Why ‘No. 7 Cherry Lane’ Director Added Those Kinky Dream Scenes

Yonfan’s first (and apparently his only) animated film features cinematic tributes, a surreal Hong Kong and a cat doing something we won’t spoil

Last Updated: February 22, 2021 @ 12:05 PM

“No. 7 Cherry Lane” is the sort of animated film that can completely knock you for a loop if you don’t know what’s coming, and director Yonfan is totally fine with that. The film sports a pair of erotic fantasy sequences that got walkouts at some press screenings at the Venice Film Festival, but Yonfan told TheWrap that he had a blast making those scenes because…it was just fun!

“Art should not be so serious. You should have fun and have a wild imagination and sometimes let it run away a little bit to get yourself loose,” Yonfan said in an interview for TheWrap’s Awards Screening Series. “A lot of people have called my movie ‘kitsch’ and I don’t mind it because ‘kitsch’ is only a word.”

Yonfan has directed 14 films over his decades-long career, but “No. 7 Cherry Lane” is his first venture into animation. The movie tells the story of Fan Ziming, a handsome young tutor who gets a job teaching English to an 18-year-old named Meiling. But before their lessons can even begin, he forms an unexpected bond with Meiling’s mother over their shared love of literature and classic cinema, leading to a love triangle amidst the backdrop of anti-colonial protests in 1967 Hong Kong.

While the kinky fantasies of Meiling’s mother may be what some viewers will be talking about the most — “I’ve never seen someone show a cat doing that!” Yonfan recalls a friend telling him at the premiere — the rest of the film is filled with surreal portrayals of a modernizing Hong Kong and tributes to the films that are dearest to Yonfan’s heart, particularly Simone Signoret’s “Room at the Top” and “Ship of Fools.” In many respects, it is Yonfan’s most personal film yet; a tribute to an important time and place in the filmmaker’s life in much the same way “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” was Quentin Tarantino’s ode to 1969 Los Angeles.

“In my childhood, we had nothing else to play with. We could only go to the cinema,” he said. “So I would go to the cinema in Hong Kong and in the darkness I absorbed all the energies from Hitchcock, from Kurosawa, and they became my friends.”

But no director has had a bigger impact on Yonfan than Francis Ford Coppola, particularly his 1983 coming-of-age film “Outsiders.” His nod to that film in “No. 7 Cherry Lane” is not as obvious as his reimagining of various Signoret films, but it is the homage that is most dear to him.

“At the beginning of the film, there is only one sentence: ‘He stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house,'” he said. “He didn’t make that shot, but this line, I dedicated one shot where Meiling, where she sees her mother kissing the man she loved, and she walks out of the theater into the bright sunshine…that is my tribute to Francis Coppola.”

While he enjoyed the new challenges that came with animation, Yonfan thinks there won’t be another animated film from him in the future. “I’m proud of this film, but I never repeat myself in my work, so treasure it!” he says.

Watch the full interview with Yonfan in the clip above.