A Simple Life tells a beautiful story in a dramatic fashion without resorting to the kind of maudlin techniques used in typical melodramas. As directed by Ann Hui this Hong King export works as a kind of in-depth character study revolving around the maid (Deanie Ip) of a wealthy household and the eldest son (Andy Lau) of that home.

Lau and Ip demonstrate great chemistry and that drives the film home. When Ip suffers a stroke Lau helps her during her convalescence eventually finding her a senior rest home. One assumes that things are not going well for Ip as the audience is privy to conversations between Lau and his family as to who will pay for the rest home as well as her eventual funeral. Meanwhile, Ip’s character (obviously well to do) immerses himself in mundane details like how much it actually costs to care for the elderly.

In a side story Ip works in the Hong Kong film industry, which allows for cameos by Sammo Hung and Tsai Hark. While some plot lines may sound like The Help with the way Lau keeps thinking about how Lau raised him, that’s actually pretty far from the filmmaker’s intent. There’s a good deal of scrutiny on pure emotions and feeling and even some detail shots involving food preparation. A Simple Life, exclusively playing in Houston at the AMC Studio 30, provides intelligent thought on the subject of growing old.

Alex Luster’s passion for documentaries and graphic art has resulting in a nearly four-year journey to bring Stick ‘Em Up to the big screen. It’s hard to remember when the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston put so much of a push behind a local filmmaker. Even so it’s admiration well deserved. Luster’s film takes to the streets of Space City to document street artists. We meet some of the artists (their art not their faces per se) and surely travel with them as they paste their posters on the run. We meet one collector who seems to be on the ground floor of buying this specific local art. We also meet a couple of former city council types who admit, even as they are depicting street art as illegal and wrong, that putting campaign signs all over the city is every bit as illegal as what the subjects of this doc are doing.

Free Press Houston briefly spoke to Luster producer Tony Reyes who was quick to add that while Alex has been working on Stick ‘Em Up for years he only came on board a couple of years ago. “This film is all Alex. If he wanted to fly to L.A. to interview Shepard Fairey or if he wanted to buy the rights for songs on the soundtrack that’s money that came from his pocket. It’s good to have a game plan after you finish the film but before you start taking it to festivals, because if you go the festival route, that costs hundreds of dollars just for a few, and you have to pay that months in advance of the results. But the main thing to do, that doesn’t cost is Social Media.  Alex really used that to get the word out, he was all over Facebook and Twitter, and that is one thing you can’t buy.”

Stick ‘Em Up unwinds at the MFAH this weekend. Luster will introduce the screenings. Also, copies of the film are available for purchase at Domy Books.

— Michael Bergeron