Ancient Greece. He preys on a naive university student (Adonis He Fei), taking him on lavish sexscapades around the world, until he gets arrested in Thailand for homosexual relations with a 20-year-old. A masturbation scene halfway through is explicitly, simplistically pornographic. The fact that the film reaches for some kind of profound message just makes it all the worse.
Thirty Years of Adonis 三十儿立 (2017)
This is Scud’s most “arthouse” work; highly stylised, and a shift away from straightforward narrative or message. In a signature meta move, the title’s “Adonis” is played by himself (Adonis He Fei), using footage from his lead role in Utopians (2015), but in a cruel and surreal alternate reality. An inscrutable sugar-daddy figure (Justin Lim) guides Adonis — a struggling Beijing opera performer — more and more into the world of sex work, which gets progressively more twisted as the film progresses, to the point of murder. However, the film’s overarching storyline is about karma, samsara, and the meaning of life, with an increasingly cosmic scope as the story continues. Absolutely not for the prudish, yet profoundly spiritual.
Scud is now retired. Scud’s final movies Apostles (2022), Bodyshop (2022), and Naked Nations: Hong Kong Tribe are yet to be released.
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