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Floating City - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Fu Cheng

Hong Kong 2012


Yim Ho

Aaron Kwok
Charlie Yeung
Annie Liu
Bau Hei-Jing
Josie Ho
Gregory Rivers
Calvin Cheng
Ben Yuen Foo-Wa

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Floating City

Story: Bo (Aaron Kwok) is a successful businessman, but contrary to his colleagues, like Fion (Annie Liu) who is born and raised abroad, he hasn't been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had to fight his way up the ladder the hard way. Only his wife Tai (Charlie Yeung) knows what that's like, because she has been raised in Hong Kong on the sea, too. Bo is half Chinese, has been adopted and lived as well as worked with his big family on a boat. But people always treat him as if he were partly a foreigner and thus Bo is having an identity crisis. He is supposed to take his father's place and take care of the boat one day, but Bo has completely different plans. He wants to learn how to read and write and work at the East India Company. The path leading there is a long and winding one, but Bo has quite some stamina and with a good amount of luck he manages to become part of the company, although he just starts to learn English there. Bo has lived a life of poverty for all too long and after all he has also a reponsibility towards his parents. Even though the young man has to put up with prejudices against his mixed blood from his own people as well as from the British colonialists Bo doesn't break.

Review: "Floating City" is creating its very own atmosphere, one in which the search for one's own identity in a noticeably colonized Hong Kong feels like being carried on gentle waves. There is a lot to like about this drama, but sadly there are also some things that belong to a different category. The historical and sociopolitical illumination of the events at that time, without them ever becoming anything more than the framework for identity shaping, is part of the well achieved list of director Yim Ho. Problematic on the other hand is an all too cold protagonist that serves as the sole individual carrying the story on his shoulder and a focus on the search for one's roots and one's own self that seems too forced. The movie's premise is interesting nonetheless.

Floating City - Film Screenshot 11

In "Floating City" we are introduced to a group of people that you probably didn't know before. The "boat people", or Tanka which is the rather derogatory word for them, live on fishing and seldomly leave the sea which is their home and place of work at the same time. The constant sight of the sea must have fueled Bo's yearning and so he breaks with the traditions of the boat people and tries to make more of his life, particularly since he feels alien because of his looks anyway. But being alien is something that he will not be able to get rid of elsewhere either. However, actor Aaron Kwok ("Cold War", "Murderer") can't convince as a half-foreigner at all. To give him a pair of blue contact lenses doesn't make him less Chinese.

Floating City - Film Screenshot 12

Kwok proves to be a problem in other respects, too, because in contrast to many of his other roles his acting is very reserved this time. Which makes Bo seem extremely cold and accordingly we rarely start to really care about his fate. That the gap between the events on screen and the viewer doesn't turn out to be too broad is thanks to a simple trick director Yim utilizes, which is making Bo the narrator of the story and by that giving us some insight into his world of ideas. What's important here as well is that Bo remains a good individual through and through, because he is often enough led into temptation to go astray, be it by bribery or the option to have an affair with Fion. It's easier this way to accompany Bo on his journey, but we don't get any real insight into his emotional life.

The continuous musing of Bo leaves no doubt that he hasn't found his place in the world, yet. His search also stands as breaking free of his poverty and with an iron will he has to fight hard to get what he wants. Apart from that stoic determination and a feeling of being lost Bo lacks any character traits, though. Even his wife, played by Charlie Yeung ("After this our Exile", "Ashes of Time - Redux"), seems more alive and fleshed out. Furthermore, the superfluous drama pushes itself too much into the spotlight with Bo's question "Who am I" which he is muttering to himself on a constant basis. Very nice on the other hand is the setting as the end of Great Britain's colonial era gives a worthwhile historical background to the story which has been worked in with a lot of sensitiveness.

Floating City - Film Screenshot 13

This sensitiveness becomes apparent in other respects as well. All in all "Floating City" is a movie that is nice to look at. The story is told in flashbacks and in a tightened fashion, yet it never makes any leaps and bounds. It's rather that you get the impression, also being the achievement of a nice and flowing soundtrack by Linq Yim, to float on the sea, only being disturbed in meditative pondering by a few big waves. There is quite some heart put into this drama, no doubt about it, yet you have to wonder what director Yim wanted to aim at with his film in the end. Yim Ho ("Homecoming") has a few decades of movie-making experience, you can certainly tell when looking at "Floating City" as there are some touching pictures and subtle but oustanding scenes, but a stronger focus on what's essential would have been a good choice for this drama.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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