Film commentary:The World of Suzie Wong (1960)
The World of Suzie Wong is a film that contrasts the haves with the have-nots in colonial Hong Kong and more subtly than insistently shows how difficult it can be to climb out of poverty. Surrounded by the candy wrapper of pretty costumes, happy hookers, little violence, and tidy environs, The World of Suzie Wong delivers a potent message to an audience that normally wouldn’t go anywhere near it. A American man named Robert Lomax is sitting on a ferry sketching its Chinese passengers. He catches sight of a pretty girl cooing happily at a baby in its grandmother’s arms. When the girl sees him, she becomes angered. He tries to explain what he is doing, but she insists over and over, “No talk.” She walks off, leaving her purse on her seat. The elderly woman asks Robert to return it to her; when he does, she accuses him of stealing it. The misunderstanding is straightened out to the policeman who intervenes, and Robert and the young woman strike up a less contentious conversation. She says she is Mai Ling, daughter of a rich hotelier. She is readying herself for a trip to America to marry her rich fiance, a man she has never met. Robert is surprised, but Mai Ling shrugs,this is the Chinese way. When the ferry docks, Mai Ling tells Robert to go away. Her father is sending a car to meet her, and he would be very upset to learn she had been speaking to a strange man. She disappears, and Robert gets into a cab. In response to his request for a cheap hotel, the cabbie takes him to the Nam Kok, a modest establishment next to a very loud tavern in a poor section of town. Encouraged by the fact that there is a great rooftop view of Hong Kong, Robert engages a room for a month. He learns quickly after a couple of sailors knock at his door that he has been given the regular room of a prostitute named Minnie Ho. He also learns when he goes to the adjoining tavern that his extraordinary rental of the room for a whole month...
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