Cherry Lane (2019) **** Chat with Yonfan | Marrakech Film Festival 2019

December 1st, 2019
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir Yonfan | Cast: Voices by Sylvia Chang, Zhao Wei, Alex Lam, Yao Wei, Tian Zhuangzhuang | Hong Kong 125’

Cheeky and charming but very much intended for an adult audience – and particularly cat lovers – this intoxicating animated drama is an amusingly erotic romp through modern history, deliciously enveloped in an avant-garde love story. Set in Hong Kong of the 1960s, No. 7 Cherry Lane sees an English literature student caught in a love triangle with the woman he is tutoring and her 40 year old mother.

Celebrated filmmaker, photographer, art connoisseur, and collector Yonfan returns after a decade with this languorous debut animation that visits the cauldron of political turmoil and repressed desire that was the Hong Kong of his youth.

Based on three of the director’s own short stories, and divided into three enignatically titled chapters — Dream Charade, Play Shadow and Winter Cometh — the story unfolds within the confines of an upmarket residential block in 1967, when the streets of Hong Kong were fraught with leftist protests erupting in violence between anti-colonial demonstrators and police. Meanwhile Ziming (Alex Lam) is experiencing an eruption of a different kind, involving his own sexual awakening. As a student reading modern literature at the university, he takes on a part-time job teaching English to a family recently exiled from Taiwan. Meiling (Zhao Wei) is the daughter of Mrs. Yu (Sylvia Chang), a single mother and exporter of luxury goods to Taiwan, whose own youth has been fraught with revolutionary unrest but whose present is steeped in woozy nostalgia. Ziming’s arrival stimulates literary debate about Brontë, Proust and Cao Xueqin. They indulge in Simone Signoret matinees at a local picture palace. And while a beguiling Mrs. Robinson-like relationship smoulders in the background, the family’s collection of cats indulge in of all kinds of mischievous behaviour. Ziming is beguiled both by Meiling and Mrs. Yu, as he embarks on an education sentimental no university curriculum could possibly provide.

Blending art and history, politics and eroticism. Cherry Lane showcases a new animation process, turning original 3-D illustrations into 2-D images on rice paper. Yonfan has created a delicate aesthetic that feels modern yet steeped in tradition, offering a unique paean to Hong Kong’s past that is tongue in cheek, kitsch and gently erotic. MT


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