Love Will Tear Us Apart

(Yu Lik Wai, China/France, 1999)


Yu Lik Wai's Love Will Tear Us Apart – produced by Hong Kong cinema luminaries Stanley Kwan (Rouge, 1984) and Tony Leung Kar-fai – owes a large debt to the films of Tsai Ming-Liang (The River [1997], The Hole [1998]).

It follows the fragmented lives of a number of migrants from Mainland China struggling to survive in Hong Kong.

The title (taken from a Joy Division song) may promise a punk romance, but the film focuses on solitude and the daily grind of hard, demeaning employment. Its pathos springs from the constant comparison between the nostalgic tokens of a lost, fantasy world – old pop songs, glamourous stars, classic movies – with a miserable modernity associated with grimy video pornography, prostitution and chattering TV sets.

It has flat, empty stretches, and does not always manage to illuminate the banality of its characters' lives. But Yu Lik Wai is clearly a filmmaker to watch – and to compare closely with the rapidly ascendant Jia Zhangke, director of the brilliant Platform (2000) and the more mundane Unknown Pleasures (2002) – for whom he has served as cinematographer.

© Adrian Martin February 2000

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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