A Simple Life
A film by Ann Hui
2011 / Hong Kong / 118 mins
5.45 pm /11th Jan 2015
Perks Mini Theater
"A Simple Life" paints portraits of two good people in gentle humanist terms. Here is a film with the clarity of fresh stream water, flowing without turmoil to shared destiny. No plot gimmicks. No twists and turns. Just a simple life.
The life is that of Ah Tao, who was orphaned during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, spent her entire life in the service of four generations of a Chinese family, and is now the servant of the only family member still living in China. He is Roger, a movie producer. They have a settled routine. Ah Tao suffers a stroke, and Roger takes charge of her care.
She doesn't complain. Throughout the film, she resists his money, protests that his presents cost too much, tells him to spend more time at his job and less on his visits to her. This despite the fact that she literally has no one else in her life (all the members of Roger's family now live in America).
We see that although they have never articulated it, they have become dependent on each other. She raised him from infancy. When we meet his mother, she seems perfectly nice, but there isn't the same unspoken bond. Neither Ah Tao nor Roger is demonstrative; But they care. The movie has an emotional payoff; It expresses hope in human nature.
(Excerpts from Roger Ebert’s review )
One of the most important figures of Hong Kong cinema, Ann Hui was born in Manchuria in 1947 and moved to Hong Kong when she was five years old. She studied English language and literature and comparative literary studies until 1972, then spent two years at the London Film School. Upon returning to Hong Kong, Hui became an assistant to the veteran director King Hu and then joined TVB, where she directed serials and documentaries on 16 mm. In 1977, she joined the ICAC (Independent Commission for Anti-Corruption) and made seven TV episodes for its drama series, two of which were banned from airing because of the sensitive subject matter. She then joined the government TV network RTHK in 1978 and made three featurettes for the series Below the Lion Rock, The other two films were Huyue de Gushi (The Story of Wu Viet) (1981), which was screened at the Director's Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival, and Tuo Pen Hu Hai (The Boat People) (1982), an Official Selection at Cannes and Best Film at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
Hui left television and made her first feature film, Feng Jie (The Secret), in 1979. Zhuang Dao Zheng (The Spooky Bunch, 1980) was her venture into a popular genre in Chinese literature and film, the ghost story. Quing Cheng Zhi Lian. Ke Tu Chin Hen (Song of the Exile) (1990), which is somewhat autobiographical, won the Best Film prize both at the Asian Pacific Film Festival and Rimini Film Festival. Hui executive producedYim Ho's The Day the Sun Turned Cold (1994), Best Film at the Tokyo International Film Festival.