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公主復仇記 (2004)
Beyond Our Ken

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 05/16/2009

“Beyond Our Ken” is the story of a friendship between two young women who connect with each other on a number of levels. It succeeds because it keeps the story simple and streamlined until it ends with a sudden and unexpected twist. It touches on concerns such as truth, authenticity and filial loyalty but only lightly and always in the context of the developing relationship between Ching and Shirley. It takes a look at some of the problems of our technological age—embarrassing pictures will live forever as binary code and can be sent around the world in seconds. Life mirrored art in this case. Unfortunately as we become invested in the lives of the characters Edmond Pang the scriptwriter double crosses Edmond Pang the director with a faux-Hitchcockian climax that calls everything we have seen into question, although not in the post-modern “every text undermines itself” fashion but along the more traditional lines of “what was that all about?”.

The third star of this movie is Hong Kong itself. It is full of cityscapes, lovely shots from many angles and viewpoints, showing a vibrant city and avoiding the clichéd images of harbor and peak. We see aspects of the city as Ching runs through the streets to find a locksmith, while she and Shirley ride a motorcycle, sometimes just to frame a scene with an opening shot that lets us the quintessential urban landscape with its old and new buildings, wide streets and crowded alleys. Stairways are featured in many shots. There are lots and lots of stairs, part of an old city that had to be built upward before there were skyscrapers and elevators.

“Beyond our Ken” is the one of five films on which Edmond Pang worked with his hand picked “what you see onscreen” team: art director Man Lim-Ching, cinematographer Charlie Lam Chi-Kin and lighting designer Chan Wai-Ming. While the movies (at least those I have seen) differs in visual style they are alike in that each has a distinctive look and create a vivid sense of place.

The score features two of the most quoted “Top 40” hits in the western musical canon, both by Mozart: “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”, and the “Dies irae” from the Requiem. They are overused in movies as well as commercials and cartoons with the “Dies irae” used inappropriately as often as not. I imagine their use here is for the same reasons—to underline feelings of despair, foreboding or immanent, harmful change (“Dies Irae”) or just a nice, bouncy tune (“Eine Kleine”).

“Beyond our Ken” has an ambitious structure with flashbacks to the same events from the points of view of different characters but it is generally a straight forward story of loss and betrayal although who is betraying who and what is lost by whom is called into question by the manipulative final scenes.

This is a beautiful movie—every scene is a delight just to watch—but its pedestrian script isn’t on the level of the visuals. Recommended

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Anticlimacus
Date: 02/25/2009
Summary: One of the Most Enjoyable Art-House Movies In Existence

The definition of "art-house" cinema is somewhat subjective, even though it's rather easily applied to specific movies. Some think that the term itself is obsolete, but it is a useful classification for those of us who watch "artsy" films as part of a greater cinematic portfolio. In any case, "Beyond Our Ken" was one of the first art-house movies that I fell in love with, and it's quite possibly my favorite – with the possible exception of "Green Tea" (2003). To be honest, the only reason I rented this was because it starred one of the Twins; and if a movie stars one of the Twins, then I simply need to watch it.

Gillian Chung plays a woman who struggles with the recent breakup with her boyfriend and enlists the help of his current girlfriend to assist her. This movie is surprisingly different and subtle in its portrayal of relationships. The vision proposed is very refreshing, taking a more cynical point-of-view that throws away all of the sickly sweet fluff that dominates romantic comedies. "Beyond Our Ken" feels exceptionally different from most Hong Kong films in terms of it's relentless artistry and stylistic elements. For example, the breakup scene near the beginning has a side view of the couple as they sit in a restaurant. The placement of a hand-held camera behind a window pane is a nice choice here because it makes the viewer feel like they are actually in the restaurant, glancing at the couple. Also note that the glass pane is colored, casting the boyfriend in a blue shade – perhaps a symbol of his coldness. The whole setup of this sequence smacks of outstanding film-making. Unlike some other art-house films that bathe in self-masturbatory pretentiousness, "Beyond Our Ken" observes a perfect control of creating motion picture art while avoiding meaningless patches of nothingness. Everything has a purpose.

