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Directed by Stanley Kwan

Hong Kong, China 2018 100 mins. In Cantonese, Mandarin with subtitles

Hong Kong’s Stanley Kwan returns to the director’s chair after a six-year hiatus with this soapy theatre-world drama about two actresses—and former rivals—now at drastically different periods in their lives and careers. The classy recluse Xiuling (Sammi Cheng) quietly fears she’ll lose it all, while TV ingénue Yuwen (Gigi Leung) builds for a big break in a flailing film industry. The two rehearse for the new family drama from prominent director An Ouyang (Kam Kwok-leung) with hopes of gaining relevance and credibility respectively. With nods to Almodovar (Kwan is also Hong Kong’s first out gay director), the quirkily complex female leads and queer and trans characters allow the play-within-the-movie to slip off stage through tone and delivery into sometimes campy and sometimes melancholy behind-the-scenes moments where life imitates art (or at least the business of it).

Filmography: Rouge (1987), Full Moon in New York (1989), Center Stage (1991), Red Rose White Rose (1994), Hold You Tight (1997), Lan Yu (2001), Everlasting Regret (2005), Showtime (2010)

Sponsored by Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office