Spacked Out (2000)

May 12, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Director: Lawrence Ah Mon
Script: Yeung Sin-ling, Au Shui-lin
Producer: Johnnie To Kei-Fung
Cinematography: Lai Yiu-fai

Debbie Tam (Cookie), Christy Cheung (Banana), Angela Au (Sissy), Maggie Poon (Beancurd)

Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Running Time: 91 min



spacked3Miles from the glittering skyscrapers of Hong Kong lie the New Town urban developments: block after block of sterile concrete monoliths that take in Hong Kong’s overflow population like a grungy sponge. The schools are holding pens, the infrastructure is endlessly collapsing, and life seems to be happening somewhere else. Through this teenage wasteland, director Lawrence Ah Mong tracks four pill-popping, shoplifting, Hello Kitty!-loving schoolgirls as they pinball their own private worlds of hurt. Shot in a whiplash-inducing 14 days using a combination of actors and non-actors, Lawrence Ah Mon has simultaneously put Harmony Korine, John Hughes and Amy Heckerling to shame. Teen angst transformed into near-religious illumination by an all-encompassing humanity that’ll break your heart, SPACKED OUT is easily the best movie about kids you’ll be lucky enough to see.

—Grady Hendrix, Subway Cinema

*Scenes from Spacked Out
© Milkyway Image Productions

spacked1Spacked Out, directed by Lawrence Ah Mon (aka Lau Kwok-cheung) looks like a standard lost-youth genre film. It shows scenes from the lives of four semi-delinquent girls who live in Tuen Mun, a satellite town in Hong Kong’s New Territories. They inhabit, on the periphery of school, a marginal but active life revolving around malls, karaoke, drugs, and one night stands. Spacked Out doesn’t glamourize these wayward young women, though. In this respect, it is a bracing and pointedly critical antidote to the male-centred triad youth films of the late 1990s. The film’s style is rough and gritty, with lots of jerky hand-held camera work, seemingly improvised dialogue, episodes of video, and frequent jumpy editing. It oscillates, in a particularly Hong Kong way, between a raw, “”honest”” seeming neo-realism and heightened, hyper-stylized excursions into the characters’ subjectivities (a further examination of this hybrid style is provided in this review of Little Cheung).

The four main characters of Spacked Out are all played by first-time actresses, and Lawrence Ah Mon has inspired impressively vivid, spontaneous-seeming performances from all of them, performances that really carry and “sell” the film. Bean Curd (Maggie Poon) is the standout. All blustering tough shaved-headed aggressiveness, she’s overly protective of her girlfriend Sissy. The latter is the “”femme”” of the couple, as well as being an adept at shoplifting cosmetics while chatting with her friends on a cell phone. Banana, who sells phone sex semi-discreetly during class, wields a savvy but sadly world-wise young sexuality — she’s an abortion expert at 16. Cookie is the heart of the film, its narrator, as well as the youngest of the girls. She is introverted, lonely, and lost, and seems to be acutely aware of it. What narrative thread the film exhibits (it is actually a loosely structured series of set pieces) links the gaps in her life, a life in which boyfriends, parents, ambitions, and a sense of self-worth are all notably absent.

–Shelly Kracier, A Chinese Cinema Page

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