If there was a genre of movies called “rich people problems”, Lan Kwai Fong would be one of its leading films. The first in a trilogy, Lan Kwai Fong tells the story of a group of people who go clubbing together in the famous eponymous district of Hong Kong (often called “LKF”), from their sexual exploits to romantic troubles.
The story tells multiple plotlines through an ensemble cast, much like Love Actually. The film begins with a group of air hostesses who visit a nightclub in LKF to pass the time between flight assignments. There, they meet Steven, an alcohol salesperson; Jacky, a nightclub manager; former triad-boss Tyson and his girlfriend Belinda, who own the nightclub; Sean, a lawyer who is new to LKF as well; and Cat, dubbed the “queen of nightlife” for her sexual conquests.
The plotlines are, in reality, rather dull and predictable. Between the one-night-stands and scenes of champagne bottles being opened, little happens in the daylight other than a few awkward scenes where Steven runs into his ex-girlfriend at a ramen shop. Lan Kwai Fong thus owes any success it has to its ability to allow the audience to vicariously experience the lives of the young, wealthy, and beautiful. Certainly the cast lends itself well to this since, while none of the lead roles are played by famous actors or actresses, a plethora of models and singers were given starring roles.
Lan Kwai Fong and the other films in its trilogy are considered rather controversial and daring by Asian media standards. While in the relatively sex-obsessed West it is not uncommon to have promiscuous sex scenes (often with full-on nudity), in Asian cinema this is much less prevalent—especially in the crude, raw way that Lan Kwai Fong presents it. As such, Chinese netizens have assailed the Lan Kwai Fong trilogy for “corrupting youths and degrading society.” Lan Kwai Fong is unique in the sense that it is nearly devoid of purpose or meaning. This contrasts with the broader tendency of Chinese-language (whether Mandarin or Cantonese) films to have subtle historical and moral references that require active watching and thought to understand. But in another sense, Lan Kwai Fong could also easily be a documentary of the lives of today’s ultra-wealthy Chinese youth.
I first picked up Lan Kwai Fong as a way to learn Cantonese that may be more useful to my life than “Leo runs fast, watch Leo run”. As a Cantonese lesson, or a way to pass the time on a long flight (say, the 16-hour flight from New York to HK), Lan Kwai Fong serves its purpose well enough—it’s low-commitment and high-amusement, and you honestly wouldn’t miss anything important if you fell asleep briefly halfway through. So when you head back home from your Thanksgiving travels, consider bringing along a copy of Lan Kwai Fong for the flight and ask your air hostess for some bubbly.
Lan Kwai Fong (Chinese: 喜愛夜蒲)—Hong Kong. Directed by Wilson Chin. First released September 2011. Running time 1hr 37min. Starring Shiga Lin, Jeana Ho, Jason Chan, Dada Chan, Gregory Wong, and “Z.O.” Chen Zi-ming.