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Thread: Review: Perhaps Love

  1. #1
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    Default Review: Perhaps Love

    If you are a loyal fan of musicals, perhaps you will not love "Perhaps Love." As China's first musical on the screen in decades, it can hardly rival those song-and-dance extravaganzas from Hollywood such as "Moulin Rouge," "Chicago" and "The Phantom Of The Opera."

    With just passable dancing and singing, it would be more appropriate to call it an extended music video.

    But if you throw aside expectations of saucy singing and sassy dancing, and think of it merely as a commercial film that will kill another two hours and allow for a little escapism, perhaps you will come to love it.

    "Perhaps Love," which opened in cinemas in Beijing last week, is all about love, a subject that the director, Hong Kong veteran Peter Chan Ho-Sun, is very familiar with and good at.

    His signature work "Tian Mimi" was one of the most celebrated Chinese-language films of the 1990s. It won an unprecedented nine awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1997, including Best Film and Best Director, and established his reputation across China.

    "Perhaps Love" might not have scaled the heights of "Tian Mimi" and some of Chan's other movies such as 1994's "He's A Woman, She's A Man," but its delicate description of heartrending love is worthy of the ticket price.

    The fact that it edged out Jackie Chan's "The Myth" and Stanley Kwan's "Everlasting Love" to become Hong Kong's official entry for the best foreign film award at the Oscars demonstrates its quality.

    Movie in the movie

    "Perhaps Love" borrows its English title from one of John Denver's most popular songs, but it has nothing to do with the song. At first sight, the title is confusing, but it is easier to understand it and the petty trick the director plays if you remember the English title of "Tian Mimi" "Comrades: Almost a Love Story."

    Both "almost" and "perhaps" are words that indicate uncertainty, which describes the love affairs Chan details in the two movies.

    The story of "Perhaps Love" is very simple, perhaps the simplest movie this year. But the director is obviously a good storyteller as the tale is told in a convincing way.

    In order to add some dramatic elements, Chan designed "a movie in the movie." All the singing and dancing is actually not a part of "Perhaps Love," but rather a part of the film inside it.

    That is why the director has consistently denied that his first production in nearly a decade is a musical.

    "It is not a musical in the conventional sense. My characters do not break out into songs," the longhaired, bespectacled director stressed over and over again.

    He said the movie musical that his latest work resembles the most is "Cabaret" from 1972.

    "'Cabaret' is not a classic musical. It is very realistic. That was what I was trying to achieve with this movie," he was reported as saying.

    The story is introduced by a ringmaster-like figure, a muse called Monty, who appears in Shanghai with a mission: to put memories back in the hearts of people that have chosen to forget the past.

    But the setting is not properly developed beyond being a mere bookend for the story.

    With the arrival of Monty, the circus-like atmosphere comes alive in a big opening number with artists and acrobats, all of which turns out to be from a movie being shot in a Shanghai studio.

    Also arriving at the same time is the movie's leading actor Lin Jiandong, who is an old flame of the female lead Sun Na.

    When the ex-lovers meet, Sun, who is now in a relationship with the director Nie Wen, is frosty and denies that she ever knew him. But flashbacks tell the audience otherwise.

    A decade earlier, Lin, a film student at the Beijing Film Academy, met Sun, who was performing at a local bar. He was a thrifty student and she a songwriter down on her luck. The two lonely hearts found each other and fell in love until Sun's ambition and desire for fame upset the relationship. Feeling held back, Sun left Lin for a man that could make her famous.

    Now the hottest stars in the country, the romance of their past is rekindled as the production of the movie progresses. Nie, sensing the threat of losing his love, casts himself in the role of the movie's circus manager.

    Interestingly, the musical they are working on centres on a love triangle. "Real" life and the movie start to become inextricably intertwined.

    Due to a weak script, the first half of "Perhaps Love" is very floppy. But the movie gradually finds a proper rhythm and gets back on track with the director rediscovering his ability to construct romantic and heartrending ambiences with aesthetic scenes and carefully designed details.

    Best amalgamation

    "Perhaps Love" represents so far the best amalgamation of Hong Kong movies and mainland movies. The amalgamation began in the 1990s and accelerated after 1997. Most movies China has produced over the past few years have seen the participation of filmmakers, actors and actresses from both sides.

    As a side effect, many of these films are a strange mix of Hong Kong and mainland elements. They are either Hong Kong movies seasoned with mainland flavours, or mainland movies with a Hong Kong accent.

    With a budget of US$10 million, "Perhaps Love" is neither a mainland movie nor a Hong Kong movie. Even the most experienced movie fan could not discern its origin simply by watching the scenes and listening to the lines. It is a completely new genre of Chinese movie, where mainland and Hong Kong styles match seamlessly.

    It is the first movie about the lives of young people on the Chinese mainland directed by a Hong Kong director.

    Chan uses "The World Out There," a hit song from Taiwan singer Qi Qin that was widely sung on the mainland in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    Another source of the power of "Perhaps Love" is its strong cast and crew, which includes Takeshi Kaneshiro (a Chinese-Japanese from Taiwan Province), Hong Kong former superstar Jacky Cheung, South Korean actor Ji Jin-hee (from hit soap opera "Jewel in the Palace") and rising mainland actress Zhou Xun. It was shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Peter Pau and choreographed by Bollywood's Farah Khan.

    The director said he picked cast members not for their singing abilities, but for their aura and physical resemblance to the characters he had envisaged.

    While Ji Jin-hee and Jacky Cheung are not given enough room to display their acting skills, Zhou Xun is quite competent as the leading actress.

    She fleshed out her character excellently. Everything from the cold indifference she shows to her ex-lover to the naive jauntiness when she was still a girl struggling in Beijing, speak of her remarkable talent.

    As a matter of fact, Zhou herself had similar experiences with her character. She used to wander around in Sanlitun, Beijing's famous drinking street where many young people, such as Sun Na in the movie, seek the chance to join the entertainment business by performing in bars.

    As for Takeshi Kaneshiro, whether his acting skills are good or not is not important. With a perfect face and build belonging to a character in a Japanese cartoon, he has become arguably one of the most sought-after heartthrobs for girls and young women, who will be willing to watch the movie just because of him.

  2. #2
    Senior Member arachidonic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Land of the Pigs


    You should post this in SPCnet

    and, actually, I don't really agree about the last point on Takeshi Kaneshiro. Yes, he's good-looking, and this becomes the main point many people(females) wants to watch Perhaps Love, but most of my friends thought he isn't good-looking at all, but still wants to watch the movie, so his acting skills are actually important .

    I didn't read the whole of the review though.. I haven't watch the movie..

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