Let’s Love Hongkong (dir. Yau Ching, 2002)

Zero, who, like many Hong Kong youngsters, has a handful of unsteady jobs. She takes a fancy to Chan Kwok Chan, whom she stalks. Chan in turn, has a job donning exotic costumes as a cyber paper doll for a porn website and a sex-worker lover who has a son and a separate husband on the mainland. Photo and caption: Mubi.com

            In Let’s Love Hongkong (dir. Yau Ching, 2002), the metropolis is presented as a lesbian dystopia where affections constantly get waylaid and no one seems to fall in love with the right person. Instead, everyone is addicted to cheap thrills and devices. The film revolves around the lives of three lesbians in Y2K-era Hong Kong. Nicole, an attractive trans-national lady boss, obsesses over Chan who works as a cybersex doll for a computer application that offers role-playing fantasies. Chan is emotionally spent and hides the true nature of her work from her mother and seeks the company of an escort in a love motel on her off days. Chan is stalked by Zero, a determined and itinerant taxi-driver (perhaps a wink at Scorcese) and hustler who lives inside the cinema. Each character represents a class of lesbians and they are often caught in scenes that present the city as a mirage of alienating machines, money-obsessed white collar types and squalid street corners. I found the tour of overpriced cramped apartments humorous; “you’ve got a view,” the broker says and then the camera pans to an assemblage of wire fences, grimy windows, and smog. It’s a place where you don’t need to worry about people bothering you because you won’t speak the same language anyway and cultural and political boundaries run thick between Hongkongers and those who recently migrated from the mainland (perhaps now an obsolete term in relation to HK of now). Nicole, for instance, failed to recognize Chan even when she moves close to ask her to light her cigarette despite having plenty of orgasms to her avatar.

Ackbar Abbas calls Hongkong’s cultural and urban forms, “spaces of disappearance”, inspired partly by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.[1]According to Abbas, Hongkong is a rebus where projections of fear and desire continuously configure the landscape. In other words, it is both an illusion and a concrete expression of the capitalist id, from sex toys to amusement parks. In this sense, the title Let’s Love Hong Kong seems less an optimistic imperative than an empty capitalist slogan, where the only language that has meaning is the color of money.

The three distinct lesbian relationships depicted illustrate both the malaise that emanate from Hong kong’s “port mentality” where “everything is provisional” from currencies, values, and human relations.[2] This is a city where Feng Shui masters cater to the spiritually bereft, blaming the electric post for why you remain single, and would charge you for taking your goldfish because they won’t bring luck. There is a tax to everything, even on people that thrive in informal economies, either you lose sense of your identity and suppress your sexuality (as in Nicole) or you become an emotional vacuum (like Chan). The only kind of love scene that seems reciprocal and genuine is the embrace between Chan and her mother, who stands in for the kind of love that seems to remain unproblematic. Let’s Love Hongkong is a movie about a permanent crisis of the metropolis to foster connections in its pollution of images and abundance of sex drives and fantasies. If there is one striking message in this film, it’s that in the time of late capitalism, finding genuine lasting relationships is a deviance.

[1] Ackbar Abbas, Hong Kong : Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p. 2.

[2] Ibid., p. 4.