San Francisco Film Society's Hong Kong Film Festival (http://www.sffs.org) will present the international premiere of "A Complicated Story" on Sunday [Oct. 6] in the Vogue Theater. It is made by a production team of Hong Kong film school students, but it's so professionally accomplished that the only way to know about the student involvement is to read the program notes.
First-time filmmaker and Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts student Kiwi Chow directed the story about a surrogate mother hired from mainland China. Chow's writers, Felix Tsang, Isis Tao and Shu Kei, are fellow school mates, adopting Yi Shu’s novel to the screen. They received big-name support from producers, headed by Johnnie To.
The principals in the cast are young professionals, led by Zhu Zhiying as the mainland student and Stephanie Che as the powerful Hong Kong lawyer representing the anonymous super-rich couple who hire the surrogate. What makes "A Complicated Story" a fine, engrossing film, a high-grade soap, is that it persists in showing complications without resorting to easy solutions.
Chow maintains the integrity of realistic ambiguity through twists and turns in the story, marshals expertly the talents of a good cast, and dares to end the film on a tentative note instead of a spoon-fed, Hollywood finale. Keep your eyes on the director: he'll go far.
Opening night on Friday presented another debut, Flora Lau's "Bends," a 2013 Cannes Film Festival award-winner, with Carina Lau; cinematography by the great Christoper Doyle. Late Friday it was the local premiere of Johnnie To's "Blind Detective," with Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng.
On the Saturday schedule (all films screen in the Vogue) are "Bends" again, then Lau Kar-leung's legendary 1977 "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin," with Gordon Liu, Lieh Lo, Yang Yu, and Wang Yu. Among those influenced by the film's martial art scenes are the Wu-Tang Clan and Quentin Tarantino.
Saturday evening variety ranges from the historical epic of Wong Jing's 2012 "The Last Tycoon," set in 1930s Shanghai, to Yan Yan Mak's 2013 "The Great War: Director's Cut," documenting last year's showdown between Hong Kong pop groups Grasshopper and Softhard.
On Sunday, it's Lau Kar-leung's "The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter," a 1984 Shaw Brothers kung-fu classic, with Wang Yu and Gordon Liu; repeat of "The Last Tycoon," and at 6 p.m., "A Complicated Story." The evening screening is the North American premiere of Oxide Pang's "Conspirators," a thriller about Chan Tam (Aaron Kwok) returning to his native Malaysia to track down his parents' killers.