“A Side, B Side, Seaside “, directed by Chan Wing Chiu, was accepted into competition at the 2005 Hong Kong , Pusan and Tokyo festivals, though why is a complete mystery, as it barely qualifies as a film at all. Rather, it is an interminably long hour and a half of watching teenagers frolicking on beaches and howling at each other, with a complete absence of any kind of drama or effort to entertain or engage. Perhaps the director is trying to make some kind of statement about childish innocence or the carefree times of youth, though to be honest, it is impossible to tell, as the film is an insipid mess, languorous to the point where it seems as though the director simply set the camera running and, understandably overcome by boredom, simply fell asleep.
The plot, such as it is, follows four Hong Kong high school girls as they go for a graduation holiday to the island of Cheung Chau . The main focus is on Honey (Kong Ling), who it later transpires will soon be heading off to Beijing to study financial management. The trip turns out to be a memorable one for the girls (if not the viewer) and Honey experiences the first twinges of adolescent love with a young man named Bitters (Larry Chan). As the girls leave the island, the second part of the film begins, with Baby (Dolphin Chan), a slightly older girl returning to the island after being away in the city for some time. This sets in motion much reminiscing about the past, as she meets up with a couple of boys that she used to play with when younger.
Although the above may suggest the presence of a traditional narrative, the events themselves are squeezed into around ten minutes, and the rest of the film simply follows the characters as they wander lazily around the island. The pace is beyond sluggish, and since very little happens, and with no attempt made to flesh out the characters or induce any kind of interest in the viewer, it is hard to see the point of the whole affair. It is apparent that there is some kind of meaning lurking beneath the vacuity, as evidenced by the lame structure, whose theme is constantly underlined through the metaphor of a VCD and its missing disc, and the vaguely symbolic character names.
However, assigning meaning or purpose to a film as dreary and obtuse as “A Side, B Side, and Seaside ” is a challenge which most viewers will respond to in the only reasonable fashion — by pressing the ‘stop’ button on their DVD remote. Chan’s direction is painful to watch, with almost every shot going on far too long. This is the kind of film where the camera keeps running for several seconds after the characters have left the frame, whether there is any reason to do so or not, and it is this which probably accounts for half of the running time.
The editing is choppy, and the obnoxious handheld camera work gives the impression of cinematic incompetence rather than realism. The acting is likewise awful, although this may be mainly due to the excruciatingly inane script, which basically consists of teenagers squealing. Chan may have been aiming for naturalistic, but achieves only amateurish in the worst possible way.
The overall feeling of watching “A Side, B Side, Seaside ” is that of having just sat through a particularly embarrassing holiday video, where the token efforts of those involved only serve to make matters worse. The only possible reason for ever watching such a debacle would be some kind of familial connection, and since the viewer neither knows, nor is invited to care about the film’s characters, they are thankfully excused the torture of having to do so.
Wai-Keung Chan, Yuk-mui Chiu, Chun-Yue Lam (director)
CAST: Wai-Leung Chan