Such is an expected result when the script is as tight and intelligent as it is here. One may not notice just how complex this film is until the final scene is played out in masterful fashion. If there's one particular type of movie that impresses me, it's one that subtly references events to one another throughout. An event or image that seems inconsequential near the beginning will be accentuated by a later event. Such tactics will fly right over your head if you're not paying attention, but that's what makes these East Asian art-house movies so entertaining and unique. Some viewers may scoff at the condensed structure of the finale, but it's really quite brilliant after you put all of the pieces together.

The acting is excellent. Tao Hong is a shamelessly underrated actress who can light up the screen with the best in the business. Check out "Life Show" (2002) if you don't believe me. The decision to cast such a fantastic actress beside a developing talent has major advantages. Gillian Chung is a pop star who broke into acting as a marketing gimmick, but that doesn't stop her from contributing a respectable, breakout performance in "Beyond Our Ken." I'm sure that Hong's presence brought Gillian's game to the next level, if not by merely bringing a Mainland style that is somewhat different from your typical Hong Kong starlet. Daniel Wu is a hit-or-miss actor, but he shines nicely here as the ex-boyfriend that every teenage girl would love to hate.

Ho-Cheung Pang is arguably the best director in Hong Kong today (with the possible exception of Johnnie To). His talent for crafting spectacular art-house films is the most obvious reason for granting him such praise. "Isabella" (2006) was a fantastic, highly intelligent drama and "Exodus" (2007) was a blackly comic piece that was enjoyable despite some pacing issues. However, "Beyond Our Ken" is his most amazing work because it succeeds at being highly entertaining on a minute-by-minute basis. Only a truly magnificent director could possibly construct the "key making mission" scene, which is amongst my most favorite sequences in any drama. The coordination of the camera movements and scoring are really great as we watch our two protagonists maneuver through a convenience store in an attempt to complete the mission. I never knew teenage girl angst could be so much fun.

As a final note, we never got stuff like this during the "Golden Age." So maybe it's time to stop parroting the "Hong Kong cinema is dead" mantra and simply enjoy gems like this. An industry cutback in film production has some advantages. "Beyond Our Ken" proves that in convincing fashion.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 08/02/2007
Summary: the third pang...

ching (gillian chung) was dumped by ken (daniel wu) about a month ago. after a nude picture of ching (with an obscured ken) appears online, she tracks down ken's new girlfriend, shirley (tao hong). after revealing some truths about ken, shirley agrees to help ching get her own back and a strange friendship begins to take place...

pang ho-cheung's third film is another in his arsenal of off-kilter commentaries and another quality flick. pang manages to create an original and intriguing comedy, which plays out with some overtones of a thriller, whilst never failing to raise a smile.

gillian and tao hong make a good on screen pairing and daniel wu is as good as expected, even though his role is pretty modest in size. if i have any gripe, it's probably with the last execution of the film's last five minutes, although, i think i've already warmed to them.

so, good stuff once again...

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 07/12/2006
Summary: Ummm.....

Some many positive reviews below this review, unfortunately i will have to go against them.

For myself, it was slow paced,boring at times, and long!!The whole story is aimed to make the ending that more dramatic!! After that, you feel, is that all?

The interaction between the two female leads was good,You do feel they have a connection and Daniel Wu breezes through his role as usual. The ending i did not guess.

I just didn't find this movie as enjoyable as the others.

There is not such things and princes and princess, only assholes and witches, the other reviewers would say this movie is the former, myself the latter

Not a bad film,watchable but not great either

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 03/12/2006
Summary: a unique cinematic experience

A novelist turned screenwriter and director, Edmond Pang Ho-Cheung creates a unique and highly intelligent cinematic experience. Taking up where he left off with his award winning film Men Suddenly in Black, the director draws from his personal dating experiences as he continues his piercing, satirical study of the war between the sexes.

