The Accident (1999)

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 05/08/2005
Summary: not completely without merit.

[1999 was a good year.] This is the first Hong Kong movie I've seen in a couple of years that had me getting out of my seat to leave the theatre at least a couple of times. The film weaves in and out of different storylines that are, at times, so tedious I couldn't stand it any longer. Just as I was rising out my seat, the director would cut away to rejoin a story which caused me to sit back down.

The Accident is not completely without merit. Besides a very compelling editing style, the film has been beautifully produced by Stanley Kwan. The cinematography is stunning.The director, Mr Lee, wrote the screenplay which he adapted from his novel of the same name. Almen Wong stars as a beleagured movie star working on a Cat 3 film who must do the skin scenes she is contractually obligated to do. Ms. Wong's small talent manages to shine through in spite of the screenwriting.

Ben Ng is a bisexual cabbie who likes to play with boy-toy hustlers from the Mainland on one side and play around with wealthy HK wives on the other. Christine Ng Wing Mei, another talent wasted, plays the bored, rich woman who gives him money. Gigi Lai, a talented actress in other works, is totally annoying, helpless AND bitchy! A good performance, I guess, of a totally unbelieveable character. I don't get it.

Actually I do get it. 25 years or so ago, a young German filmmaker named R. W. Fassbinder made movies with similar themes of angst and sexual ambiguity in interpersonal relationships. His films remain milestones in world cinema. I'll give Julian Lee his props as he is living and working in Hong Kong in a highly charged political atmosphere. He's no Fassbinder, and The Accident will soon be forgotten.

As usual I saw this at the Music Palace in NYC.


Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

Mature drama produced by Stanley Kwan and directed by Julian Lee from a script based on his novel. It's three losely related stories about love, loneliness and desire, held together by one central event (a train accident) that sets these characters in motion. One story is about a young man stranded in a hotel while waiting for the next train to HK - he runs into a Cat III actress (played by Almen Wong) who's shooting a movie at the hotel, and they end up sharing a few moments of passion. Meanwhile, his girlfriend (Gigi Lai) has just arrived in HK from London and has no place to stay. She starts cruising bars and ends up with an older gentleman (played by Patrick Tse, Nic's father). Lastly, a gay taxi driver with some money problems picks up a young mainlander and they have a fling (graphically depicted).

This film is well-intentioned, beautifully shot and the ensemble cast performs admirably, but in the end the whole effort seems rather dull and lifeless, with little insight into anything, a slow pace, and a just barely detectable whiff of pretentiousness about the whole thing. Certainly not a film with mass appeal (and it's not meant to be), but did they have to be so restrained? For a much better take on this topic, watch the brilliant Mexican movie Amores Perros instead - it has a similar structure (3 tales of love woven around an accident) but is much more entertaining and in the end has much more to say...

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: grimes
Date: 04/02/2000

Porn freaks take note: despite The Accident's category III rating, it is far more of an art film than a flesh fest. However, it is a film about sex so there is some inevitable tittilation. In fact, it seems likely that this film was marketed based more on its rating than its story, which is quite confusing.

The film opens with a man sitting in a theater viewing an obviously pornographic movie starring Ding Li (Almen Wong). He watches for a brief time, begins to cry, and then leaves the theater and gets in a cab. This is an extremely strange opening, but it also filled with possibilities. Unfortunately, The Accident, while an interesting film, does not quite live up to the promise of its opening scene.

The accident of the title is a train accident, which variously separates and unites the main characters, three pairs of two each. Patrick is in China and needs to return to Hong Kong to meet his girlfriend returning from England (Gigi Lai). He is sidetracked and ends up at the hotel where Ding Li is filming a new movie. Meanwhile, his girlfriend becomes increasingly despairing when he doesn't show up and ends up going to a night club where she encounters an older man. The third couple are a taxi driver and a young man from China, who had intended to take the train home that day but ends up spending the night with the taxi driver, in his cab and around the city.

The film obviously intends to be a slice of city life, chance encounters type of film somewhat similar in style to Chungking Express or Fallen Angels. It has a well written script (based on a novel also written by the director and screenwriter) but suffers a bit from overly jumpy editing and poor pacing.

It took me at least half the film just to get a handle on the various characters, where they were, and what they were doing. I spent quite a bit of time just wondering what was going on rather than becoming involved with the characters and their stories.

Eventually, things start to settle down and the film's stories (and the relationship between the three stories) becomes clear but the payoff is not quite enough to justify the beginning confusion. Much of the confusion stems from the editing and its jumping between stories in a way that seems designed to be confusing rather than illuminating. No doubt this was intended to be artistic but it merely puts a barrier between the viewer and the story. When the film settles down, it does become interesting. The strange opening scene is eventually explained, and I was touched at Patrick's tears.

