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Where The Wind Blows (Film Review)

3 min read

Central City Media

is the multi-award winning historical crime epic directed by Phillip Yung. In Where the Wind Blows, Aaron Kwok portrays Officer Lui Lok, alongside the legendary Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, who plays fellow officer Nam Kong.

Lui Lok joins the police as a doe-eyed innocent who wants to serve the people of Hong Kong, but the intense pressure to succumb to corruption and the horrors of the Japanese occupation eventually warp him. On the other hand, Nam Kong, born into a well-to-do family, seems like the perfect gentleman. but, beneath his perfectly coiffed exterior, beats the heart of a scoundrel. Together, these two slowly take control of the Hong Kong underground through a deep network of corrupt police, officials, and politicians.

Central City Media

Calling Where the Wind Blows an epic is an understatement. The film attempts to cram half a century of Hong Kong history into a 2.5-hour runtime, and cram is the operative word.

There are many positives about Where the Wind Blows: the acting is top-notch, the set design, and in particular, the costumes are astounding. The suits, cigarettes, hairstyles, and general mise en scene capture the period in a beautifully hyperrealistic way. The cinematography is inventive, especially the way it seamlessly transitions into different styles, film grains, and lighting styles at the drop of a hat – each of these is executed beautifully. But this comes at a cost. The constant style hopping obscures the plot to the point of near incoherence.

One minute we are dealing with police corruption, the next it turns into a Hong Kong version of Umbrellas of Cherbourg, with zoot-suited guys and gals jitterbugging in the Hong Kong snow (remember what I said about hyperreality…). Every single genre and style you can think of makes an appearance in Where the Wind Blows, sometimes even in the same scene. Ultimately, this detracts from the film because, at times, it is almost impossible to follow.

Central City Media

Which is a huge shame because if you were to extract each segment of Where the Wind Blows as a series of vignettes, perhaps you would have the makings of a good music video or a series of short films. There are great scenes in Where the Wind Blows, particularly the bust-up in the Mahjong Parlour between Lui Lok and his subordinates. He finds out that one of them is letting him win, and the resulting argument displays real passion and emotion.

But the movie is actively fighting against being a whole. If there is a point to Where the Wind Blows, it's lost in the myriad of styles. Ice cream, burgers, soup, meringue, and Haribos are fantastic, but not so much when ground together into a slurry and shoved down your throat like a goose.

Your enjoyment of Where the Wind Blows will come down to where you sit on the style over substance divide. You might feel that the style is the substance; this is a love letter to a stylish, Tom Ford-esque era of Hong Kong decadence and style. Or you may think, like I did, that there is substance in this movie, but it's obscured by an unwillingness to choose a thematic path and stick to it.

Where the Wind Blows is released on 29th September 2023