Working with producer Catherine Hun Ga-Jan and a cast of only three actors, Pang raises the quality of style, tone, and form to the level of his excellent screenplay, co-written by Wong Wing Si. An atmosphere of suspense is heightened by various voyeuristic point of view camera angles. Several scenes are repeated, each time from some different characters perspective.

Beyond Our Ken stars Daniel Wu Yin-Cho, one of Hong Kong's finest actors, as the "Ken" of the title. Gillian Chung Yan-Tung plays a young woman who "was" dating Ken. Chung gives the best performance of her brief career; this role has none of the fluff of her previous parts. Tao Hong plays the young woman who "is" dating Ken. This actress gives an absolutely riveting performance as she blows the other two actors off the screen.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 07/16/2005
Summary: Deserves the praise its received.

A well-crafted story of love and revenge. It's not what I think of when I think of Hong Kong movies; the feel of it, the characters, and the story have an internationall flavor. Which isn't a criticism. I guess it's the art film feel.

I mostly agree with what the three previous reviewers have said, with a couple exceptions. Although I too thought this was Gillian Chung's best work to date, she still hasn't arrived and was out-performed by Tao Hung. She kept the same expression through most of the movie, even in a scene where I thought she was supposed to laugh, and in the end where I thought her character's deeper drive would show up more on her face. She did a good job overall and is definitely better than she was, but needed to get more life into her character.

My other disagreement was about the ending, which I wasn't expecting and which I felt elevated the movie.

Although the pacing is a little slow, I didn't mind that so much, but there were a couple scenes that were annoyingly drawn out, like the fingering of the piano part of the soundtrack during the bus ride.

This is a bad review in the sense that I've focused so much on negatives, which really distorts how I feel.. I actually liked this movie very much. It's very well done, sweet, and funny, It leaves you wanting more from everyone involved; what more could it do than that? I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 07/09/2005
Summary: Autobiographical: artsy, suspenseful, but a bit predictable

Whether or not this movie was independent I do not know, but it certainly illustrates the independent art film spirit: just look at the opening scene, delving right into the heart of the story without any attempt to establish the characters, as a conventional film might. Stylistically, the camera constantly puts the audience into the curious but detached position. We become one with the camera, which is often hand-held and hiding outside a fence or below eye-level, to emphasize the situational sneakiness.

There is only one problem: the story's final turnout is fairly predictable, especially with the revengeful Chinese title and the independent filmmaking spirit, it's a given that there will be revelations in the end -- kind of like the expectation one would have for a Chu Yuan wuxia pian from Shaw Bros. I don't particularly like the way it is all spelled out, although I can't fault it too much because the twist did work on some level, reminding us that all is not what it seems, and everything has at least 2 sides to it.

Apparently, Edmond Pang based the story on his own experience, and made it fairly interesting. The air is constantly filled with danger and suspense, thanks to the alternative approach to filmmaking. This is a very good movie; the acting is phenomenal (Gillian's performance is one of the best I have seen from any post-90s newcomer), and the Italian song by Gianna Nannini has become a favorite.


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 03/01/2005
Summary: 7/10

Ching (Gillian Chung) is dumped by her boyfriend Ken (Daniel Wu), which upset her. Ken then posts naked photos he took with her on the internet, which upsets her too. When her employers see them, she loses her job. She doesn't seem all that bothered by this, but I guess it's a negative mark too. She contacts Ken's new girlfriend (mainland actress Tao Hung) and convinces her what a snake she's dating, and the two of them work together to get back the photos and plot a girly revenge. They develop an unlikely sort of friendship along the way.

