The Green Hat

The Green Hat


Reviewed by: David Stanners

The action starts with three guys making plans to rob a bank. Wang (Fan Liao) is aiming to use his share of the loot to fly to America to meet his girlfriend, to whom he has remained faithful for two years.

After the robbery, they make their getaway towards the airport, but Wang, excited about his intentions, has to make a long distance call on the way. It goes badly: his girlfriend has dumped him for somebody else. The lady in the phone shop becomes irritated with Wang, who appears short of cash. Upon hearing the news, he is torn apart and takes out his frustrations on the woman, holding her at gunpoint.

Copy picture

Somebody sees the commotion and calls the police. A verbal standoff ensues between Wang and a cop (Congxi Li), which results in Wang blowing a hole in his own head. Before this he asks the cop, "What is love?" The cop replies, "Love is just when two people like each other." Wang corrects him with an emotional anecdote and the words, "I'm not afraid of love. You think I'm afraid of death?" The policeman thinks hard.

Part Two begins with a change in perspective. Replacing Wang as the protagonist, we follow the policeman's troubled life, immediately witnessing a candid consultation with his doctor over sexual malfunctions. He is impotent and unable to satisfy his estranged wife Mei (Mei Li). He doubts whether she loves him any more and has to accept that she's having an affair.

Desperate to satisfy her, he tries all sorts of medicines, but to no avail. After some excruciatingly frank scenes of sexual truths, lies and troubles between the pair, the policeman eventually finds a solution. Hoping to surprise Mei on her birthday, he asks her out, only to be shunned for alternative plans. He decides to follow her, carrying the birthday cake, a move that results in a fraught confrontation between himself and her lover - who, naturally, has a bigger cake - from whom he drags a pained and tearful confession.

Debut director Liu Fendou has done a magnificent job. Tales of hidden sorrow amongst seemingly hard macho men are exposed with an incredible deftness of touch. The importance of sexual performance, penis size and confidence are highlighted in a world where men have lost their place. He deconstructs myths of the tough virile man, laying his anxieties bare on the floor. Without blaming women, he underlines brillintly what happens to a woman when her man is sexually inactive, and it's not a pretty sight. The bottom line is that sex is the long vehicle for love, and for Mei, without sex, there is no love.

The Green Hat is more than anything a series of tense confrontations between men, desperate for acceptance - one with a broken heart, another unable to connect with the woman he loves. Time after time, the policeman asks Mei, "Do you love me?" "I don't know," she replies. This is as painful as knowing she doesn't.

Fendou's writing and direction achieves great pathos through dark humour and hidden truths. A terrific cast compliments a cracking, wholly unsentimental script.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2004
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A hard-edged drama about dysfunctional relationships and man’s need for acceptance and love.

Director: Liu Fendou

Writer: Liu Fendou

Starring: Fan Liao, Haibin Li, Lifan Dong, Congxi Li, Mei Li

Year: 2003

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Hong Kong


EIFF 2004

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