A/V (HK - DVD)
Like American Pie, Porkys, Animal House, and Risky Business? Want to open yourself to HK cinema? Gabe's got a good movie for ...
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Who hasn’t wanted the chance to get close to their favourite actor or actress? Everyone, right? How about those who happen to watch a bit more adult entertainment? Haven’t you ever dreamed of going one-on-one with those plastic men/women of your dreams? Don’t lie now. Wishful thinking aside, most of us don’t have the drive to achieve these lofty goals of sexual escapade. Though the idea of making no-strings-attached love to a professional star may be titillating (ahem), the effort would probably out-weigh the payoff. Unless, of course, the effort was the payoff, as it is for the four plucky heroes of Edmond Pang’s A/V. When the reward is achieved in the work itself, bored young men are captains of destiny, and when sexy women are involved, the sky’s the limit.
When a friend is kicked out of their college’s film school for tricking a girl into making out with him on film in the guise of a real school project, our protagonists’ (named Band Aid, Fatty, Jason and Leung) imaginations are peaked. Feeling lost in a sea of disassociation, they seem to have discovered a new life’s purpose, and through this purpose they will find the victory that is achievement. Like the students who were arrested protesting political injustice years before them, they are determined to be remembered, and honored. Their achievement? Tricking a Japanese AV girl (that’s porn star for the Japanese culture impaired) into having sex with all four of them in the guise of a real adult film.
The subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at Hong Kong youth and their terminal apathy in A/V are downright inspired. When asking Leung’s uncle to act as a sleazy porn producer for the actress’ agent, they are treated to a mostly English tirade on their generation’s lack of vision. Of course uncle agrees to participate after his oral vilification is finished; his character just found it necessary to say something on behalf of the supposedly superior older generation. When funds run low, Leung makes a rousing speech to members of the school’s male student body, comparing their smutty plans to the historical accomplishments of Rosa Parks and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
A/V is closer to a true ‘80s era high school/college sex-comedy than any of the various Hollywood produced throwbacks of the last six years or so. Like a potent mix of Porkys, Animal House, and (most obviously) Risky Business, it feels more genuine than the likes of the American Pie movies. Granted, I was simply not a fan of American Pie, and I’ve heard that last year’s Girl Next Door was a better Risky Business update, but A/V was still a surprisingly quaint and entertaining little film.
Modern comedy is not usually my “thing”, and I’ve felt that there is a certain level of cleverness missing from most popular films these days. When an action packed spectacular is devoid of cleverness it doesn’t really matter, but sloppy, easy route comedy is pretty sad. The societal satire in A/V is light-years beyond that of its American and British counterparts. Though the main characters are stereotypes (the clever leader, the goof-off, the shy and sweet guy, and the fat kid), they are blessed with an important trait known as ‘depth’, which leads directly into that oh-so-important audience trait known as ‘sympathy’. The fast-cut editing and cinema-verte camera work help keep us involved in their world. Pang seems to know both his subject and his audience well enough to take mainstream mediocrity and make it near-art.
The only thing keeping me from giving A/V a higher score, beyond the fact that sex-comedies just don’t do it for me, was the stilted and clumsy ending. The sudden attempt at serious social commentary is too little and comes far too late. Some viewers may be turned off by the lack of exploitative sex and nudity, as the majority of the film is surprisingly tasteful. Pang goes to great lengths to obscure the especially naughty bits. Personally I found the sappier aspects acceptable, but viewers even more jaded than I may find it unforgivable.
A/V’s style doesn’t lend itself to the most immaculate video presentation. Being such a young film works in its favour, as does a nice amount of candy-coloured saturation. There are some artifacts to be found, but print damage is very minimal. Black levels are nice, and everything is sharp without causing much in the way of edge enhancement. Digital grain is prevalent but acceptable.
Both A/V’s DTS and Dolby Digital tracks are pretty quiet with the exception of Hong Kong hip-hop and pop songs, which play sporadically through out the film. The few directional effects, which mostly pertain to off-screen activity as mundane as characters exiting frame and coffee shop chatter, are effective. Like its Hollywood counterparts, A/V seems to have a slight inclination to sell a few soundtrack albums. The frightfully familiar music sounds just like any generic American or British band of the moment, the only exception being that these groups are speaking in a language other than English. The non-pop music is surprisingly poignant, like the song that’s found on the first disc's main menu. Neither surround track is demo-level stuff, but like the video transfer, are more than acceptable for this particular movie.
A/V marks the first time I’ve seen a Hong Kong aimed special edition that is truly English friendly. Unlike most two disc sets from the region, subtitles can be found on all the extra features. The first disc contains mostly self-explanatory items including theatrical trailers and TV spots, cast and filmmaker profiles, a (brief) message from the director, and a production photo gallery. The photo gallery is of the slide show variety, rather than the usual viewer controlled menu system.
The best of the first disc's special features consist of a ‘Secret Message from Amamiya Manami’ and an episode of the ‘AV News’. The secret message is not an Easter egg, as I had assumed it would be, what with being a secret and all. Basically a short and fluffy interview with real life AV starlet Manami, the message doesn’t reveal any important personal insight into the actress, but rather backs up assumptions that she is a pleasant young lady who answers every question with adorable abandon. The ‘AV News’ is a segment from what I’m guessing is an ongoing Japanese program about AV stars, which features a half-nude girl updating us in dubbed Cantonese on Manami’s progress filming in the HK.
Disc two features a video commentary version of the film with the director and major male characters of the cast. Much like that found on the 3 disc director’s cut of Hellboy, this is a good idea, but watching the filmmakers watch the film isn’t really enough fun to require an entire second disc for the set. The track is all in good fun and surprisingly informative, but the video option really feels like a bit of wasted disc space to me.
A selection of deleted scenes is up next, which run a total of almost ten minutes. As per usual, all deletions were pretty good decisions, and no important plot points or side stories are revealed. The NG footage (outtakes or bloopers to us Westerners) are also worth a look too, as they add that dash of insight into the fun of filming a feature film with a bunch of fun guys, including a longer version of a kiss between one of the heroes and Manami that lasted long after Cheung called cut.
A/V is not my personal cup-o-tea, but is better than most of its brethren, including the American Pie films, which frankly, I hated. It's good, raunchy fun without crossing any major lines of taboo, as to not offend the status quo. Fans of the film should be most satisfied with this DVD release, which includes an interesting, yet basically pointless feature in its video commentary. Fans of ‘80s era teen-sex classics might find it worth a rental at the very least.
You can buy this title for US $9.99 from Yesasia.com.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Not suitable for young persons and children
Release Date: 14th June 2005
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: 5.1 DTS Cantonese, 5.1 Dolby Digital Mandarin, 5.1 Dolby Digital Cantonese
Subtitles: English , Traditional Chinese , Simplified Chinese
Extras: Video Commentary, AV News, Secret Message from Amamiya Manami, Theatrical Trailers and TV spots, Cast and Filmmaker Profiles, A Message from the Director, NG Footage, Deleted Scenes, Photo Gallery.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Pang Ho Cheung
Cast: Lawrence Chou, Edmond Peng, Wong Yiu Nan
Length: 104 minutes
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