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Claustrophobia (DVD) (Hong Kong Version) DVD Region 3

Ekin Cheng (Actor) | Karena Lam (Actor) | Andy Hui (Actor) | Ivy Ho (Director)
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Claustrophobia (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)
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Customer Rating: Customer Review Rated Bad 7 - 7.3 out of 10 (3)

YesAsia Editorial Description

The award-winning screenwriter of July Rhapsody and Comrades, Almost a Love Story, Ivy Ho makes her directorial debut with the romantic drama Claustrophobia. Politely restrained, yet emotionally intense, Claustrophobia uses eight scenes and multiple characters to explore the complications and the irony of workplace romance and politics. Popular stars Ekin Cheng (Rule No. 1) and Karena Lam (Kidnap), who received a Hong Kong Film Award Best Actress nomination for her performance, underact to great effect as colleagues caught in a quiet extramarital affair. Also co-starring Andy Hui, Derek Tsang, and Ben Wong, Claustrophobia interestingly tells the story backwards from painful fallout to first encounter. Through carpool conversations and workplace goings, the film weaves an intimate, affecting, and achingly realistic study of how relationships develop and devolve.

In a space as small, crowded and claustrophobic as the office, love doesn't grow - it incubates and breeds, like a virus. Pearl (Karena Lam) has quietly fallen in love with her boss Tom (Ekin Cheng), who's married with a family. Without warning, Tom asks Pearl to interview for another job. Wounded, Pearl demands that Tom terminate her. The gauntlet has been thrown down.

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Technical Information

Product Title: Claustrophobia (DVD) (Hong Kong Version) 親密 (DVD) (香港版) 亲密 (DVD) (香港版) 親密 (香港版) Claustrophobia (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)
Also known as: 花非花 花非花
Artist Name(s): Ekin Cheng (Actor) | Karena Lam (Actor) | Andy Hui (Actor) | Eric Tsang (Actor) | Felix Lok | Derek Tsang (Actor) | Yee Chung Man | Lee Ping Bin 鄭伊健 (Actor) | 林嘉欣 (Actor) | 許 志安 (Actor) | 曾志偉 (Actor) | 駱應鈞 | 曾國祥 (Actor) | 奚仲文 | 李屏賓 郑伊健 (Actor) | 林嘉欣 (Actor) | 许 志安 (Actor) | 曾志伟 (Actor) | 骆应钧 | 曾国祥 (Actor) | 奚仲文 | 李屏宾 鄭伊健(イーキン・チェン) (Actor) | 林嘉欣(カリーナ・ラム) (Actor) | 許志安(アンディ・ホイ) (Actor) | 曾志偉 (エリック・ツァン) (Actor) | Felix Lok | 曾國祥(デレク・ツァン) (Actor) | Yee Chung Man | 李屏賓(リー・ピンビン) Ekin Cheng (Actor) | Karena Lam (Actor) | Andy Hui (Actor) | Eric Tsang (Actor) | Felix Lok | Derek Tsang (Actor) | Yee Chung Man | Lee Ping Bin
Director: Ivy Ho 岸西 岸西 岸西 (アイヴィー・ホー) Ivy Ho
Release Date: 2009-05-21
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin
Subtitles: English, Traditional Chinese
Place of Origin: Hong Kong
Picture Format: NTSC What is it?
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Disc Format(s): DVD
Region Code: 3 - South East Asia (including Hong Kong, S. Korea and Taiwan) What is it?
Rating: IIA
Duration: 101 (mins)
Publisher: Edko Films Ltd. (HK)
Package Weight: 120 (g)
Shipment Unit: 1 What is it?
YesAsia Catalog No.: 1012952756

Product Information

Director : Ivy Ho

Pearl (Karena Lam) has quietly fallen in love with her boss Tom (Ekin Cheng), who’s married with a family. Without warning, Tom asks Pearl to interview for another job. Wounded, Pearl demands that Tom terminate her. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Screenwriter Ivy Ho (JULY RHAPSODY) makes her directorial debut with CLAUSTROPHOBIA, using eight scenes and multiple characters to explore the complications and the irony of workplace romance and politics. In a space as small, crowded and claustrophobic as the office, love doesn’t grow - it incubates and breeds, like a virus.
Additional Information may be provided by the manufacturer, supplier, or a third party, and may be in its original language

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This film has received 6 award nomination(s). All Award-Winning Asian Films

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YumCha! Asian Entertainment Reviews and Features

Professional Review of "Claustrophobia (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)"

May 18, 2009

Claustrophobia opens with a Friday evening carpool ride led by Tom (Ekin Cheng), a stable, married Hong Kong guy with one child and one more on the way. Tom is a marketing manager at an import/export firm, and each evening he drives his subordinates home from their office in Aberdeen. His team is a diverse bunch: experienced old-timer Karl (Felix Lok), the geeky and somewhat needy John (Derek Tsang), and the smart-talking, sassy Jewel (Chucky Woo). Rounding out the group is the sensible and pretty Pearl (Karena Lam), who lives in New Territories-located Shatin, and is always the very last to get dropped off on Tom's nightly carpool rides.