Edmond Pang Ho Cheung made a lifetime fan of me with his second film, MEN SUDDENLY IN BLACK, and this was confirmed when I finally tracked down the VCD of his debut film, YOU SHOOT I SHOOT (still criminally unavailable on DVD). I was rather surprised when his third film suddenly appeared on DVD without me having heard anything about it whatsoever - especially with a Twin in the cast. I guess it didn't make too many waves, which is not too surprising because it's a pretty low-key drama with arty aspirations that suggest a desire to be mid-1990's Wong Kar Wai, without the hyperkinetic energy. It has the roving hand-held camera (and some camera setups that are direct "tributes" to WKW & Christopher Doyle moments), but what the camera captures is mostly quite static scenes of the characters talking to each other. We are never treated to a look inside the characters heads, WKW style, either - what we learn about the characters is mostly what they tell each other about themselves - but Edmond Pang does try to show us more through subtle symbolism. I probably wouldn't have realised this, but the Mei Ah DVD has a special feature that's basically a quiz to see how much of this symbolism you picked up on :p

The film is definitely a mature work, and it's nice to see that the success of MSIB hasn't led Pang into the trap of commercial fluff that effectively removed Wilson Yip from the "talented newcomer to watch" list. It perhaps tries a little too hard to achieve artistic credibility though, feeling less natural than his 2 dark comedies. Whilst it creates interesting characters and scenarios for the majority of its runtime, the film effectively blows its head off in the last 3 minutes. First we get the obvious twist, that you may have seen coming already, but then we get a double-twist that effectively undermines the entire film up to that point, and then nothing to really give the twist any substance. Well, maybe if I watch it again I'll see more, but it felt like quite a catastrophic let-down of an ending.

Still, a couple of bad minutes at the end don't render the rest of the film worthless - at least, if you choose to simply ignore them they don't. And up to then, it's an engaging film. Not a life-changer, but an interesting break from the norm. One of the film's biggest virtues is the final proof beyond doubt that Gillian Chung has matured, and turned into quite a fine actress. The film and the role are quite daring, and she rises to the challenge very well. There's no way in 7 hells Charlene Choi could have pulled off a film like this. Ah Gil is also starting to look more like my girlfriend as she matures, happily enough. Actress Tao Hung is just as good in her role too - though her character is a bit of an enigma in many ways. It's the first time I've seen her, but I'd guess it's not her first film. BEYOND OUR KEN in some ways feels like the sort of film you'd expect a female director to make, e.g. Sylvia Chang or Crystal Kwok perhaps. Edmond is not female, but it's to his credit that he is able to make such a film - especially when you consider the very male perspective of MSIB (though that had barbs inside that could be construed as showing feminist sympathies).

Daniel Wu doesn't have that much to do in the film really, despite being the title character. It's quite a daring role for him too, since his character is such a sod, but it's not the first time he's shown a willingness or ability to do risky roles. Must be a relief after such a dumb role in TWINS EFFECT II anyway. His acting is continuously improving as well.

BEYOND OUR KEN is nearly a great film, let down mostly by an ending that fails to deliver the pay-off we want, and tries hard to take away the satisfaction we'd had to that point by being too clever for its own good. Or wanting to be. Whilst I'm glad that Pang hasn't gone into commercial big-budget FX films, I don't really want him to go in the opposite direction either, and even if it's more mature than his first two films, it's nowhere near as much FUN, and I would rather he be making high quality entertainment than high art. Perhaps he had to make a film like BOK to try it out though, and the result is certainly worth a watch.

Even though you never do get to see those nekkid photos of Ah Gil ;)

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: LisaM
Date: 02/19/2005
Summary: HK's Most Pleasant 2004 Surprise

While YOU SHOOT, I SHOOT was a terrific debut film from director Pang Ho-cheung, and MEN SUDDENLY IN BLACK a fine sophomore effort, BEYOND OUR KEN is probably Pang's best film yet. This funny, involving film works as revenge drama, women's film and love letter to Hong Kong all at once (it's hard to imagine another recent film that has featured so much exterior footage of so many different parts of the city). Gillian Chung and Tao Hung excel as two women who have shared the same handsome cad boyfriend (a wonderful, charming Daniel Wu), and have decided they've had enough. The style is a departure from Pang's two earlier films, with lovely cinematography, a measured pace which works to establish and develop the characters, and a great use of world music (especially an Italian song). My only complaint is that they should have stuck to the Chinese title, which translates to REVENGE OF A PRINCESS, a title which sums up both the humor and the drama of this delightful movie.