The trendsetters - My Dream Girl and the Birth of the New Market Films

My Dream Girl was released right after the CEPA announcement in which the restrictions on Hong Kong-mainland joint productions are partially lifted. My Dream Girl then becomes a timely case for study, more of an experiment than Heroic Duo. There are eager talks of a new market among my friends. So, let’s call films with Hong Kong people trying to start anew in the mainland as subject matter the “new market films". My Dream Girl points out that the first issue in new market adaptation is the matter of taste.

The idea comes form the classic My Fair Lady. Ekin Cheng, with his trendy Hong kong taste, is asked to repackage a mainland girl Zhao Wei into a modern city girl. My Dream Girl of course cannot directly lift the metropolitan taste of the Romantic era from My Fair Lady. As it takes place in this post-modern era, Zhao Wei sometimes is dressed like a Shanghai lady of the 30s and sometimes a Burberry walking billboard. The Hepburn-look off-shoulder evening gown is a must, and the fluffy stole has a hint of Hitchcock B&W. The dowdy poor girl look, in a way, can be seen as the return of the Grunge look. It never is the filmmaker’s desire to treat the film as a fashion textbook. On the contrary, such a jumbling up reveals that this Hong Kong image consultant is an imposter. Zhao Wei can conduct a fluent conversation with a foreigner, but Ekin Cheng is a actual loser who has no real qualification or taste for his post.

It is the film’s strategy to cater to the lowest denominator where taste is concerned, and the direct transplant of My Fair Lady is not the best policy. Moreover, who dares say Hong Kong people has a better taste than their Shanghai compatriots? Faithful reflection of reality is not the film’s aim and purpose. The better marketing strategy is the projection of the coming “convergence”. So it is the spirit of My Fair Lady after all: neo-conservatism.

My Dream Girl effectively declares that martial arts is not what sells in the new market, but the discussion of taste between the two places. It is also a prophetic film. As mainland tourists can visit Hong Kong on an individual basis, it is a matter of time that they will catch up with the rest of the world and Hong Kong people transit into Hong Kong bumpkin. Then, what more is there to see in this city, and its films?

By Bryan Chang