Floating City Blu-ray Review
There is a legend that, if a tragedy happens at sea, one life is replaced by another. That replacement is a blue-eyed boy with an earring named Bo. He was found and adopted by a poor Chinese family, who took him in as their own despite his looks for fear the matriarch (Josie Ho, Pang Ho-cheung’s DREAM HOME) wouldn’t be able to have another child.
Decades later in the 1990s, Bo Wah Chuen (Aaron Kwok, who has earned Hong Kong Film Award nominations for 1991’s SAVIOR OF THE SOUL, 2005’s DIVERGENCE, 2006’s AFTER THIS OUR EXILE, 2007’s THE DETECTIVE, and 2009’s MURDERER) is a wealthy executive working for the British colonies. Still, his mixed heritage makes him feel like an outsider and an alien, and at parties he escapes in his own mind and contemplates, “Who am I?”
The story flashes back to his early days in the boating community, where the majority of locals made their living as fishers. He is baptized and becomes one with the culture, but is still considered an outcast. Bo discovers that he doesn’t want to inherit the family business and that there can be more to his life than just what is in front of him, so he learns a new trade. After years of struggling, he lands a stable job and finds a gorgeous wife (Charlie Young, 2012’s COLD WAR).
FLOATING CITY, which was initially slated to screen at the Tokyo International Film Festival but dropped for “certain reasons on the production side,” is a multi-layered work that uses a number of cultural elements to achieve its purpose. On one hand, it charts Bo’s life from a displaced baby to a successful man, as he encounters racism and strives to overcome it, all the while trying to learn who he really is. On the other, it observes how much the Tanka peoples’ lives in the 1940s contrast with the later days of British colonialism.
FLOATING CITY is directed by Yim Ho, a pioneer of the Hong Kong New Wave that helmed such films as 1984’s HOMECOMING, 1990’s RED DUST, 1994’s THE DAY THE SUN TURNED COLD, and 1996’s THE SUN HAS EARS. Under his guidance, the film is a strong work that works on several planes.
At its center, FLOATING CITY is about identity and how what we perceive ourselves to be may not be what we really are. And while the approach on the subject is sometimes laughable and heavy-handed (does Bo have to question his being in such cliché ways as staring in the mirror?), it can also be severe, as when his race is challenged at the airport and he’s told, “The reality is, you have no nationality…Sorry, that’s history for you.”
Meaningful and at times harsh, FLOATING CITY is a welcome return by Yim Ho.
FLOATING CITY BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. As the film is set both in poor fishing villages and wealthy sections of Hong Kong, there is a wide range of looks to be found. Fortunately, this high-definition transfer pays equal attention to both, showing in great detail the dirtiness of the former and the sleekness of the latter.
Audio: Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Chinese. This audio transfer features clean dialogue and a healthy score.