The acting in the film is fairly good, though given the film's other problems the actors often seem quite distant. The biggest shock in the film is that Gigi Lai is actually not a bad actress. In the films I had seen her in previously, she had seemed like nothing more than a typical flower vase, but in The Accident she actually manages to bring some depth and expressiveness to her role. Perhaps she will turn out to be another Maggie Cheung (ok, that's probably pushing it)!

Despite its flaws, The Accident is not without its merits. I would recommend that people see it if for no other reason then that I think it's important to encourage experimental efforts that show promise. Given a steadier hand at the editing table and a bit more restraint, director and screenwriter Lee Chi Chiu may well produce a great film in the future. For now, The Accident is good enough to be interesting.

Reviewed by: tim
Date: 12/26/1999
Summary: Julian Lee's sensual delight

Three stories set in the night following a mainland train accident. A young Hong Kong man (Andrew Lien) is stranded overnight in China. He spends the night in a motel which, for the past month, has been the set of a erotic movie starring Ding Li (Almen Wong). She's trapped in the hotel and has been feuding with the director until the new guest is persuaded by Ding to share the film's most explicit moment. In story two, Gigi Lai returns rainy Hong Kong to find her boyfriend absent and, as her loneliness rises, finds comfort in a married pilot (Tse Yin). The third and best segment deals with a debt-ridden taxi driver (Ben Ng) who hooks up with a young mainland boy (Wong Hei) stranded in HK for the night. The two cruise Hong Kong's nightscape together as a sexual bind swells up between the two.

A delightful independent film that deserves far more acclaim than it received, "The Accident" is sexy, lively, passionate and highly original. The script is based on an original novel of the same name by Julian Lee, whose direction produces consistently sensuous and engaging screen images. The choice pick of actors show enthusiasm for the challenging roles they play so confidently. For open-minded viewers and those who somply yearn for tight, original cinema, Julian Lee's gorgeous film is an absolute must-see.

Reviewed by: ryan
Date: 11/21/1999
Summary: Accident, The (1999)

You may not know who is LEE Chi-chiu, that's why when you see the poster of 'The Accident', you can see the credit with 'produced by Stanley KWAN Kam-pang'. When looking at the lobby cards and the cinematography, the first feeling is something like Stanley KWAN last year's 'Hold You Tight', which means that it's about the stories between men and women.

The English official title 'The Accident' is the main cause of the story, a delay of a train to Hong Kong which changes the fate of 6 guys in 3 pairs, Gigi LAI and TZE Yin, Almen WONG and LIN Hoi as well as WONG Hey and Ben NG Ngai-cheung. Gigi LAI and LIN Hoi are paired but LIN cannot get back to Hong Kong due to train delay. This results Gigi LAI being left by her friends and she finally met pilot TZE Yin. On the other side, while LIN finds a hotel for a night, Almen WONG, as a popular star, is filming her dirty movie while LIN finally becomes the actor of the movie. At the same time, illegal immgrant WONG Hey was seeking for money but finally he gets a boy friend Ben NG Ngai-cheung who is a taxi driver.

In terms of the movie, it seems that all the things are happened within one night while director Julian LEE wanted to present that all changes in a sudden. By doing so, he tried to make lots of surprise among audience. However, to audience, it seems that they prefer something more traditional and typical for presentation. For example, the love scene between Almen WONG and LIN Hoi are expected to be erotic while the movie presents in a very mile and soft way. Audience seeking for a sexy Almen may get disappointed.

For the love between Gigi LAI Chi and TZE Yin, it seems that the presentation is okay. TZE has a relative large age gap with Gigi and his way of presentation makes audience laugh in theatres. For Gigi LAI, I consider they would like to present a Gigi who is too lonely and misfortune. I consider her way of presentation is too deep for audience to fully understand.

In terms of editing, the method for 'The Accident' is to cut by similiarity. It means that when one line is presenting with the same feeling as the other, it switches. This method is good for keeping tones. On the other hand, it may be hard in joining the three stories if you are not concentrated in the first part which presents the relativeship of the six main characters in the movie. Whethere you like the movie or not is quite dependent on whether you like the editing of the movie or not.

I consider the best part of the movie is the relationship between WONG Hey and NG Ngai-cheung. One of the reasons is due to a relative larger elaboration on the background of NG while gives the relationship between him and WONG Hey more impressive. HOwever, I consider the most attractive part should be the love scene between these two men in taxi. The presentation is good while can satisfy audience.

On the whole, 'The Accident' is a movie about misfortune and sudden which happens to the six characters in one day and a night. The performance of NG Ngai-cheung and WONG Hey is good. Whether you like the movie or not depends on whether you can accept the editing of the movie while is cut by tones.