›› Amphetamine - An fei ta ming ‹‹

a film by Scud Cheng.

2010 | 97 mins | Hong Kong.

the bittersweet highs and lows of an addiction to love.

Dave says:

Inspired by the true story of a man who nearly lost his life, some say because of drugs, others because of love, here we find noted Hong Kong writer and director Scud Cheng chart the bittersweet highs and lows of an addiction to love.

For this is the story of Kafka (Byron Pang); an officially straight fitness / swimming instructor, that is until he chances upon Daniel (Thomas Price); namely a finance executive who's anything but straight. Exchanging glances, it isn't long before the two young men fall passionately in love, not only with each other, but in the belief that their intense love can bridge anything, even the difference in their sexuality, let alone Kafka's increasing drug use. Only their relationship is all but a one-sided love affair, even if Kafka tries to love Daniel back in a way that goes against his true nature. But when a dreadful memory from Kafka's past surfaces making it almost impossible for their relationship to continue, could it be that their addiction to each other will prove more fatal, than the drugs they use to explore the boundaries of their friendship?

Beautifully shot, if somewhat surreal in parts and in particular during the closing act, here we find Scud take delight in the numerous plot strands of his screenplay, endlessly cross-cutting his work with snippets of scenes to be and ones that were, including that of a sensuous kissing montage between the boys.

Only this is a film of contrasts and not just the affluence of Daniel's penthouse view of Hong Kong set against the working class, often poverty stricken reality of life for so many, given here it's the very sexuality of the protagonists that Scud plays with, having gone out of his way to vividly detail the relationship between two men at opposing ends of the Kinsey scale. That Kafka is straight is not in doubt, just as his devotion to his terminally ill mother, coupled with a traumatic incident from his past, have come to find him wary of strangers. Yet here is a man who finds himself almost 'learning to be gay' as much as he learns English, to please his Australian-Chinese boyfriend.

Complete with a shockingly brutal scene that's frankly as harrowing to watch as it's integral to the plot, the result is a feature that's gay to the core, high on homoeroticism and too that of full frontal nudity, with Pang seemingly out of his clothes, more often than he's in them. Yet and to his credit, Pang excels as the troubled soul of the piece, his pent-up emotions all but destined to explode, given the relationship between him and Daniel is built on a sexual fault line, one enhanced by Kafka's alarming addiction to amphetamine abuse.

Yet and in spite of all of the positives of this work and of those there are many, including the splendid cinematography of Charlie Lam, this is a film whose incessant narrative changes will undoubtedly irritate many, as too will be its one too many dream sequences. That Scud is on more than familiar ground here goes without saying, given the scenario of a gay man falling for the straight boy in town formed the central theme of his prior feature Permanent Residence. Only here, it's so much more artistically told, being rich in both its style and locations. But as a work about the price paid by those who have forever lost the love of their life, come close-of-play it's ultimately quite sad, if well-played throughout. Say no more.

›› available as part of the PRO-FUN MEDIA catalogue: 19th November, 2010 / Germany.
›› cameo appearance by Scud as the Video Shopkeeper.
›› revised: Tuesday, 21st June, 2022.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - the full monty | Overall - file under ... 3+ stars

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