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Dir. Patrick Tam, 1981.
Hong Kong. 91 min.

Hong Kong New Wave forerunner Patrick Tams second film LOVE MASSACRE was decried on release for its dissonant genre mashup and thin plot, entirely missing its beauty as a formal exercise in color and framing. The oversight is understandable  featuring two of Hong Kongs most famous stars, Brigitte Lin and Charlie Chin (who, at the time of filming, were embroiled in a love-triangle scandal), audience expectations were set for a straightforward romance. Instead, the films split is blunt as its title implies, and after an initial San Francisco pas de quatre between young beauty Ivy (Lin), her obsessive (and ironically named) roommate Joy, Joys boyfriend Louie (Chin) and Joys brother Chiu Ching, the film follows Chiu Ching back to Hong Kong and into slasher territory. Promising to return and marry Ivy, Chiu Chings revealed to already have a wife, his former doctor in fact  Chiu Ching suffers from the same vague mental illness that destroyed his sister.Determined to be with Ivy at any cost, Chiu Ching hacks a bloody path back to her, holing up in her claustrophobic apartment building and taking on her housemates one by one.

Tam sees his first seven films as exercises, as attempts at cinema, not as complete and accomplished works, and of LOVE MASSACRE in particular that the form and content are schizophrenic. A hands-on perfectionist, Tams dismissal of his own film belies its clever use of genre. Brutal violence and obsession undercut traditional love at every turn  despite good intentions, nice guy Louis rescues no one, and the love of a patient wife doesnt save Chiu Ching. Tams San Francisco is strangely empty, with entire fields, bridges, highways and houses void of crowds, echoed by bookending shots of a lone desert trek. A feeling of isolation permeates, with characters hemmed in by objects. Tams right that the clunky dialogue is at odds with the gorgeous imagery  frequent Wong Kar-Wai collaborator William Chang uses a minimal color palette of blue, red, black and white in bold geometrics to create a De Stijl world characters pose in, where staging elicits emotions, not dialogue. The incongruous tension between lowbrow plot and high art, cool palette and fiery emotion, sudden gore and quiet interludes, make LOVE MASSACRE Tams most fascinating failure.


124 South 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249
United States



Kid Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: No


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