John and Jewel get into an argument and, emotionally upset, John asks Tom for a sudden drop-off, whereupon he stalks off in a huff. The conflict between John and Jewel is never explicitly explained, but their emotions and dialogue point to a possible relationship that's now on the rocks. The group continues on, dropping off each member before Tom and Pearl are left alone in the car. However, there's a palpable, wordless tension between the two. Finally, Tom makes his move: he tells Pearl that she should consider seeking employment elsewhere, and even provides her with a contact for an open managerial position at another company. Instead of being grateful for the new opportunity, Pearl is incredulous. She dares Tom to fire her, after which she angrily leaves, their conflict unresolved. Obviously, work on Monday is going to be awesome.

No stranger to love stories, screenwriter Ivy Ho (Comrades, Almost a Love Story) makes her directorial debut with an exceptionally subtle one. Claustrophobia is a thematically universal, but still very Hong Kong-specific tale of two people who flirt with a little office romance. The subject is quite a popular one in Hong Kong, and has been a focus or subplot in numerous films and television dramas over the last decade. But unlike the crowd-pleasing shenanigans of Needing You, Hong Kong's most successful entry in this genre, Claustrophobia refuses commercial romantic comedy structure and themes, going instead for deeply felt emotions.

However, the emotions here run so deep that they're barely discernible to the audience. Tom and Pearl bury their emotions so completely around each other that they surface only in small, telling ripples, with all-consuming passion or risk-it-all leaps of faith something never considered. Like its title suggests, these people are trapped by circumstance and emotion, and there's really no way out. Instead of confronting the problem, Tom and Pearl muddle silently through, avoiding their emotions and sometimes each other. There's a familiarity and even a poignancy to these stuck-in-the-mud characters, as their emotions could strike a chord with anyone who's had a deep attraction towards someone at the office. However, this is a film, and after a while, the characters' inability to move forward can frustrate an audience.

Adding to the frustration is the film's unusual structure, which starts with the tipping point in Tom and Pearl's relationship and moves backwards in time. Instead of showing us the aftermath of their standoff, we see the minor events and incidents that lead to the unspoken denial of their mutual attraction. The clock is turned back one month for a scene, and then another two months for a following scene, and so on and so forth. Audiences visit a slice of Pearl's life at each stop in time, and bear witness to the buried emotions, sidelong glances, and barely-telling minutiae that hint at Tom and Pearl's burgeoning attraction. Finally, the film reveals what happened one year prior to Tom and Pearl's impasse, with a conclusion or meaning hopefully attained.

Ho's choice of a narrative structure is intriguing, but the film's measured, realistic style mutes its effectiveness. Each scene is told in its complete, banal, and sometimes boring entirety, thanks to storytelling that is very nearly real time, and characters that choose not to say very much. Nobody communicates directly; characters converse indirectly with body language and small talk, with more weight found in what isn't being said. Eventually, the question has to be asked: where is this entire thing going? Is the final reveal one year ago a suitable payoff for the film's uncommon structure and lack of forthcoming? Will Claustrophobia finally break free of its self-imposed narrative shackles and actually tell us something?

Maybe this is a spoiler, but the answer to that question is "No". Claustrophobia culminates in a small, appropriate irony, but the journey there is so subtle that audiences may not be able to connect the dots. Ho doesn't spell out her intentions, and simply asks the audience to figure it out for themselves. If the audience is willing to do that - that is, if they're willing to piece together the entire backwards journey on their own - then the film can attain a quiet, felt resonance. The problem: some audiences may not be willing or patient enough to follow along, and even those who follow the film through to its end may feel that the payoff is too slight for the investment. Some films end with a bang while others end with a whimper, but not Claustrophobia. It just ends, abruptly and nearly silently.

Ivy Ho's storytelling demonstrates tremendous integrity, which is both the film's strength and weakness. The weakness is that the film becomes frustrating, as it hints at much but shows very little. The strength is that the film's refusal to reveal effectively places the audience into the character's lives, plus it ends up putting weight on every emotion or word that isn't expressed. The film traps its audience in much the same manner as its characters are trapped by their emotions and situations - with an anxious, sometimes suffocating weight. Feelings are not expressed, but each character can be seen struggling with them silently. In the end, the payoff may simply be the impressive depth of character and emotion on display. The characters don't say or do much, but their emotions can be seen and even felt - and that contrast can be a very compelling one. Occasionally there are some missteps, like some double-edged dialogue that feels out of place in the film's reality, but Ho keeps things consistently unassuming and subtle.

