The Lady Improper

10 March, Hong Kong, News

CinemAsia is proud to present the European premiere of “The Lady Improper” by Hong Kong director Jessey Tsang, as Opening Film for the 12th edition of CinemAsia Film Festival 2019 (5-10 March 2019).

The fifth feature film by the highly-regarded independent filmmaker boasts a breakthrough performance by Charlene Choi, from Hong Kong’s most enduring singing-acting duo Twins. It depicts a divorced nurse’s sensual and culinary journey, sparked by a Paris-trained cordon bleu chef (Taiwanese actor Wu Kang-jen), who helps her recreate the signature dishes of her father’s declining cha-chaan-teng (HK-style diner). The Lady Improper also rounds up the festival’s sizzling-new Culinary Section, with an evocation of the unforgettable taste and atmosphere of Hong Kong’s cha-chaan-teng, which attracts tourists around the world. Tsang will be in Amsterdam to present her film, fresh from its domestic release in February, 2019. Tsang has won several awards for her acclaimed fiction feature Big Blue Lake and diaspora-documentary Flowing Stories. Both explore her heritage as a descendent of Wei Tau, Hong Kong’s first indigenous residents.

Maggie Lee, Artistic Director of CinemAsia:
“From its inception, CinemAsia has always championed female directors and films that reflect the challenges Asian women face, the battles they fight, their culture versus their individuality, all of which can be very different from what their European counterparts experience. Even as her fame rises with each work, Jessey Tsang has never lost her personal, intuitive artistic sensibility, or her fascination with women in motion, in search of identity and roots. I am delighted to welcome her to CinemAsia for the first time, and doubly thrilled that the film’s editor is no other than this year’s masterclass mentor Mary Stephen. Hong Kong-born, Paris-based Stephen was editor for Eric Rohmer, one of the greatest masters of French cinema.”

The choice for Opening Film underscores the festival’s conscious effort to provide a European festival platform for new talents from Hong Kong or Taiwan such as last edition’s Tam Wai-Ching (In Your Dreams), Doris Wong (New Turn) or Huang Hsin-Yao (The Great Buddha+), who resist working in lucrative offshore commercial markets, to craft stories close to home.

Synopsis

Siu Man (Charlene Choi from HK’s most beloved pop-duo Twins) scowls through her job as a gynaecology nurse, while trying to hide her mail-order dildo from her co-workers. Her marriage has fallen apart due to a non-existent sex life, and even the dildo failed to win back her ex-husband. When her father (legendary Shaw Bros action star Lau Wing) is hospitalized, she is forced to take over the running of his cha-chaan-teng (Hong Kong style diner). But how can Siu Man, who’s been forbidden to enter the kitchen since childhood, recreate her father’s signature dishes: Pork Belly stewed with pickled veggies and steamed fish-and-egg pudding? Unexpected help comes in the form of Chia-hao (Wu Kang-jen), a hunky Paris-trained cordon bleu chef who arouses both her appetite and her desire. She realizes that she must tackle her fear of intimacy head-on. It starts with cooking and pole-dancing lessons.

Hong Kong may be a high-tech, cosmopolitan city, but old-fashioned Confucian morality dies hard. Independent filmmaker Jessey Tsang’s courageous and tantalizing new work delves into sex phobia and female repression – subjects often swept under the carpet in Asian society. Unlike explicit and politically-charged explorations of female sexuality in the west, Tsang takes a gentler yet touchingly honest approach, to chart a typical Hong Kong woman’s journey from body shame to self-acceptance. The film is also a lovesong to the humble yet heavenly flavours of Hong Kong cuisine.

About the Director

Jessey TSANG Tsui-shan is an independent filmmaker descended from Wai Tau, the earliest indigenous people who still live in walled villages in Hong Kong. Her works are often road movies which provide a space for her thoughtful female protagonists to explore their identity, roots, and question conventional romantic values. Her early shorts, shot in France, travelled to numerous festivals. Her debut feature Lovers on the Road (2008) won the Best Feature award at the 2009 South Taiwan Film and Video Festival. Her second feature, Big Blue Lake (2011), won several awards such as the Jury Prix at Shanghai Film Festival, Best New Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards and New Artist Award by the Hong Kong Art Development Council. Her documentary Flowing Stories explored her village’s
history of diaspora to Europe.

Selected Filmography

2008 – Lovers on the Road
2011 – Big Blue Lake
2014 – Scent
2014 – Flowing Stories (Documentary)
2018 – The Lady Improper