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Set almost entirely within the walls of a crumbling apartment complex, this early Hong Kong left-wing social drama echoes Renoir in its generous, panoramic portrait of the building's lower-depth denizens.
Set almost entirely within the walls of a crumbling apartment complex, this early Hong Kong left-wing social drama established a now omnipresent theme in Hong Kong cinema — the plight of the urban poor — and demonstrates both the genre's shaggy, rambling charm as well as the political urgency that gives an edge to even their most sentimental or melodramatic moments. With its panoramic portrait of the building's various down-and-out denizens — a taxi dancer, an unemployed teacher, a professional reduced to selling his blood and, of course, a venal landlord — the film is also a fine example of the multi-character Mandarin-language melodramas, featuring displaced Mainland stars, that were especially popular during this period. "The mise-en-scène has a Renoirian flavor, and at certain points, the film clearly recalls Le Crime de M. Lange: like Renoir's hero, the teacher hero of In the Face of Demolition is an aspiring writer who is promised the moon by a would-be publisher and gets let down badly" (Chris Fujiwara); "A film that defines its time" (Sam Ho, Hong Kong Film Archive).