A great deal hinges on the actors, and they impress in largely subdued roles. Karena Lam's performance is the heart of the film, which is not a surprise considering her past work. Subtle dramatic emotion is one of her specialties, her performances in July Rhapsody and even Silk possessing the same understated quality that she displays here. Ekin Cheng is opaque but not wooden, and his performance is excellent in its noticeable restraint. Both effectively create characters who express themselves subtly, and even the supporting characters take on an earned reality. Also, the film's technical credits are superior, with Mark Lee's cinematography and Yee Chung-Man's production design and costumes adding to the film's richness. Claustrophobia is a hard film to truly enjoy, as it's so indirect that it requires active participation by the audience to dig beneath its exterior. What's down there, however, is substantial, possessing a weight and resonance that lasts long after the closing credits. In the end, Claustrophobia is a lot like life, which is why it's so affecting. And also so frustrating.

by Kozo -

This original content has been created by or licensed to, and cannot be copied or republished in any medium without the express written permission of

Customer Review of "Claustrophobia (DVD) (Hong Kong Version)"

Average Customer Rating for this Edition: Customer Review Rated Bad 7 - 7.3 out of 10 (3)

Kevin Kennedy
See all my reviews

July 13, 2009

1 people found this review helpful

Did they or didn't they? Customer Review Rated Bad 10 - 10 out of 10
"Claustrophobia" tells an episodic story told in reverse chronological order about a relationship between Pearl (Karena Lam) and her boss Tom (Ekin Cheng). They work for a small trading company on the southern side of Hong Kong Island, where access to public transportation is not readily available. Each day must begin and end with Tom driving his employees to and from their homes. There seems to be an unusual connection between Pearl and Tom, and as we go back in time through each episode, we see that relationship evolve. The film doesn't fill in the blanks; we never learn what happens between the episodes and the action during each episode never makes explicit how serious this relationship has become. The viewer's imagination must fill in the blanks; each viewer may come up with a different version of what has transpired.

Some may find this opacity frustrating; I found it intriguing, so intriguing that, upon finishing the movie, I watched it again, but this time I put the film's episodes in their "correct" order, from the earliest to the most recent. The effect of seeing them in their "correct" order was astonishing; I gained an entirely different perception of how the relationship between Pearl and Tom had evolved. What had seemed mysterious suddenly became much clearer and I made connections between the episodes that simply could not otherwise be discerned.

In whatever order, I loved this movie. It is one of the best I've ever seen at capturing the dynamics of an office environment. It is honest and unmanipulative in its treatment of its characters. Its cinematography looks absolutely great, creating an air of intimacy (or claustrophobia). And the performances drawn from its cast are letter-perfect; even the minor characters are permitted to grow and evolve. Karena Lam is a marvel. Perhaps with the exception of Korean actress Jeon Do Yeon, I know of no current young actress as capable as Karena at the subtleties of her craft, at being able to communicate an effusion of emotions with just a look, a glance, a pause. For those seeking to learn more about moviemaking, the "Making Of" featurette on this DVD is very informative. "Claustrophobia" is art with real integrity and I recommend it very highly.
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June 29, 2009

??? Customer Review Rated Bad 2 - 2 out of 10
this movie is not easy to understand, we don't get the story until we read the DESCRIPTION from YesAsia. we don't like the style of the movie but we like the actor and actress both.
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June 16, 2009

1 people found this review helpful

Best Karena and Ekin Combo Yet Customer Review Rated Bad 10 - 10 out of 10
This is a very impressive Karena Lam and Ekin Cheng movie and the best collaboration they’ve ever done. A point to emphasis about “Claustrophobia” though is that its more a mood induced film. The plot is also reflected backwards in 8 segments within a 12 month period (1 week ago, 1 month ago etc) concerning five work colleagues at a company and of their various personal ‘enclosed space’ situations. Mainly about Tom (Ekin) and Pearl (Karena), and of their everyday stifling limitations within social circles, especially the work place and cars. In fact the film’s first 20 minutes are situated in Tom’s car as Pearl and their team hitch a lift home. By mood, feel and tone, scenes sometimes have no dialogue (an early scene with Tom and Pearl), conveying only subtle reactions to tight moods and interposing mediocrity (a car door slams leaving Pearl with startled silent irritation for instance), and quiet scenes of mood as Tom drives through the quiet imposing HK night city. In fact car scenes are quite reflective by a wide spread moonlit sky breaking through the towering buildings, contrasting claustrophobia with a panoramic suggestion of a break free. Like suddenly viewing stars that were blocked by artificial streetlights.

“Claustrophobia” is metaphor and actual about ‘suffocations’ of stressful interplay; busy and cramped work offices, crammed full elevators and containments of insulated distant love. Pearl’s office colleague Jewel getting irritated by ‘everyone else’ having her latest ‘personal’ mobile phone ring tone. Pearl also secretly loves her boss Tom who resigns her to a new accounting job and inadvertently releases her from ‘confinement’ of emotional entrapment at work. That revelation at the film’s beginning (or the end of course), with other past segments revealing incidents about Pearl up to this point. Loved the scenes regarding Pearl’s dream explanation while Tom sleeps in his car and the typhoon taxi scene. Segments are fragments though, where the audience fills in the pieces to this contained emotional jigsaw puzzle. It’s both a distant romance and detective conundrum. Acting is brilliant. I love Karena and its great to see her back in great form again. Ekin really plays his role well with hidden undercurrents and he’ll get great credit for this! All extras have English subtitles apart from the audio commentary. Excellent film but requires a perusal after all concludes and detective thinking to read between the segments.
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