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The Robin Menken Reviews

Robin A Menken is a regular contributor


A Light Never Goes Out

A Light Never Goes Out

Posted by Robin Menken

Anastasia Tsang’s gentle, elegiac film ”A Light Never Goes Out” was submitted as Hong Kong’s Official Foreign Submission to the 96th Oscar awards, although, for some reason, does not appear in the final list submitted to Academy voters.

Mei-hsiang (Sylvia Chang), the widow of Hong Kong neon artist Bill (Simon Yam) discovers her late husband’s apprentice Leo (Henick Chou) still working in his closed workshop. Mei-hsiang allows him to continue to sleep in the workshop, and together, they try to fulfill his 'last Wish" He wants to renovate one of his favorite signs, but they have no idea which one.

Mei-hsiang interviews Bill's friends, clients and former colleagues, trying to determine the answer. Working with Leo she begins to acquire the skills needed to work with the fragile glass tubing. (The soft lead glass tubes are heated and twisted by hand, then cooled, fused together and filled with various gases to achieve different colors. Electrodes and a transformer transfers the voltage which makes the neon gas inside the fluorescent tubes glow.)

Initially, Mei-hsiang's practical daughter Prism (Cecilia Choi), who is planning to emigrate to Australia with her fiancé Roy (Mak Chau-shing), has no interest in her mother's plans and mistrusts Leo.

The prickly relationship between mother and daughter eventually resolves. Leo functions as a stand in son as their shared dream brings despondent Mei-hsiang alive.

Prism eventually gets on the band wagon with the projected homage.

Sylvia Chang's delicate, nuanced performance make this film a winner.

First time writer- director Anastasia Tsang views Hong Kong's disappointing present through the small scale drama of widow Mei-hsiang recent loss.

Weaving Sars, immigration and the bureaucratic erasure of cultural heritage throughout her delicate narrative, she has fashioned a lyrical momento mori and feminist metaphor.

An homage to the neon artists of Hong Kong.. the final credits shows images and footage of a fascinating group of neon artists, some still alive and one who served as a consultant to the film. It's a tutorial in Hong Kong's vanished Neon era and artistry

Flashbacks of archival 60's footage and DOP Leung Ming-kai's luminous shots of neon colors reflected in street puddle summon the faded glory of Hong Kong's Neon age and create a glowy enclave in which the tale unfolds.

Honk Kong's beautiful Neon signs, filled with the glowing pastels of a former era, represented the city’s
international lure. Now the city is lit by light box signage and cheaper, uglier LED adverts.

The beautiful hypnotic glow which represented nightlife across the world, is alas, fast disappearing. LA, itself owes some of it’s remaining neon signage, specifically the 1920’s and 30’s rooftop signs to a project spearheaded by Al Nodel, the retired Director of City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs.  SEEN AT AWFF, 2023



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