Whispers and Moans- -
Inspired by interviews with real-life prostitutes, Herman Yau's sexy but socially conscious film revolves around a social worker seeking to unionize sex workers, and depicts a variety of tawdry experiences from the seedy underbelly of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s sex workers are the central characters in Herman Yau’s Whispers And Moans, a frank docudrama-style portrait of the people employed in the local trade.
Based on the research carried out over a year by anthropologist and scriptwriter Yeeshan Yang into the city’s sex industry, the film strives to bring a balanced treatment of its underrepresented protagonists to a wider audience.
Limited to just 10 separate days in the lives of its central characters, Whispers And Moans has plenty of ground to cover in a short span. Several narratives weave into the drama beginning with that of a social worker (Yan Ng) appealing to working girls at a soon-to-be-shuttered hostess club to join a union and fight for rights.
The ladies aren’t keen on her feminist and academic spiel, however, and there are few takers from the outset.
As the social worker comes to learn, these ladies have far more pressing things to deal with. The club’s mamasan (Candace Yu) has enough on her hands dealing with falling business and a roster of local girls uninterested in working hard. One call girl (Athena Chu) is completely out of luck on the love front after her man opts for a transsexual, cleans out her wallet and brings on a disease scare. And yet more have to deal with intense competition from eager-to-please sex workers arriving from China, wrecked personal lives, drug addiction and gigolos who use their services and don’t make life any easier.
Clearly made on a limited budget, Whispers And Moans sees Yau and co-writer Yang wrestle complex themes into a commercially palatable package without removing the more informative angle – something also covered in Yang’s recent English-language book of the same title.
The film is the latest in a string of socially driven works for Yau like From The Queen To The Chief Executive, Give Them A Chance and Shark Busters, and the approach here is distinctly non-exploitative despite the subject matter.
Casting comes from Hong Kong’s b-list, with Candace Yu the standout in the role of the rough-edged but clearly savvy woman leading her team of ladies through difficult times. Athena Chu, who has been absent from cinema screens of late, takes on the other main role as a single mum whose life is teetering on a turn for the worse. With several such stories to tell and steering clear of cinematic gloss, Whispers And Moans becomes an uncommon snapshot of a sex trade in the throes of great change.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival